Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by vodka. Seriously, have anyone else’s hangovers gotten significantly worse after the age of 25? It used to be as easy as going out, throwing back a nauseating amount of jungle juice and cheap liquor, and bouncing back after a greasy breakfast sandwich and a quick power nap. Now, it’s two glasses of wine and a headache for the next three days. I used to pride myself on the fact that I wasn’t a “puker”, but after I hit my mid-twenties, just a couple rounds of skinny margs would be followed by hours of holding my hair back the next morning. What gives? Are we just getting weaker in our old age, or is it possible that we’ve forgotten how bad our hangovers really were when we were younger?
Looking back at old Snapchats from college, all we see are the blurry videos of the nights of our youth, and not the mornings after that we spent throwing up and vowing to never drink again. So is it us, or is it science? As it turns out, there are valid medical reasons for why we can’t stomach our hangovers as well as we used to, excuse the pun. In addition to my own personal “research” (drinking), I reached out to some medical experts to provide some much-needed insight on why hangovers feel worse as we get older.
Even if you don’t drink, it’s pretty safe to say that everyone is familiar with what a hangover is. Generally, it’s a day of sickness, complaining, and overall misery that follows a night of heavy drinking. But what are hangovers, medically speaking? I spoke with integrative physician Dr. Taz Bhatia, who broke down the science behind hangovers. Dr. Taz says, “The technical name is veisalgia and refers to a syndrome of symptoms post-alcohol—headaches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and focus issues.”
I don’t know about you, but I always feel more justified when I can put a medical term to my woes. Saying “I have veisalgia!” sounds way more serious than just saying “I’m hungover,” and therefore warrants more sympathy instead of judgment from your friends and family. Dr. Taz adds, “Many of these symptoms are most likely from detox pathways getting overworked along with leaching of key nutrients like B vitamins and amino acids.”
Have you also noticed that, as you’ve gotten older, regardless of what or how much you’re drinking, your hangover the next day is exceptionally dreadful? Take solace in knowing that you’re not alone, and that you’re not imagining this; your hangovers really are getting worse as you’re getting older. I’ll give you a moment to go yell “I told you so!” at whoever mocked you for being a wimp during your last hangover. Dr. Jason Burke, hangover specialist and founder of Hangover Heaven IV Hydration, says, “Yes, hangovers are getting much worse as we age. I say that when people are 20 years old, hangovers last one hour, when you get to age 30 they last all day, and once you become over 40, they become a multi-day experience.” So, something to look forward to. Yay.
Age And Alcohol
So why do hangovers get worse as we get older? “Because the body’s reserves are worn down—and there is often not the nutrient reserve, immune reserve, and given time—a greater accumulation of toxins that stress liver function,” says Dr. Taz. Yet another reason to begrudge getting older, enzyme activity in your liver decreases as you age; therefore, your body might not be metabolizing alcohol as well as it did when you were younger. And as we get older, our percentage of body water also decreases, which can increase our blood alcohol concentration (even when we drink less), thus giving us worse hangovers the next day. Furthermore, Dr. Burke explains, “As people age, their ability to rebound, heal, and recover becomes less. As your body ages, it loses its regenerative functions. A hangover is a physical insult to your body. This is why you feel so bad. So, when you are 20 years old you rebound from anything faster, including hangovers. Unfortunately the only thing that gets better with age is wisdom.” Ironically, I think I need a drink to help come to terms with this bitter fact.
Ready to resent your hangover and men, even more? In addition to getting worse with age, studies have also suggested that women experience more severe hangovers than men. To add even more salt to the wound (sans the tequila), Dr. Burke says that women may begin dealing with harsher hangovers at around age 27 or 28, whereas men may not start to experience issues until age 30 or 31. So I guess alcohol is sexist now, too. As to why women have more intense hangovers, Dr. Taz says, “There are studies that show that women have slower detox pathways and therefore don’t metabolize alcohol as well.” I seriously feel betrayed by my body right now.
Dr. Burke adds, “Women experience worse hangovers than men, mainly due to nausea and vomiting. This can be incapacitating. Women tend to get more nauseous and men tend to get more headaches with hangovers. Most people can function to a certain degree with a bad headache, but if somebody is vomiting uncontrollably, there is really nothing else to be done.” Sad, but true. Personally, I recommend aiming your vomit at a guy so that they can be just as upset and miserable as you are. Balance restored.
How To Help Your Hangover
Just because you can’t stop yourself from aging doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. There are still preventative steps you can take to help ease the severity of your inevitable hangover. For starters, the type of alcohol you choose can play a role in how much you suffer the next day. We probably all know this already, but in case you don’t, Dr. Burke advises, “Darker alcohols definitely cause worse hangovers than clear alcohol. And cheap alcohol causes worse hangovers than high-end alcohol.” Sounds like top shelf shots all around! Dr. Taz also recommends loading up on B vitamins, vitamin C, and staying hydrated. So, while you might not be able to fully prevent a hangover, you can still do your best to soften the blow.
Additionally, Dr. Burke relays, “The best way to not end up feeling like death warmed over the next morning is to have a plan when you go out. Especially if you are near age 30 or older.” Basically—and I know nobody wants to hear this—know your limits. You can’t expect to drink five vodka sodas and miraculously feel fine the next day, no matter how much vitamin B you pound. Sorry!
As for drinking an abundance of water as a means of warding off a hangover, Dr. Burke says it can help, but only to a small degree: “If you have had 12 shots of Jagermeister, you can drink all the water you want and you will still feel like death in the morning. It will help somewhat, but it does not resolve the neuro inflammation, nor the oxidative stress.” Harsh, but fair. I mean, drink the water; you’re probably dehydrated anyway. Just don’t expect it to work a miracle.
On the chance that you find yourself in a situation where one drink turned into five and you didn’t take any pre-drinking precautions, don’t beat yourself up. It’s going to happen. Just go for any of your tried-and-true hangover hacks and try and remember that this feeling won’t last forever. Hydrate yourself with electrolytes, and sleep it off knowing that your hangovers are getting worse as you age, it’s just science—sorry!
Image: Space_Cat / Shutterstock.com
Getting wasted on a Saturday night should be the least complicated part of your life, and yet you always feel like shit afterwards, which kinda ruins the vibe of the whole next week. Whether you completely forgot to eat beforehand or you literally scarfed down an order of garlic bread two seconds before the pregame, you’ve never really nailed down the eating part of the night. In order to black out successfully without spending the next morning with your head in the toilet, you’ll need to eat something substantial before, but not anything so heavy that it would prevent you from getting drunk. Here are some of the ideal pre-drinking foods.
1. Avocado Toast
Ever wonder why it’s so damn hard to make it from your Uber to the inside of the club when you’re in heels? It’s literally like your legs literally forgot how to move and you forgot how to stand up straight. That’s because when you drink a ton of alcohol, the potassium in your body gets depleted, which can lead to dizziness and weakness in your muscles. In order to counteract that, you’ll need the B6 vitamins and healthy fats found in avocados, which is why avocado toast is perfect to eat before drinking. Plus, the bread component helps give your body some carbs so you don’t pass out after three tequila shots on an empty stomach. Just try to stick with whole wheat bread or something with fiber. It’s 2017, are you seriously still eating white bread?
2. Pita Chips & Hummus
Hummus is an underrated lifesaver when it comes to preventing hangovers. Just like avocados, chickpeas are super high in B6 vitamins, which have been proven to prevent hangovers. Chickpeas also have fiber in them, so they’ll keep you full enough to not (completely) pig out at a random diner at 3am. In terms of what to dip, raw veggies are obviously a healthier option than pita chips, but they might be hard on the stomach and make you nauseous later on. We’re not telling you to devour an entire bag of Stacy’s chips before you even put your skinny jeans on for the night, but a few chips with hummus won’t hurt, and it’s a good pregame snack anyway.
Asparagus may not be your go-to vegetable on a Saturday night, or on any night for that matter, but it turns out asparagus is filled with amino acids and minerals that help protect your liver once you start drinking. Apparently, when you eat asparagus before taking shots, its nutrients protect your liver cells from alcohol toxins, which will prevent you from being super hungover in the morning. To make them edible, sprinkle a little olive oil over them with some salt and pepper and pop them in the oven for 45 minutes. We’re asking you to be a LITTLE less lazy, but you’ll thank us when you wake up tomorrow feeling somewhat functional.
4. An Omelet
A little breakfast for dinner never killed anyone, but no, we’re not asking you to rehash waffle and pancake night from your sorority house. Omelets are obviously healthy and pretty filling, and they’re actually really good to eat before going out. The egg whites have protein in them, which will keep you full throughout the night without making you bloated or nauseous. Plus, the yolks are filled with calcium, vitamin D, and acetylcholine, which helps your brain function when you’re eight shots deep and can’t find your friends. Add a few vegetables to the pan and you’re basically Julia Child, minus the shit ton of butter, obviously.
5. Pickles Or Olives
I know this is a weird trick, but it actually works, so it’s worth a shot. You’ve probably never wanted to snack on these foods before going out, but the sodium in pickles and olives help ward off hangovers because they automatically replenish the body with electrolytes. Usually we’re not into eating a ton of sodium before drinking because it could cause bloating, but by snacking on some pickles or olives before you go out, you’ll have enough sodium in your body to stay skinny while preventing a hangover. It also happens to be super convenient that most bars have a jar of olives for martinis. Just in case you reaaally didn’t have time before.
If you’re out to dinner before a night out and you’re not sure what to order, the grilled salmon is always a good bet. Aside from the fact that salmon is filled with protein and healthy fats, it has a shit ton of B-12 vitamins, which usually get depleted in your body when you drink alcohol. B-12 has a huge effect on metabolism, mood, and blood sugar levels, so you don’t wanna start screwing with it. By eating salmon before drinking, you’re filling your body with vitamins that will help you recover tomorrow morning when you’re lying in bed regretting every second of your Snapchat story. Instead of feeling your usual Sunday morning combo of regret and nausea, you’ll just be a little less nauseous. It’s a small win, but we’ll take it.