The Science of Hangovers

If you have a good night at the bars with your friends, odds are you will wake up with a horrible hangover. While hangovers have been experienced by nearly every human for hundreds of years, scientists still don’t know the specific cause.

With the advancements in technology over the years, you would figure there would be an easy explanation behind them, but there aren’t. Although scientists have generally narrowed it down to a few potential causes they still aren’t completely certain.

The first explanation for hangovers is dehydration. After drinking in excess for hours on end, the body is taking in more alcohol than water. Since alcohol is naturally a diuretic, increasing your urine production, your body pushes out the majority of water in your body. This may only explain one aspect of hangovers because studies have shown this only explains the dizziness/cloudiness people experience after drinking.

The second hypothesis scientist contend is the most likely factor, is excessive amounts of alcohol throw off the body’s chemical balance. People process alcohol by converting an enzyme called NAD+ into another enzyme named NADH. This may work for a short period of time when people slam back multiple drinks and get wild. However, once the alcohol stops flowing, the build up of NADH interferes with other bodily functions. This may explain why people feel tired and groggy when waking up the next day.

The most convincing theory on hangovers appears to be a combination of cytokines and acetaldehyde accumulation. Cytokine is a molecule the immune system uses to signal there is an issue the body must deal with. Usually, it tells the body to heat up if it spots bacteria. The resulting fever will hopefully kill the bacteria and return the body to normal. However, the adverse effects of drinking may trigger this response on accident and cause nausea, vomiting, aches and fatigue.  Acetaldehyde is a byproduct of alcohol during the decomposition phase. This substance is thought to be between 10 and 30 times more toxic than alcohol itself. It causes symptoms such as skin flushing, sweating and nausea.

There is good news however, drinking beer will give you the easiest hangover to deal with. Scientist have concluded drinks with higher levels of congeners lead to harsher hangovers. Specifically, a Dutch study found beer to be among one of the least harmful alcoholic beverages to consume.

So, wake up slightly better off by choosing a beer from North Bottoms Brewing Company. After all, its science.

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