Understanding Your Hangover

The Morning After

If you feel sick the morning after binge drinking, you may wonder, what exactly is this thing called a hangover? And more importantly, is there a cure? The answers to those questions aren’t so straightforward, though. Alcohol affects every body differently, so your combination of symptoms may be unique. Here are the general effects of drinking too much alcohol.

Man experiencing hangover winces in pain

Hangover Effects

Dehydration contributes to the malaise because alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it makes you urinate more frequently, leading to the loss of fluids and electrolytes from your body. This dehydration can cause symptoms such as thirst, dizziness, and dry mouth.

Another instigator behind hangover pain is the way alcohol affects the stomach lining. Alcohol irritates the stomach, increasing the production of stomach acid, which can cause nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Plus, alcohol can disrupt the digestive system, leading to diarrhea and an upset stomach.

How alcohol affects the brain also plays a significant role in your hangover. Alcohol alters the levels of certain neurotransmitters — chemicals that transmit signals in the brain — which can contribute to mood changes, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. It can also disrupt sleep patterns, leading to fatigue and grogginess the next day.

Hangover Cures

So what about a cure? Sadly, there isn’t one single “cure-all” for hangovers because they are caused by a combination of factors. You may reduce your hangover symptoms with remedies such as drinking water, eating a nutritious meal, or taking pain relievers. These methods treat the effects, but none can completely eliminate the hangover because alcohol withdrawal can last 24 hours or more. A warning: Be careful taking acetaminophen, as it may further damage your liver, while NSAIDs can cause more stomach acid and irritation.

The best way to steer clear of a hangover is to avoid alcohol. If you do plan to drink, know your limits, pace yourself, and drink plenty of water throughout the evening. It’s important to let your body process the alcohol, so limiting yourself to one drink every hour-and-a-half to two hours may help. Using a smaller glass and adding ice to reduce your portion sizes may help you moderate your drinking, and eating a meal before drinking can help slow down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.

When it comes down to it, a hangover is a sign that you have poisoned your body. It’s an important warning system that can help you learn to drink in moderation or choose not to drink, and it could keep you from developing an alcohol use disorder. If you suspect that you may already have an alcohol use disorder, you can call (360) 876-9430 or visit the West Sound Treatment Center website to schedule an assessment today.

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