your body during a hangover.


Here’s a little science to start your week off right. Check out this article which describes the myriad ways your body is negatively impacted by too much booze…

Here is What is Actually Happening to Your Body During a Hangover.

Your Stomach & Intestines Are Inflamed

Alcohol directly irritates the stomach and intestines, causing inflammation of the stomach lining (i.e., gastritis) and delayed stomach emptying, especially when beverages with a high alcohol concentration (i.e., greater than 15 percent) are consumed.

High levels of alcohol consumption can also produce a fatty liver, an accumulation of fat compounds called triglycerides and free fatty acids in liver cells. In addition, alcohol increases the production of gastric acid as well as pancreatic and intestinal secretions.

Any or all of these factors can result in the upper abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting experienced during a hangover.

Your Brain Is Hungry

Because alcohol leads to a condition known as fatty liver (mentioned above), the buildup of lactic acid usually follows, which can inhibit glucose production in the blood. Furthermore, not eating sufficiently enough due to nausea can also inhibit glucose production.

Because glucose is the primary energy source of the brain, hypoglycemia can contribute to hangover symptoms such as fatigue, weakness and mood disturbances. Diabetics are particularly sensitive to the alcohol-induced alterations in blood glucose. However, it has not been documented whether low blood sugar concentrations contribute to hangovers symptomatically.

You Are Thirsty & Depleted

It’s a no brain-er that alcohol increases urination. The consumption of 50 g of alcohol in 250 milliliters (mL) of water (i.e. approximately 4 drinks) causes the elimination of 600 to 1,000 mL (or up to 1 quart) of water over several hours.

Alcohol inhibits hormone release from the pituitary gland, a hormone which normally causes the kidneys to reabsorb water and electrolytes, therefore instead of being reabsorbed, it’s eliminated in the urine. Sweating, vomiting and diarrhea also commonly occur during a hangover, and these conditions can result in additional fluid loss and electrolyte imbalances.

 Your Brain Is Sending The Wrong Sleeping Signals

Although it’s known as a depressant, alcohol actually has counter-active sedative effects on the brain. Alcohol inhibits glutamate production, a stimulant whose job is to keep us awake. However, when our alcohol blood-levels reach zero (i.e., hangover time), our body reacts by overproducing this stimulant, resulting in broken sleeps as well as stomach irritation.

Your Brain Chemicals Are Out Of Whack

Although the complete etiology of alcohol induced headaches is still unknown, research suggests it has something to do with alcohol’s effect on the neurotransmitters histamine, serotonin and prostaglandins. Alcohol intoxication also results in vasodilatation, which may induce headaches.

You’re Actually Going Through Alcohol Withdrawal (AW)

Several lines of evidence suggest that a hangover is a mild manifestation of the AW syndrome in non-alcohol dependent drinkers. First, the signs and symptoms of hangover and mild AW overlap considerably.

One clinical scale used to assess the severity of a withdrawal episode in alcohol-dependent patients measures 10 withdrawal-associated items that are usually present during a hangover, including nausea and vomiting, tremor, sweating, anxiety, headache and sensory disturbances.

Furthermore, the observation that alcohol re-administration alleviates the unpleasantness of both AW syndrome and hangovers suggests that the two experiences share a common process.


9 thoughts on “your body during a hangover.

  1. “Considering alcohol consumption is engraved into our social culture, avoiding drinking completely just isn’t an option for most.” Interesting statement, to say the least.

    • That is not an invitation to drink, fella! Not drinking is an option for some of us. Those of us who cant moderate. I read your post earlier and know you’re struggling. Its hard. But you (we) are in early days. I think those events you listed can become fun again for you. I’ve started going out again and its different but still fun. Focus on the positives. I worry about my partner too because a lot of what we did together was go out for a nice meal and wine. But Im getting there being able to go out and have a mocktail. Yes its different and it takes getting used to but would you really want it the old way? Because to me, there is nothing more boring than being hungover and feeling like shit because I cant control my alcohol. I’ll take being bored sober over what i used to feel after deinking any day. Stay strong!

      • I didn’t consider it an invitation to drink. I just thought that putting that at the end of an article about the causes of a hangover was interesting. Who says that we can’t drink even though “alcohol consumption is engraved into our social culture”? I see a ton of people out here who can certainly not drink in our social culture, me included for the last 82 (almost 83) days. I’m just tired of the mainstream opinion/attitude/conclusion that drinking is so integral to our social culture that not drinking is inconceivable. This is primarily what I’m struggling with right now. Thanks!

      • I hear you. Its a bit nauseating that drinking is so… highly regarded and encouraged. I wonder if we will see this change in our lifetime. I read another article today that was about the increased rate of hospitalizations due to alcohol. They said that alcohol is replacing tobacco related causes in hospitalizations. Maybe there will be a backlash against drinking. I like to think its starting already and we’re a part of it. Take care!

  2. I definitely don’t miss hangovers. Even when I do take a drink or two these days I don’t get to hangover stage because I now realise exactly what it does to the body, and appreciate how soul destroying it is.

    One of the greatest joys I have found is waking up sober each morning – a gift that I can give to myself again and again that costs nothing, and keeps on giving.
    Thanks for posting this Clearlee 🙂

  3. Hi Clearlee 🙂 Thanks for this interesting post. Sometimes I look back and wonder why I abused my body with alcohol and its after-effects. I feel so much better now (6 1/2 months for me). I don’t think we as a society are getting the information we need about the effects of drinking. Hoping this changes soon. xx

    • Hey Lori! Congrats on 6 1/2 months- that is amazing! I know what you mean. It is mind boggling that I allowed myself to feel like shit for SO long. What is that about? Some kind of self-sabotage, I think. I also hope that society gets the real picture soon. Would be so much better if alcohol wasn’t so important in our culture. Hope you’re well! xo

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