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Hanging In There with Hangover Headache

The human body has a strange relationship with alcohol. On one hand, an individual who consumes one too many alcoholic beverages like beer, wine and cocktails will experience little to no inhibitions (i.e., display signs of uninhibited or uncharacteristic behavior), thus, the manic behavior. On the other hand, said individual will also suffer from the aftereffects of too much consumption of alcoholic beverages from the night before, hence, the hangover.

Was the happiness of the drinking binge the night before worth the sufferings of hangover the morning after? Perhaps, perhaps not but it pays to know a thing or two about hangover and its accompanying headache.

Individualized Experience 

Hangover is defined as the presence of at least two of these symptoms:

  • Headache (66% of participants in a study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs reported the symptom)
  • Nausea
  • Tremulousness
  • Fatigue
  • Poor sense of overall well-being
  • Diarrhea
  • Anorexia

The most common symptoms are headache, nausea and fatigue the morning after a drinking binge, which most men and women have experienced at least once in their lives. Suffice it to say that most individuals can relate to the experience of a hangover although many have more experience in the matter than others.

It must also be emphasized that a hangover is always an individualized experience. This means that each individual suffers from a hangover in a different way in terms of its severity, duration and even frequency in comparison with his/her drinking buddies – and in different ways from one episode to the next, too. For example, you may feel severely distressed after last week’s drinking session but not so in this week’s binge.

Speaking of headache, hangover headache has common symptoms like bilateral (i.e., both sides) location especially on the front area, which has a pulsating quality to it and can be worsened by physical activity. Plus, individuals with underlying headache-related disorders will suffer from hangover headache even with small amounts of alcohol such as those with migraines, cluster headaches, and chronic daily headaches.

Multiple Factors 

What causes a hangover? Scientists can only put forth various theories at the moment, thus, suggesting multi-factorial causes.

Many factors can also lessen or worsen hangovers including but not limited to:

  • Types of additives in the alcoholic beverage. Studies have suggested that individuals who consume dark liquors (e.g., brandy and whiskey) are more likely to suffer from more frequent and more severe hangovers than those who consumed light liquors (e.g., vodka); this is attributed to the higher content of congeners in the former.
  • Level of dehydration. Scientists have discovered that the severity of the symptoms in a hangover is directly proportional to the level of ADH – that’s antidiuretic hormone – in the body. Alcohol lessens the effect of the hormone on the kidneys that, in turn, prevents water from being reabsorbed and results in dehydration.

Note: Drinking plenty of water and fruit/vegetable juices can ease the symptoms of hangover but these fluids are not miracle cures either. The best thing to do is to let it pass, so to speak. 

Other factors include levels of hormones, presence of inflammation, and increased level of acetaldehyde.

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