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What Causes Hangover Related Nausea?

Hangover Nausea

For some of us, headaches are the worst part of a hangover. But for others, it is crippling nausea. Hangover nausea can be so bad you spend the morning vomiting and then dry heaving into a toilet. It can be hard to get any food down until night-time. This makes overcoming other hangover symptoms even harder.

But what if you could indulge at night and wake up in the morning without any nausea? What if you could dramatically reduce the amount of nausea you experience after a night of heavy drinking? By understanding what causes hangover nausea, you can learn what steps any person can take to reduce or prevent it.

There are two main causes of hangover related nausea: gastritis and the build-up of a toxic compound known as acetaldehyde.

Cause 1: Gastritis

Gastritis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the stomach lining. The most common cause of acute (a single time occurrence) gastritis is excessive alcohol consumption. Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol cause damage and irritation to mucosal defenses in the stomach. This may lead to inflammation of the stomach lining.

Symptoms of acute gastritis include:

  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Excessive Belching
  • Feeling Bloated/Loss of Appetite

Generally, one or two nights of binge drinking won’t cause a severe case of acute Gastritis. Most people will only experience nausea and loss of appetite due to irritation of the stomach lining caused by alcohol consumption. Usually the inflammation itself is minimal. In severe cases of acute Gastritis, green, yellow, or bloody vomiting may occur.

How can I minimize the irritation of my stomach lining?

The most commonly used, and readily available treatment for Gastritis is over-the-counter antacid tablets such as Tums. Antacids are able to neutralize stomach acid, decrease stomach lining inflammation, and provide pain/nausea relief.

Another effective over-the-counter treatment for Gastritis is Pepto-Bismol. I have found that Pepto-Bismol taken alone works better than Tums taken alone. However, it is perfectly safe to take them both together and this usually produces the best results for me.

Pepto-Bismol provides the following benefits:

  • Reduces the secretion of fluids into the digestive tract caused by irritated tissue
  • Reduces stomach lining irritation/inflammation
  • Kills bacteria responsible for irregular bowel movements and diarrhea.

For severe cases as Gastritis, the prescripton drugs omeprazole, lansoprazole, and rabeprezole are often used. These drugs actually reduce the amount of stomach acid. They reduce stomach acid production by shutting down “acid pumps” in the stomach. If you experience extremely severe nausea after small amounts of drinking, talking to your doctor and discussing options such as these may be your best bet.

Cause 2: Acetaldehyde Build-Up

Hangover nausea isn’t just caused by the irritation of the stomach lining. Perhaps the biggest cause of hangover nausea is the build-up of acetaldehyde.

Soon after you take a swig of beer, a sip of wine, or a shot of liquor, it hits your stomach and makes its way to your small intestines. Alcohol avoids the normal digestive process and almost immediately makes its way into your blood stream from the small intestines. Once in your blood stream, alcohol travels to your liver for purification.

Your liver contains two very important enzymes: Alcohol Dehydrogenase (ADH), and Acetaldehyde Dehydrogenase (ALDH). When alcohol reaches your liver the ADH enzyme kicks into gear. It begins to metabolize as much alcohol as possible. The alcohol is metabolized in a toxic substance called acetaldehyde. After alcohol has been metabolized into acetaldehyde by the enzyme ADH, it is metabolized into harmless acetic acid by the enzyme ALDH.

Acetaldehyde is 10-30 times more toxic than alcohol itself. [2] It has been implicated as not only the main cause of hangovers, but also much of the long term damage regular alcohol consumption inflicts on the body. Constant exposure to high levels of acetaldehyde increase risk of heart disease, liver disease, and cancer.

Symptoms associated with acute acetaldehyde toxicity include:

  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blushing of the skin/face

When you drink excessive amounts of alcohol, acetaldehyde builds up in your system, and contributes greatly to many of the symptoms associated with hangovers, including hangover nausea.

How can I minimize the build-up of acetaldehyde?

Dihydromyricetin (DHM) DHM is a completely natural plant extract of hovenia dulcis which has been used by the Chinese as a traditional hangover cure for centuries. Research shows DHM has the following anti-alcohol benefits:

  • Promotes activity of both the ADH and ALDH enzymes causing the body to breakdown both alcohol and acetaldehyde at a much quicker rate. [5]
  • Has anti-bacterial, anti-cancer, anti-oxidant, and hepatoprotective (liver protecting), anti-inflammatory (may help with stomach lining inflammation), and neuroprotective properties.[6]
  • Binds to GABA receptors in the brain to decrease feelings of intoxication, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and alcohol dependence [5]

By taking DHM, you can flush acetaldehyde out of your system more quickly, and reduce its negative effects on your body.

Cited Studies

  1. An overview: Current clinical guidelines for the evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and management of dyspepsia
  2. Protection against Acetaldehyde Toxicity in the rat byl-cysteine, thiamin andl-2-Methylthiazolidine-4-carboxylic acid
  3. Reducing carcinogenic acetaldehyde exposure in the achlorhydric stomach with cysteine.
  4. Eliminating carcinogenic acetaldehyde by cysteine from saliva during smoking.
  5. Dihydromyricetin As A Novel Anti-Alcohol Intoxication Medication
  6. Pharmacological potential of ampelopsin in Rattan tea

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