Many people have one type of alcohol that makes them puke — or, at the very least, makes them feel nauseous. If you don't, cannot relate! Must be nice. But if you're like the rest of us, just the scent of a certain type of alcohol can activate your gag reflexes and send you down memory lane, reminding you of regrettable life choices.
Maybe you’ve sworn never to touch mint moonshine ever again, and just the thought of it makes you shudder. Maybe red wine makes you feel fuzzy, tired, nauseous, and leaves you with a nasty hangover. Perhaps your best friend swears tequila is what will te-kill-her. And, of course, you’re not alone if you’ve had a bad experience with Fireball shots at one point or another.
So, this begs the question: Why do we react to certain types of alcohol the way we do? Why does some alcohol make you sick but doesn’t bother other people? Why can your BFF have three glasses of champagne at a wedding and be right as rain the next morning while you want to quite literally end it all?
To find out, Elite Daily spoke to Dr. Gregory Glowacki, PharmD, about the biological mechanisms at play, such as allergies, intolerance, and, well, just getting a little too old to stay out drinking past 8 p.m.
You’re Intolerant Or Allergic To Certain Ingredients In It
Some people are flat-out intolerant to alcohol. “Some signs of alcohol intolerance include things such as flushing of the skin, nausea, vomiting, weakened pulse, and dizziness from decreased blood pressure,” Dr. Glowacki says. If you experience any of these symptoms after drinking alcohol in general, you may have an intolerance.
However, if it's just certain alcohols that bring out reactions in you, you might be allergic to one of the ingredients in that specific alcohol. For example, some people are sensitive to the sulfites found in wine, which could be why they leave happy hours feeling like absolute crap. If tequila produces a terrible reaction in you, you may be allergic to agave, the plant used to make tequila. Whatever the case, if a certain alcohol causes an adverse reaction in you, chances are you should listen to your body and steer clear.
You Had A Bad Experience With It
Picture this: On your 21st birthday, the rum and cokes were seriously flowing. You puked that night and the entire next day. Five years later, you won't even look at a rum and coke.
When something makes you feel really, really bad at one point in your life, your body often remembers it (even by the smell). This is a mechanism to help protect you. If you decide to give the alcohol that made you sick another shot (literally and figuratively), and it makes you sick again, it may just be that your body senses danger and doesn't want to deal with that a second time. And you probably don’t either. Consider it a friendly reminder from your body, or a friendly warning. It’s all how you look at it, right?
Your Body Started Metabolizing Alcohol Differently
Maybe once upon a time, you could knock back some vodka shots (hello, college), and now you can barely have two beers without feeling nauseous.
Here's what's going on: As we age, we start to metabolize alcohol differently. Alcohol might have gone right through us at 21, but our aged bodies now process alcohol differently. “As we age, our bodies change. Aging has an effect on how quickly our bodies can get rid of alcohol,” says Dr. Glowacki. “Circulation of blood flow through the liver may slow down and there are [fewer] enzymes for metabolizing, leading to a slower rate of breakdown of the ethanol and an accumulation of toxic metabolites in the body.”
That's why your hangover used to be cured by a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel, a glass of water, and an extra hour of sleep, and now, it won't go away until the next day.
You're Just Drinking Too Much, Too Fast
This one may seem obvious, but it's worth noting there's a chance the tequila, vodka, rum, whiskey, wine and beer aren't to blame, even if mixed. You might just be drinking too much alcohol at once, period.
“Alcohol is primarily metabolized within the liver, although some will be metabolized in the stomach as well. The more you drink, the longer it will take for the liver to break down the ethanol and its toxic metabolite, acetaldehyde,” explains Dr. Glowacki. Eventually, your body will run out of mechanisms to break down the alcohol and its toxins. When you overload your body with alcohol, it eventually says, “No more vodka sodas, please.” And, thus, the puking.
“There are only so many enzymes available to break down the alcohol, and they can only work so fast,” says Dr. Glowacki. “The more alcohol that is consumed, the longer it takes to break it all down, and thus, there is an accumulation of the toxic substances in the body.”
This is why it’s been said that a night of drinking is a marathon, not a race. Pace yourself, drink water in between beverages, and understand your limits. After all, life's too short to spend it barfing when you really don't have to.
Dr. Gregory Glowacki, PharmD
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