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The Type of Alcohol you Drink is Partially to Blame for Your Hangover

Some blame the sugar in fancy cocktails; others blame the bubbles in the champagne. More often than not, we’ve blamed it on tequila for our forgotten moments and feeling like death the next day. This has us swearing the drink off for good (or so we thought). But what is truly giving us those dreadful hangovers, and why do they only happen with certain alcohols?


There are three different ways that cause us to have a hangover when we drink. First, alcohol dehydrates your body and causes us to lose water from excessive urine and sweating. This removal of water from the bloodstream then pulls on the membrane of our head, giving us a headache. The second cause is the ingredients in alcohol. Broken down by the liver during different stages, alcohol is used as ‘fuel’ and diverts the pyruvate, one of which is important for supplying glucose, or sugar, to the brain. The last, and probably most known, is the chemicals in the drink. Certain alcoholic beverages contain toxins, known as congeners, such as tannins and propanone. When we consume these, it puts extra stress on our liver to break down these substances and restore its normal function.



While congeners sound terrible for the body, they do have an important purpose. Used as a byproduct of fermentation, congeners contribute to the color and flavor of the drink. Drinks are more likely to contain large amounts of congeners if they are darker in color, such as brandy, whiskey, bourbon, tequila, dark beer, and red wine. Unlike brewers or winemakers, distillers control the number of congeners that go into their products. Therefore, this allows it to more easily affect the flavor, color, and aroma. Congener levels are partially managed by heat in the process, causing some ingredients to evaporate. The other way to manage the levels is to distill the liquor multiple times to filter the toxins out. For example, clear spirits, such as vodka and gin, are distilled to remove all of the congeners. This ensures a neutral flavor at the time of consumption. “Brandy has the highest amount, followed by dark alcohols like whiskey and red wine,” says Czarena Crofcheck, Ph.D., a food science professor at the University of Kentucky. “Their high levels of fusel alcohol make them much harder for the body to metabolize.”



Champagne may not be a dark beverage, but that doesn’t stop it from giving you an awful hangover after a night of celebration. The bubbles are to blame with sparkling wine having a higher carbonation level than a soda’s carbonation level. Dr. Andrew Waterhouse, an enology professor and wine chemist at the University of California, Davis states that carbon dioxide helps the alcohol get absorbed into the bloodstream faster. 



Many get carried away-going overboard with champagne or drinking one too many sugary cocktails and wake up the next day wondering what went wrong. There are two reasons why sugary drinks can give terrible hangovers: we tend to overdrink them, and they can dehydrate you further. We all love a fancy cocktail now and then, but when we consume sugar, it has the same effect as a drug on our brain; the sugar sends signals, telling us that we need more of it. After four or five drinks, our brain and body are on sugar overload and we’ve had more alcohol than we might normally drink. The other way sugar can contribute to hangovers is that sugar itself is dehydrating. When we are drinking alcohol while consuming extra sugar, both factors can make our body lose water. As a result, our body tries to keep up and restores function while losing water. Ultimately, we can become dangerously dehydrated in the process.


It is important to always drink responsibly, no matter the drink. What we’re putting into our body isn’t just alcohol, but other chemicals as well that we need to be aware of. Always be sure to hydrate before planning to drink alcoholic beverages, and drink a glass of water in between alcoholic beverages. If water isn’t enough to help with the awful hangover, try using a supplement such as Drinklyte, guaranteeing relief of symptoms and rehydrating immediately.


Author :  Jennifer Dutton, Blog Writer, DrinkLyte Co. "Helping Grow CPG Brands Beyond Their Potential"