What you need to know about hangovers

Alcohol. We drink it when we're happy. We drink it when we're sad. We drink it when we're celebrating. We drink it just because we feel like drinking. Whatever your reason is, you're probably going to get punished for it the next morning. Headaches, fatigue, nausea… This is just the beginning of the list. Most of us wouldn't wish a hangover on our worst enemy. Funny thing is, we deal and then we do it all over again on another night or day.

What's the reasoning behind this evil plague? Why aren't hangovers always the same? What you can do to help yourself get through the day? I'll tell you.

Why do we get hangovers in the first place?

Dehydration is the main reason for your nasty morning after illness. Your blood alcohol level will drop to zero and that's when you really feel the full effects. How is it possible that you're losing fluids if you're drinking so much liquid? Alcohol is a diuretic. This means even though you're putting liquids into your body, you are actually losing more than you are consuming — mostly through having to use the bathroom so much. Your brain can also become dehydrated, which is the reason behind your splitting headache.

Pick your poison... wisely

Your hangover severity will depend on how much you drank and what it was that you drank. The amount won't have the same effect for all body types — some people's bodies can handle more than others because of size.

The darker the drink, the worse the hangover. Why? Congeners. Congeners are compounds that turn into formaldehyde (very toxic) when metabolized. Darker liquors contain greater concentrations of this byproduct of fermentation. A 2010 study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research showed that drinking bourbon caused a greater hangover than drinking vodka. So, if anything, drink clearer liquids or drink water.

Now that you've picked your alcohol, you need to be smart about your mixer. Carbonated drinks will speed up the absorption process, which means a higher blood-alcohol level. Higher blood-alcohol levels can mean bad news for your hangover.

Your hangover prevention plan

According to Medline Plus, the only way to really [attempt to] prevent a hangover is to stay hydrated. Drink water before, during, and after a night of drinking. Alternate drinking water and alcoholic drinks. This can help you lower the amount of alcohol you consume and keep you hydrated at the same time.

You should also eat before you go out drinking. Think of food as a sponge. It can absorb alcohol, which means your body will be absorbing less of it. And most importantly, drink in moderation. If you drink slowly and in moderation your chances of getting a bad hangover will be drastically lower.

A 2013 study suggests that smoking can make hangovers even worse. It may be because smoking causes people to drink more or heighten the alcohol effects. Whatever the reason, ditch the smokes — if no other reason than to improve your chances in the morning.

Remedies you'll want to know

Rehydrating after a long night of drinking is the main goal. Drink plenty of water and other fluids with electrolytes like sports drinks. Eating is also key. It's like refueling your body after it's been on empty for a few hours. This might be a hard task for some. I won't go into detail, but everything you drank and ate the night before might not be staying down because alcohol increases acid in the stomach. So, what do you do? The best thing is to try and eat slowly and light, like soup.

Sleep will also help you the next day. This will reenergize your body after depriving it of the rest you need to function normally — and maybe let you sleep through the worst of the hangover.

Remedies you should skip

There is no cure for a hangover — no magical pill to pop and make everything all better.

Despite what most people think, it's actually not good to pop a couple of pain killers before you go to bed to avoid the hangover in the morning or even as soon as you wake up. Medline Plus recommends waiting to take anything because aspirin and other pain medication can cause liver damage or internal bleeding if mixed with alcohol. Start with water, then later on consider pain medicine.

Also despite the rumors, caffeine is not a hangover cure. It may wake you up to better battle the hangover, but it's won't actually make your hangover go away, so think twice before you reach for that cup of coffee in the morning.

The cost of hangovers

Believe it or not, hangovers have costed the United States workforce roughly $148 billion annually because when you're hungover, you're clearly not performing at your best or you're not there to perform at all. When compared to other countries, the United States is one of the top for lost wages. Even though you may not still be drunk, you're still at more of a risk for accidents and injury.

Not drinking is the only way to guarantee you will never get a hangover, so think twice and weight the risks the next time you reach for your favorite alcoholic beverage.

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