Why do we get hangover?

Alcohol is one of the most consumed drugs worldwide. The latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that about 30% of men and 10% of women in Brazil consume alcohol in excess at least once a week. In addition, almost 80% of young people consume alcoholic beverages regularly.

A hangover is a set of symptoms of intoxication that occurs when a high amount of alcohol is ingested. In order to absorb and metabolize the substance, the organism has to unfold and, thus, ends up overloading all the organs involved in the process. The liver suffers the most, although it never hurts itself. This organ is the main job of producing enzymes that absorb ethanol. The symptoms are: headache, dehydration, nausea, diarrhea and extreme tiredness.

When you ingest any substance, such as food, drink, and medicine, it basically goes through three stages: digestion, absorption and metabolism by the liver. All food that is absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract must pass through the liver before reaching any other organ . This goes for food, alcohol, medicine, drugs, among others. The liver is a treatment center for substances ingested. Most of what is ingested does not reach the central bloodstream until it has been processed by the liver.

Since the human liver does not produce an enzyme that directly neutralizes alcohol, it first turns it into acetaldehyde, and then into acetic acid, which is a non-active and non-toxic metabolite. The problem is that acetaldehyde is a substance even more toxic than alcohol itself. So, until the liver transforms acetaldehyde into acetic acid, the body deals with two toxic substances.

The hangover has no cure, so there is no medicine to prevent intoxication caused by drinking alcohol. Painkillers, antacids or antihistamines only help to reduce malaise.

One way to avoid a hangover is to drink slowly and after eating foods rich in protein and carbohydrates , which slows down the speed of alcohol absorption through the intestines, giving the liver time to metabolize the alcohol being consumed. The ideal is to eat before you start drinking.

Drinking lots of water before, during and after drinking alcohol is perhaps the best tip . And every time you go to the bathroom to urinate, drink something non-alcoholic, be it water, juice or soft drinks (with sugar preferred).

 

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