The science of why we get hangovers – and how to avoid them

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When it comes to hangovers, there are few things more miserable than waking up the morning after a night of drinking with a headache, nausea and that all-over feeling of utter exhaustion. But why do we get hangovers in the first place?

Here’s a look at the science of hangovers – and some tips on how to avoid them.

What is a hangover?

A hangover is the experience of various unpleasant physiological and psychological effects following the consumption of alcohol, typically wine, beer or spirits. Hangovers can last for several hours or even days.

The exact cause of hangovers is not fully understood, but they are thought to be the result of a combination of factors, including dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, inflammation and the direct toxic effects of alcohol.

Dehydration

One of the main reasons we get hangovers is because alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes us to urinate more than we normally would. This increased urination leads to dehydration, which can cause all sorts of unpleasant symptoms, including headache, fatigue and dry mouth.

To avoid dehydration, it’s important to drink plenty of water before, during and after drinking alcohol.

Electrolyte imbalance

Another factor that can contribute to hangovers is an electrolyte imbalance. Alcohol consumption can cause our bodies to lose electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, through increased urination. This electrolyte imbalance can lead to symptoms like headache, dizziness and fatigue.

To avoid an electrolyte imbalance, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids that contain electrolytes, like sports drinks or coconut water, before, during and after drinking alcohol.

Inflammation

Inflammation is also thought to play a role in hangovers. Alcohol consumption can cause inflammation in the body, which can lead to symptoms like headache, fatigue, muscle aches and stomach pain.

To avoid inflammation, it’s important to drink alcohol in moderation and to eat a healthy diet.

Direct toxic effects of alcohol

Finally, the direct toxic effects of alcohol can also contribute to hangovers. Alcohol is metabolised in the liver and broken down into a number of different compounds, including acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is thought to be responsible for many of the unpleasant symptoms associated with hangovers, including headache, nausea and vomiting.

To avoid the direct toxic effects of alcohol, it’s important to drink alcohol in moderation.

How to avoid hangovers

The best way to avoid hangovers is to drink alcohol in moderation. If you do drink too much, there are a few things you can do to help ease your symptoms, including:

Drinking plenty of fluids: Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, will help to prevent dehydration.

Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, will help to prevent dehydration. Eating a healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet will help to reduce inflammation.

Eating a healthy diet will help to reduce inflammation. Taking a pain reliever: Taking a pain reliever, like ibuprofen, can help to ease headache and muscle ache.

Taking a pain reliever, like ibuprofen, can help to ease headache and muscle ache. Getting some rest: Getting some rest will help your body to recover from the effects of alcohol.

In conclusion, hangovers are the result of a combination of factors, including dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, inflammation and the direct toxic effects of alcohol. The best way to avoid hangovers is to drink alcohol in moderation. If you do drink too much, there are a few things you can do to help ease your symptoms, including drinking plenty of fluids, eating a healthy diet, taking a pain reliever and getting some rest.

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