What a Hangover Does to the Body
The formal name for a hangover is veisalgia, deriving from the Norwegian word for “uneasiness following debauchery” (kevis) and the Greek work for “pain” (algia). Simply put, it’s the collection of unpleasant and painful symptoms that can develop as a result of drinking too much alcohol.
Each person reacts to alcohol differently and there’s no set amount that will guarantee a hangover. However, it’s likely that the more you had to drink, the more severe the symptoms will be.
Symptoms of a Hangover
A hangover typically occurs when a person’s blood alcohol concentration falls considerably, and the symptoms of a hangover peak when the blood alcohol level returns to zero. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Disturbed sleep
- Anxiety and irritability
- Decreased concentration
- Tremors or shaking
- Increased sensitivity to light and sound
Physical Effects of a Hangover
Although some people may look at a hangover as temporary or a trivial thing to laugh off, it can have damaging effects on the body:
- Alcohol causes the body to produce more urine, and urinating more than usual can lead to dehydration. Being dehydrated usually gives a person a sensation of thirst and lightheadedness.
- Immune system response. Alcohol has the ability to trigger an inflammatory response, which may affect appetite, concentration and memory.
- Stomach irritation. Alcohol increases the production of stomach acid and slows down the rate at which the stomach empties. This combination can lead to nausea, vomiting or stomachache.
- Decrease in blood sugar. Consuming alcohol can cause the body’s blood sugar level to drop dramatically, resulting in shakiness, moodiness, tiredness, general weakness and even seizures in some cases.
- Dilation of blood vessels. Drinking alcohol can cause blood vessels to expand, which can lead to headache.
- Quality of sleep. Although falling asleep after having too much to drink is common, the quality of sleep is generally poor and the person may wake up tired and fatigued.
For some people, experiencing a hangover can serve as motivation to never drink too much again. But others continue to consume large amounts of alcohol despite repeated severe hangovers. If you or a loved one continues to drink to the point of being hung over regardless of negative consequences, it may be a sign of alcoholism or alcohol dependence. Help is available to break the cycle of alcohol abuse. With support and treatment, recovery is possible.
By Jenna Mitchell
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