New Year’s Eve has come and gone, and with so many statuses complaining about hangovers, International Hangover Day, drunk, dying, and every derivation of those words, I thought it would be mildly appropriate to write my blog tonight on the science of a hangover.
The Biology of a Hangover:
Upon consumption, alcohol enters the body and causes the pituitary gland in the brain to suppress the secretion of vasopressin, the body’s antidiuretic hormone. This causes the kidneys to send water directly to the bladder without reabsorbing it into the body, which is why the bathroom tends to be a popular spot at a party. Frequent urination also expels valuable salts and potassium, resulting in headaches, nausea, and fatigue. The liver also breaks down glycogen to glucose as a result of alcohol consumption, and this glucose is expelled from the body during urination, which results in weakness and fatigue the next morning.
Alcohol also inhibits glutamine, which is one of the body’s stimulant hormones. When the drinker stops drinking, the body produces more glutamine to overcompensate and this stimulates the brain while the drinker is sleeping, prohibiting the drinker from getting a real night’s sleep, contributing to exhaustion and fatigue.
Because alcohol is absorbed directly through the stomach lining, the cells that line the organ quickly become irritated. An excess amount of hydrochloric acid is also produced in the stomach as a result of drinking, which sends a message to the brain that the stomach is irritated, prompting the common response known as puking, yaking, barfing, throwing up…you get the picture.
The next morning, the body feels all the effects of the many avenues of dehydration, which present themselves commonly in the form of dry mouth and headaches, as the brain decreases in size and strains the membranes connecting it to the skull when dehydrated.
Different types of alcohol are responsible for different types of hangovers, it turns out, because of the varying concentrations of congeners, which are byproducts of fermentation. The greatest amoung of congeners are found in red wine and dark liquors. Additionally, combining alcohol also can result in severe hangovers because of the incompatibility of the varying impurities.
I’m sure no one really wants to know what alcohol is doing to the inside of their body, so I’m just going to keep it short and sweet. We’ve all been there, and being in college I know I have plenty more hangovers to look forward to.