A man sitting on a couch suffering from a hangover.

What exactly is a hangover?

What the heck is a hangover and why have we been drinking alcohol for centuries without solving this problem? Did you know that a hangover is not 1 thing? What we call a hangover is the result of 4 bodily reactions to alcohol consumption.

A photo of a woman drinking a big glass of water.

PART 1

Dehydration

You’ve heard this one before because, for a very long time, this was thought to be the sole cause of a hangover.

Alcohol is much harder for the body to process than regular food and drink, therefore your water demand greatly increases on a “night out.”

To make matters worse, ingesting alcohol has detrimental effects on your hypothalamus, which is the part of your brain responsible for the regulation of the hormone vasopressin.

When vasopressin goes off the hinges, you urinate more frequently, diluting your concentration of electrolytes and causing even more dehydration.

A woman leaning over a toilet about to be sick.

PART 2

Toxic Waste Production

Alcohol metabolism in your liver produces toxic by-products called acetaldehydes.

Your body has natural acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and glutathione stores that turn these toxic substances into acetate, which is considered harmless at low levels.

When your glutathione storage runs out, this leaves the toxic substances in your body, which have been shown to cause flushing, sweating, and vomiting, much like when any other toxic substance enters your body.

image of the inside of your body after you drink alcohol.

PART 3

Immune System Failure

The consumption of alcohol also puts a heavy load on your immune system. Studies show significant changes in immune system parameters during a hangover, namely increased concentration of cytokines, which are released during an inflammatory response.

These cytokines are likely the culprit behind many cognitive effects of alcohol, such as memory impairment and mood changes.

woman sitting on a couch very late at night looking very tired.

PART 4

Glutamine Rebound

When someone is drinking, alcohol inhibits one of the body’s natural stimulants - glutamine. When the drinking stops, the body will immediately begin producing more glutamine to catch up.

This “Glutamine Rebound” almost always happens while you are asleep, stimulating the body and keeping you from reaching your deepest sleep all night - and usually causing you to wake up in the middle of the night after you drink.

A person pouring a scoop of electrolytes into a glass of water.

Natural ingredients & alcohol consumption:

7 Natural Ingredients to Help You Process Alcohol

So… what can you do now that you are armed with all this knowledge?

While there aren’t any magical solutions for curing a hangover (come on, science!) there are some known natural ingredients that can help:

8 Natural Products Containing These Ingredients: