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The Science and Genetics Behind Hangovers
“Hangovers are more complex than you may think. Genetics can have an impact on how you experience a hangover, and so can many other factors,” says Serena Poon, a certified nutritionist and reiki master in Los Angeles.
There are a few genes that are responsible for how people experience hangovers: CYP2E1, ADH1B, and ALDH2.
The CYP2E1 gene codes for the enzyme that breaks down alcohol compounds. When there is a slight change in its structure, people clear alcohol out of their systems faster.
The Darker the Drink, the Worse the Hangover
“Science figured out that this old wives’ tale, ‘the darker the drink, the worse the hangover,’ turned out to be true,” says Yazdi.
“These darker drinks contain a substance called congeners, which gives alcohol its flavor. This is why people say light drinks like vodka and gin are flavourless while brandy and whisky have more flavor.”
What Your Age Has to Do With Hangovers
“Although we all feel as we get older, hangovers get worse, scientifically, it may not be true,” says Yazdi. “What happens is your tolerance for alcohol may have reduced because you don’t consume alcohol as much as you did when you were much younger.”
Basically, you have more energy and stamina when you’re younger than when you get older, which also includes the vibe to take alcohol.
Also, Yoon points out, “your liver may become slower to metabolize alcohol as you age, prolonging the effects of a hangover.”
However, a study that Poon quotes says that as you get older, your pain sensitivity decreases, hence you may not feel the effects of hangovers compared to your younger self.
Home Remedies and How to Avoid Hangovers
“The best way to avoid a hangover is to moderate alcohol consumption and hydrate as much as possible while you’re drinking. Avoid sugary drinks as they can disrupt your blood sugar and may decrease the amount of sleep you get,” says Poon.
“Experts usually recommend switching to water 3 to 4 hours before going to bed to allow for restful sleep. Your body heals while you sleep, and it can use extra rest while it is working to process and eliminate alcohol from your system.”
Yoon advises us to use red ginseng to reduce inflammation when you drink alcohol.
“Red ginseng has beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” she says. “In Korea, red ginseng has been used as a traditional medicinal plant for reducing inflammation, which helps with hangovers.”
Alcohol dehydrates your body and can cause low blood sugar levels.
Yoon says that “red ginseng extract in particular has short-term eﬀects on ethanol metabolism and helps to reduce blood ethanol concentration, inhibiting inflammation and increasing antioxidant capacity in cells. It also helps improve blood sugar levels.”
In cases where you don’t want to drink alcohol at all, Yoon advises people try an alternative fermented tea drink called kombucha, which has very low alcohol content and beneficial probiotics.