The Cause of a Wine Hangover and How to Avoid One.

You’d be surprised at how many customers, when choosing a wine in the shop, ask about the cause of a wine hangover.

Now, before I write another word, I should, of course, point out that I have absolutely no background in medicine. My knowledge on this topic stems from reading about it, learning about wine and some personal experience of over indulgence, on occasions.

The first place to start, I guess, is to describe what a wine hangover is! If you’re lucky enough not to have experienced one, I would simple describe it as a group of unpleasant signs and symptoms that can develop after drinking too much wine/alcohol.

I would simple describe a hangover as a group of unpleasant signs and symptoms that can develop after drinking too much alcohol #greenacresirl #discoverwine #hangovers
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What are the Symptoms of a Wine Hangover?

The Mayo Clinic describes them as follows (and I quote):

“Hangover symptoms typically begin when your blood alcohol content drops significantly and is at or near zero. They’re usually in full effect the morning after a night of heavy drinking. Depending on what and how much you drank, you may notice:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Excessive thirst and dry mouth
  • Headaches and muscle aches
  • Nausea, vomiting or stomach pain
  • Poor or decreased sleep
  • Increased sensitivity to light and sound
  • Dizziness or a sense of the room spinning
  • Shakiness
  • Decreased ability to concentrate
  • Mood disturbances, such as depression, anxiety and irritability
  • Rapid heartbeat”

Does any of those sound familiar? Well, you don’t have to take the Mayo Clinic’s word for it. You can also discover the symptoms first-hand if you decide to partake in some of the cheaper wine offers available, otherwise known as ‘plonk’.

What are the Causes of a Wine Hangover?

Image by Lumapoche from Pixabay

First of all, allow me to break the myth that sulphites give you headaches, they don’t. About 1pc of people are hypersensitive to sulphites, and within that 1pc, 5pc are asthmatic, so for these people it can be a problem, as sulphites can trigger an asthmatic reaction.

The real cause of the wine hangover is more than likely that you just drank too much and were dehydrated because you forgot to drink enough water over the course of the evening.

You’ll find more sulphites in a bowl of muesli with dried fruit than you will find in your Saturday night bottle. Let’s see what the Mayo Clinic say about the causes.

 “Various factors may contribute to a hangover.

  • Alcohol causes your body to produce more urine. In turn, urinating more than usual can lead to dehydration — often indicated by thirst, dizziness and lightheadedness.
  • Alcohol triggers an inflammatory response from your immune system. Your immune system may trigger certain agents that commonly produce physical symptoms, such as an inability to concentrate, memory problems, decreased appetite and loss of interest in usual activities.
  • Alcohol irritates the lining of your stomach. Alcohol increases the production of stomach acid and delays stomach emptying. Any of these factors can cause abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting.
  • Alcohol can cause your blood sugar to fall. If your blood sugar dips too low, you may experience fatigue, weakness, shakiness, mood disturbances and even seizures.
  • Alcohol causes your blood vessels to expand, which can lead to headaches.
  • Alcohol can make you sleepy, but it prevents deeper stages of sleep and often causes awakening in the middle of the night. This may leave you groggy and tired.”

So, there you go – not once was the ‘S’ word mentioned in their explanation

Some Quick-Fire Questions and Answers.

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Is Our Body Built to Process Alcohol?

  • We produce alcohol in our stomach all the time when we digest food, but it is in minuscule quantities, which our body can process easily. That’s why we are equipped to process alcohol. But this also explains why too much alcohol is a recipe for a hangover.

What is the worst type of alcohol for hangover?

  • Out of the 11 popular tipples in the ‘potential hangover’ scale, red wine comes in at third place. Just behind brandy or bourbon, and high-sugar mixes. Champagne is the sixth culprit, just after rum and whiskey. And white wine ranks low at eighth place, behind beer.

Does Colour Matter?

  • The short answer is YES. Studies show that darker drinks usually have more congeners,  which ups your chances for a bad hangover. Experts believe that darker tipples hold more chemicals than their lighter or clearer equivalents.

Hangovers - does drink colour matter? The short answer is YES. Studies show that darker drinks usually have more congeners, which ups your chances for a bad hangover.
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More Frequently Asked Questions

How About Champagne (sparkling wines)?

  • Bubbly drinks like Champagne contain carbon dioxide, which pumps alcohol faster into your bloodstream. Your liver is trying to deal with this alcohol overdrive and suddenly there is excess alcohol in your bloodstream and your brain.

What is Hangover Tiredness?

  • Alcohol has a depressive effect on the neurological system. Without getting geeky about the stimulant ‘glutamate’ – suffice to say that alcohol inhibits our body to make it. When we stop drinking, our brain tries to compensate and then produces more, meaning we will never be able to have a proper, relaxing sleep, in these circumstances.

Why have Alcohol in Wine at All?

  • All alcohols are important in the process of wine maturation. They interact with acids and form the fruit aromas in wine. The process of fermentation creates many of these flavours which are not present in grape juice. This is why grape juice just tastes of grapes, but people write tomes about the taste of wine.

What about Mixing Wine and Other Drinks?

  • Perhaps it’s not the grape or the grain that matters, but the effect that the strength of those drinks has on judgement. Existing evidence suggests that hangovers can’t be blamed on mixing drinks. It’s probably down to the high congener count of the booze, or over-drinking. 

Despite all the aforementioned hangover factors, there’s no reason for you to scrap your wine cellar dream altogether. You can still indulge in your favourite tipple, just don’t overdo it.

How can you mitigate wine hangover effects?

I’m going back to my friends in the Mayo Clinic for some suggestions on wine hangover prevention. They say that “The less alcohol you drink, the less likely you are to have a hangover.”

 They also say that it may help to:

  • “Eat before and while drinking. As alcohol is absorbed more quickly if your stomach is empty, it may help to eat something before drinking alcohol and during the time you’re drinking.
  • Choose carefully. Beverages with fewer congeners are slightly less likely to cause hangovers than beverages with more congeners but remember that all types of alcohol can result in a hangover.
  • Sip water between drinks. Drinking a full glass of water after each alcoholic drink will help you stay hydrated. It’ll also help you drink less alcohol.
  • Know your limits and only drink in moderation. Decide ahead of time how many drinks you’ll have — and stick to it. Don’t feel pressured to drink.
  • Take it slow. Avoid having more than one alcoholic drink in an hour. Stop drinking completely when you’ve reached your limit (or before then).”

Everything in Moderation, Including Moderation.

Image by Nicole Pankalla from Pixabay

I am always aware of Oscar Wilde’s quote above when discussing wine hangovers. I want to finish by saying that yes, there is a lot of cheap, and potential nasty wine out there. But there’s also a wonderful world of good, high-quality wine with character and personality.

We would love to help you switch from drinking more of the bad stuff to savouring a bit less of the good stuff.

If we can help you in any way, with suggestions of wines for your experimentation – don’t hesitate to contact any of the wine team here in Green Acres.

As someone said to me once – the greatest wine connoisseurs are rarely alcoholics. With a little bit of restraint, you can bid hangovers goodbye and continue your foray into the great big world of wine.

As always – enjoy the wine and friends you’re with (in moderation).

Talk Soon – James.

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