What is hangover?

An alcoholic hangover is the set of symptoms that many people experience after drinking too much alcohol. It usually occurs the morning after heavy drinking and can last for several hours or even the entire day. Hangover symptoms can vary from person to person but commonly include:


  • Headache: One of the most common symptoms of a hangover is a headache, which can range from mild to severe.


  • Fatigue: Feeling tired and lacking energy is another common hangover symptom. Alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns and leave you feeling exhausted the next day.


  • Nausea and vomiting: Many people experience stomach upset, nausea, and vomiting as part of a hangover. Alcohol can irritate the stomach lining and lead to gastrointestinal discomfort.


  • Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production and can lead to dehydration. Dehydration can worsen hangover symptoms and contribute to feelings of thirst and dry mouth.


  • Muscle aches and pains: Alcohol can cause inflammation and muscle stiffness, leading to muscle aches and pains the next day.


  • Sensitivity to light and sound: Hangovers can make you more sensitive to light and sound, exacerbating headaches and discomfort.


  • Cognitive symptoms: Some people experience cognitive symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and mood disturbances during a hangover.


The severity of hangover symptoms can depend on various factors, including the amount of alcohol consumed, individual tolerance levels, hydration status, and overall health. While there is no “”cure”” for a hangover, there are some strategies that may help alleviate symptoms, such as drinking plenty of water, getting rest, eating a balanced meal, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers if needed.


What is the relationship between hangover and oxidative stress?

Alcohol metabolism produces reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are highly reactive molecules that can cause oxidative stress in the body. When you drink alcohol, your liver metabolizes it into acetaldehyde, a toxic compound, and then further breaks it down into harmless substances. However, during this process, ROS are generated, leading to oxidative stress.


Oxidative stress can contribute to many of the symptoms associated with a hangover. For example:


  • Headache: Oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain can contribute to headaches during a hangover.


  • Nausea and vomiting: Oxidative stress in the gastrointestinal tract can lead to irritation and inflammation, contributing to feelings of nausea and vomiting.


  • Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production and can lead to dehydration. Dehydration exacerbates oxidative stress and can worsen hangover symptoms.


  • Fatigue: Oxidative stress and inflammation can lead to feelings of fatigue and exhaustion during a hangover.


  • Muscle aches and pains: Oxidative stress can contribute to muscle inflammation and soreness, exacerbating muscle aches and pains.


Additionally, alcohol metabolism depletes the body’s antioxidant defenses, further contributing to oxidative stress. Antioxidants are molecules that neutralize ROS and protect cells from oxidative damage. When alcohol is consumed in excess, it can overwhelm the body’s antioxidant defenses, leading to increased oxidative stress and tissue damage.