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Acetaldehyde

Acetaldehyde is an organic chemical compound that is commonly associated with hangovers. It is naturally prevalent in our environment. It can be found in coffee, fruit and other organic substances. It is inhaled from the air you breathe (especially when second hand tobacco smoke is present), ingested from alcohol, consumed through the consumption of food, and produced in the human body during the metabolism of alcoholic beverages.

Alcohol gets metabolized into various metabolites through a multi-step process. The first step in metabolizing alcohol is the conversion of alcohol to acetaldehyde. This toxin is approximately 30 times more noxious than alcohol, and as such plays a central role in the toxic effects of alcohol. The liver does its best to convert this substance into acetic acid. Unfortunately, the liver quickly reaches a saturation point (after the consumption of just a few drinks)and this toxin begins to escape into the blood stream.

When in excess, it exerts its toxic effects by inhibiting mitochondrial function. This weakens the body’s ability to break it down to acetic acid and can ultimately end up causing you liver damage (including hepatitis and cirrhosis).

When it reaches the brain it can restrain enzymes designed to convert certain nerve transmitters from aldehydes to acids. In turn, the nerve transmitters that can build up due to a lack of this conversion form compounds which are remarkably similar to certain morphine-type substances. This has led researchers to believe that this build up might be one of the reasons that alcohol is so addictive.

Research also indicates that this organic chemical plays a significant role in the development of certain types of cancers and as such is currently classified as “possibly carcinogenic” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The Physical Effects of Alcohol

The physical effects of alcohol can transform a person from a well-mannered citizen, to a fun loving extrovert, to a bumbling idiot or in the worst case to a downright menace to society. Just ten minutes after you start drinking, alcohol will begin to affect you physically. While the alcohol-induced journey usually begins with pleasant feelings and laughter, it can end very differently.

Let’s start with lowered inhibitions. Having a drink or two brings about euphoric feelings. You become more animated than usual and may find yourself stumble a bit (or oblivious that you’re stumbling at all). In this state you’re also more likely to participate in activities that you wouldn’t do normally.

A few more drinks and you’re likely to experience slurred speech and weak coordination from reduced muscle control. More drinks and your memory becomes hazy. This happens because alcohol lowers mental control mechanisms. As the alcohol content in your blood rises, long periods of time are forgotten and blacking out can occur.

At this point, a couple more drinks and you begin to feel sick. These sick feelings can come from the dizziness caused by a lack of balance. Nausea also occurs when the body starts to fight back and, for protection, tries to get rid of the alcohol by throwing up.

Headaches and hangovers begin to set in a few hours after heavy drinking ends. This is from the hydration loss that comes with drinking booze. Extreme amounts of alcohol (i.e. blood alcohol concentration of 0.40 and above) and you can go into a stupor. In this state, confusion is so high you cannot function. Even more liquor and the physical effects of alcohol include falling into a coma, having paralysis in the respiratory system or in the worst case… you cease to exist.

Hangover Remedies

When it comes to getting back in the game, there are many hangover remedies out there. Hydration is a key starting point in improving your hangover. Be sure to drink plenty of water to replace what was lost the night before. Replenishing lost electrolytes will also help you out. Drinks like Gatorade and coconut water are filled with electrolytes and are a great way to kick recovery and rehydration up a notch.

There are a number of over the counter drugs you can take for pain relief. Painkillers like ibuprofen will help ease your aches as long as you don’t over use them. Going overboard on pain killers can be taxing on your stomach and liver. Periodic use of Tylenol or Excedrin should be done with extreme caution — be sure to follow all instructions — as the acetaminophen found in these drugs can be tough on the liver and kidneys when used in excess. Casual use of over the counter medication, accompanied with plenty of water, is great for a quick fix.

Stomach aides like Alka-Seltzer and Tums will help mellow the extra acid you’ve got going on in your stomach. This extra stomach acid is one of the causes of nausea. These products are also a source of bicarbonates, which are some of the electrolytes you lose when dehydrated from alcohol. As both these medicines are a good way to get bicarbonates and settle the stomach, these hangover aides can provide some relief.

The above remedies can all be conveniently found at your nearest grocery/drug store. If you are looking for a more holistic approach, there are also many hangover remedies out there involving different foods, supplements and physical activity which can be read about here.

If all else fails, there are a couple of fringe remedies you could try. An old Irish remedy entails being buried up to your neck in river sand. Or you could try drinking pickle juice like the Polish do for their hangovers… on second thought, maybe just stick with hydration and rest.

What is Gastritis?

Gastritis is a nasty stomach ailment that usually stems from heavy drinking. When alcohol related, this condition occurs because the consumption of too much alcohol irritates the lining of the stomach. Frequent irritation of the stomach through continual drinking binges ends up eventually causing swelling of the stomach, ulceration and can even lead to internal bleeding. Gastrointestinal issues could develop as one, some or all of the following symptoms: pain, burning, vomiting, gas, bloating and little desire to eat.

A social drinker is not likely to suffer from this, though some medications like ibuprofen and aspirin can help cause it (so you should heed caution when using these pain killers to relieve hangover symptoms). If you have succumbed to any of these symptoms because of drinking, the only true cure is to cut booze out completely. If a person drinks a lot and has stomach issues then they could be suffering from this condition. Even though some or all of these problems will clear up once they quit drinking (and the stomach walls will heal over time) it would still behoove this person to see a doctor.

If the need to stop drinking cannot be met, poor health will persist and support for substance abuse may be needed.

If you are worried about Gastritis, you can learn more about it via WebMD by clicking here.

Why does alcohol cause dehydration?

At the bar you are taking in a lot of fluid but dehydration still occurs and the inside of your body feels parched… so what gives? Alcohol is a diuretic so it triggers your body to release fluid and causes you to urinate more. In short, alcohol dries everything up — it sucks up fluids from whatever tissues or membranes it touches.

Your body also has to use fluids to flush alcohol out of the body because alcohol is so toxic. It depletes vitamins and minerals in the body (like potassium) which leaves you feeling thirsty, dizzy and faint. The body has a defense system to prevent you from desiccation but drinking alcohol shuts this system down. Alcohol even reduces the fluid in your brain cells, which leads to headaches.

Many times, you confuse your simple need for water with wanting another drink, which further creates problems. The best way to combat this effect of alcohol is to start out with a glass of water (before you start drinking) and continue with another glass of water per each glass of liquor that you consume. End a night of drinking with a few more glasses and you most likely will feel better in the morning than you would have otherwise.

If you are worried about dehydration, you can learn more about it via WebMD by clicking here.

Getting Rid of a Hangover

Is there anything that can be done about getting rid of a hangover? There are many steps you can take to relieve yourself of unwanted hangover symptoms. Exploring what happens to the body after a lot of drinking has shown that although hangover relief can be attained, there is no true way to get rid of a hangover completely. Have no fear though; this is not a hangover death sentence. There are plenty of preventive tips and hangover remedies out there. Nevertheless, for the sake of full disclosure, the only thing that will truly absolve a hangover once you have one is time.

Some experts view a hangover as subtle withdrawal symptoms that happen when a person stops drinking alcohol. This explains why the morning after can be rough. Time has gone by since the last drink and your body is yearning for more alcohol. You can imagine that there is really no cure for this as drinking more alcohol simply prolongs the inevitable: a hangover even worse on the horizon.

There are other incurable after-effects of alcohol that must be waited out. Your liver turns alcohol into the substance acetaldehyde, which causes many symptoms similar to a hangover. Although the acetaldehyde is out of your system once you’ve sobered up, the aftermath leaves you feeling ill. Furthermore, the effects of congeners in your system also contribute to your hangover. Unfortunately, there is no cure in existence to rid the body of either of these two toxic substances (other than the time it takes for them to exit the system) at which point getting rid of a hangover is just a matter of waiting it out.

Beyond this, a few of the ailments that are caused by too much alcohol can be mitigated. Thinking ahead by eating before you party and incorporating as much water as possible into the night will dilute a lot of what will cause you problems later. As a last resort, greasy food, ibuprofen and electrolyte-enhanced beverages can be helpful aides during the morning after.

Drinking smart, hydrating and sticking within your limits is the safest way to avoid a hangover. If that isn’t possible, then the next best thing may be to go back to bed and simply wait it out.

What drinks cause hangovers?

If you are wondering what drinks cause hangovers, we are sorry to report there’s no magical type of alcohol that will leave you hangover free. Drinking too much alcohol, no matter what kind, will probably make you ill the next morning. On the brighter side, it’s nice to know that some types of alcohol will cause less severe hangovers than others.

Congener Levels in Different Types of Alcohol

There are many reasons why some drinks make you sicker than others. Usually you get what you pay for, and this holds true with less expensive booze. Cheaper alcohols are rarely made as well (or filtered as well) as top shelf brands and that can add to your hangover. Even more important is the amount of congeners in a type of alcohol. Congeners are found in greater concentration in darker liquors and seem to play a huge part in how severe your hangover is going to be.

A study done in Britain discussing what drinks cause hangovers has brandy and red wine at the top of their list for causing the worst hangovers. Last on their list is vodka, causing the fewest symptoms. So it is not just the heavy stuff… different types of wine make for varying types of hangovers. Believe it or not, in some cases wine from countries with a bad weather season can cause a worse hangover. Cheap red wines are infamous for giving people headaches and the “red wine headache” is an ailment that effects certain people no matter where a wine is from (or its price) due to an allergic reaction to histamine.

So what drinks cause hangovers? All of them! There’s no “get out of hangover free” card, but by becoming aware of some of the worst hangover culprits you may be able to ease some future pain.

Tips: Hangover

Need some good advice and tips to get hangover recovery going in the right direction? Here are some of our tried and true hangover tips to help you get back on your feet:

  • Eat before you drink. Nothing fuels a hangover more than drinking on an empty stomach. Having a substantial snack or light meal prior to drinking will start you off on the right foot in hangover prevention.
  • Keep a proper mindset. Going into the night with the intent to get drunk practically guarantees a hangover. Begin the night with the intention to drink responsibly and you’re less likely to go crazy with the drinks.
  • Substitute nonalcoholic drinks in between alcoholic ones. Alternating between water and alcoholic drinks will help you stay hydrated and will lower your chances of consuming too much liquor.
  • Rehydrate. After a night of drinking you’re left dehydrated, which makes for some painful hangover symptoms. Replenish fluids with plenty of water, fresh juices and electrolyte packed drinks like Gatorade or Coconut Water.
  • Rest up. Your body will need a break to prompt a swift recovery. Being that alcohol disrupts sleep patterns, it is also likely that you’ll be in need of some extra rest. Stay in bed until you start to feel better.
  • Seek over the counter relief. Drugs like Ibuprofen are a quick pain fix when used as instructed. Be sure not to over use these pain relievers as excessive use can be damaging to the stomach, liver and kidneys. Also try a little Alka-Seltzer. This drug store cure will help lower stomach acid and relieve nausea.
  • You can eat a greasy meal if you are feeling queasy. The fatty acids in greasy foods will coat your stomach and could provide relief. Watch out for spicy foods however as these could have the opposite effect.
  • Work it out. If you have the energy to get moving, a little exercise has been known to keep hangovers at bay. Physical activity may also distract you from your hangover symptoms until you start to feel better.

If you have any tips for hangovers not included in this list, please leave them in the comments section below.

Histamine, Alcohol and Wine

Histamine is a biochemical that we usually associate with allergic reactions. It is a histidine-derived amine compound that is fairly common. If you or a friend have ever been stung by a bee and needed to go to the hospital then you definitely know what it is. When it enters the body, it dilates blood vessels and makes the vessel walls abnormally permeable, which when circulated throughout the brain can cause pressure in the head, and can eventually give you one nasty headache.

Almost all alcoholic beverages have histidine-derived amine compounds, along with a lot of processed and fermented foods, with red wine high on the chart because it is made from whole grapes (including the grape skin — as opposed to white wine which is not). Some people attribute the “Red Wine Headache” to the sulfites or tannins in red wine, but in most cases the people that suffer red wine headaches are probably dealing with an allergic reaction to histamine instead. In fact, white wines for the most part have more sulfites than red wines do, so if sulfites were the culprit you would actually be getting “White Wine Headaches”. Furthermore, the theory behind tannins causing headaches is based on serotonin overload and has never been prove scientifically. What most experts agree is happening is that people that suffer from red wine headaches are in short supply of an enzyme that breaks down histamine in the small intestine. And as if that wasn’t bad enough for these sufferers, drinking alcohol also hinders this enzyme (in everyone), so it is a one – two punch to the system almost insuring a headache for people that are allergic.

This potential culprit’s amount differs in each bottle of wine and food allergies can be tricky to isolate depending on the consumer’s immune system at the time of digestion. Try different brands of wine to find out which ones your body can tolerate, or better yet get a food allergy test performed to see what you are allergic to.

It is important to note too that drinking any kind of booze can dilate blood vessels in the brain, which will in turn cause a headache. Drink in moderation and remember to stay hydrated. The body is a great communicator. If it doesn’t like what you are doing it will send you signals (ex.a headache) telling you that you should try something else. It is in your best interest to listen to these messages and slow down, stop, or alter course until you feel better. Remember the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results!

What is a Hangover?

Waking up a bit queasy one Sunday morning you might ask yourself, “what is a hangover?” Simply put, a hangover is a subset of unwanted physical and mental symptoms due to the excess consumption of alcohol.

Veisalgia, the formal name for a hangover, is defined as an “uneasiness following debauchery”. Hangovers can range from a benign subset of unpleasant alcohol related side-effects to posing a substantial risk to the sufferer even in the absence of alcohol in the blood.

The hangover has been around since the discovery of alcohol. In fact, hangovers are even documented in the Bible. Check out this verse from Isaiah 5:11: Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!

There is some debate about the exact etiology of a hangover. The truth is that it’s a combination of several factors: dehydration, gastronomical distress, electrolyte and glycogen cannibalization, alcohol toxicity, allergens, compromised sleep architecture and other factors still being discovered.

Along with being a nuisance, the alcohol hangover has substantial social, health and economic consequences. In America, the total cost of alcohol use and abuse has been estimated as high as $148 billion per year (although this figure has been criticized for using unrealistic criteria).