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Why Do Hangovers Get Worse With Age?

Posted in General Health 09 Jul, 2015

Ever woken up and wished you had simply died in your sleep because the trauma of your hangover is so severe? How about those mornings (or afternoons) when you can't even cope with getting up for a stewed-tea wee because your head hurts, the light is too violent and your stomach contents resemble battery acid? I know you've been there. I certainly have.

So why does alcohol make us so ill? And why does it get worse as we age?


Poison!

When you drink alcohol it contains all kinds of nasties including acetaldehyde, which is toxic. Your liver converts it to acetate. It takes two hours to get one drink out of your system. If you chugged 11 Bacardi Breezers between 9pm and 11pm, your system is overwhelmed and you've poisoned yourself.

Remind me, why do we drink again?


Infections

Ever come down with a cold or stomach bug after a binge-drinking session?

Drinking alcohol reduces the power of our immune systems. Research from the University of Maryland shows that the more you drink, the less disease-fighting cells can be found in your blood. Plus you are likely to be in a packed place, sipping each other's drinks and snogging strangers (hey, I' m not judging - it was good to meet you). All this leads to more sickness.


Why Do Hangovers Get Worse As We Age?

Gone are the days when I could drink till 2am and get up at 7am for a day's work. If I were to drink till 2am now I would need a saline drip. This is not just in my head.

As we age our ability to deal with alcohol diminishes - here's why:

- Technically speaking, acetaldehyde isn't broken down so quickly by your aging enzymes, which makes you feel rubbish for longer.

- Your body fat percentage is probably higher and this leads to higher blood alcohol content.

- Your liver may be getting fatty from too many drinks - this stops it cleaning your body waste out properly because the alcohol takes longer to process.

- Your brain has matured. You might still want to dance all night to classics like 'Who Let The Dogs Out', but in theory your prefrontal cortex kicked in during your late twenties, dulling that adventure buzz and providing more maturity. You get less excitement from drinking and more stress - it's simply your body developing. Sorry.


What Can You Do?

Other than inventing an eternal youth pill, there's not much you can do. Just lay off the drinks that give you the worst headache (whiskey and red wine, anyone?) and stick to diluted drinks with soda. Drink plenty of water and don't have alcohol on a work night.

Oh, and if you can face it, eating eggs may help you recover from a hangover. They contain a sulphur amino acid that helps soak up those toxins. Just avoid greasy food as a cure - that gets processed by your liver too, so it'll have to wait in the queue for all that acetaldehyde to clear off first.



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