By Tanish Pradhan
Alcohol is a substance that most people around the world come across daily. It plays a significant part in the traditions of most cultures. Most people begin to consume alcohol as teenagers as a form of experimentation or expression. Naturally as with any intoxicant, most consumers lack an accurate understanding of what the substance actually does to their bodies. Most “wisdom” regarding the substance is often hearsay and most “facts” are often lore. One particular phenomenon which most drinkers will be familiar with is the hangover. It is a common belief that mixing different alcoholic drinks can get you drunk faster or give you a worse hangover.
Most novice drinkers must have heard their more experienced peers warn them against mixing their liquor. There’s also an old saying that goes: “Grape or grain, but never the twain.” Another common theory is related to the order in which alcohol is consumed. The saying goes, “Beer before liquor, never been sicker. Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear. The belief is that beer, a generally lighter drink, is easier on the stomach and that once your stomach gets used to the amount of alcohol it is receiving, the higher alcohol content of the hard liquor will result in you feeling uneasy or sick.
The hangover and its effects
A hangover is an unpleasant physical and psychological phenomenon experienced after the consumption of large amounts of alcohol. Common symptoms include nausea, dizziness, headaches, drowsiness, fatigue and gastrointestinal distress. A study published in 2000 claimed that the main causes of a hangover were dehydration, hormonal imbalances and the toxicity of alcohol itself.
When we consume alcohol and it enters the bloodstream, it makes our capillaries dilate. This is because it is a vasodilator. This allows more blood to flow through the skin and tissues. It also makes our blood pressure drop and heart rate rise causing our kidneys to filter out larger amounts of water. They also stop reabsorbing as much water as they did since the alcohol affects the production of the hormone vasopressin. As the water excretion is greater than our water consumption, it can leave the body dehydrated, which can lead to headaches, nausea and fatigue. Furthermore, the toxins that alcohol brings into the body also cause one to get sicker.
Another group of hangover-inducing ingredients in alcoholic drinks is known as the congeners. These are substances produced during the fermentation of the drink which gives it some of its colour and flavour. They include acetone, acetaldehyde, tannins, etc. These substances are more common in darker drinks than in clearer ones. The effect of congeners on the severity of a hangover was tested in the US. They selected university students who were regular drinkers without a dependency and paid them 450$ to participate in their study. They gave them either vodka, bourbon or a flavoured placebo. The students were made to consume enough alcohol to exceed the DUI limit of most nations by 2 to 3 times and were then put to bed. When they woke up the next morning they were made to undergo a multitude of tests. The researchers observed that the bourbon drinkers got a much worse hangover than the vodka drinkers proving their hypothesis.
Effects of mixing drinks
While there seems to be no logical explanation why mixing drinks would cause a worse hangover, it may be due to simple probability. People who mix their drinks select a greater number of options in a single setting. This makes them more likely to consume darker drinks and thereby more congeners. The mixing itself has nothing to do with their hangover. The more alcohol one drinks, the drunker one will be, and their hangover will be worse.
As far as the order of consumption is concerned, it doesn’t really matter what one drinks first, as much as how much of each you drink. A study that decided to test this observed that subjects who drank liquor first felt its effects faster and slowed down to not get too drunk. On the other hand, the subjects who chose to drink beer did not immediately feel its effects and were more likely to go on to drink harder liquor or do shots.
Therefore, mixing has absolutely no effect on your high. The factors that affect it and the hangover comprise of variables like the amount of food one has eaten, the genetic reaction to alcohol, or immunity. In the end what really matters is how much ethanol enters one’s system.
Keeping the hangover in control
A good way to avoid a hangover might be to try and avoid alcohol entirely. But if one decides to go down that road, there’s a couple of things that might help. A lot of water is the best way to flush toxins out of our system quicker. A healthy breakfast might also help with the fatigue. If you have the luxury of time, a good day’s sleep could help you skip the hangover entirely. Coffee, a vasoconstrictor, might reduce your headache. Headache pills which contain Tylenol should definitely be avoided. When combined with alcohol, Tylenol can accelerate liver damage. An extremely effective way to quickly reduce hangovers is by consuming sports drinks. They help rehydrate your body and replace lost vitamins, minerals and electrolytes.
Featured Image Source: Pexels
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