Alcohol stays in our system longer when we get older, as the enzymes that we need to process it decrease. Read on for ways you can work with your body—rather than against it—when you are drinking.
It’s not your imagination: your hangovers in your 30s and beyond have likely become far more brutal than they were in your 20s.
Our bodies have a systematic way of responding to alcohol, as was recently outlined in the South China Morning Post. The liver metabolises alcohol by breaking it down into acetaldehyde and then acetic acid. When it comes to acetaldehyde, not only is it highly toxic, but this noxious chemical lingers in your body causing a list of unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, headaches and dry mouth – typically known as the hangover period.
Your liver is primarily responsible for metabolising alcohol and uses enzymes to do so. This brings us to the first reason why your hangovers get worse as you age:
1. Your liver enzymes go down
Don’t worry, your liver can still function with fewer enzymes, but it becomes more sensitive, especially when confronted with a large volume of alcohol. A younger liver is able to process high levels of alcohol more efficiently than an older liver. As you age, the amount of time spent in the acetaldehyde phase increases.
2. The concentration of alcohol in your blood goes up
As you get older, much of your lean muscle is replaced by fat. This means that blood alcohol levels will be higher in the older you than the younger you, even if you have had the same number of drinks. Hydration is key—drink water between alcoholic beverages to dilute the alcohol in your stomach.
3. You probably weigh more now than you did when you were younger
More body fat translates into a lower alcohol tolerance, and when you experience age-related weight gain, it’s usually not in muscle mass. Maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise will not only keep you fit, it will help your body fight hangovers.
4. Your medication is not supposed to be mixed with alcohol
You’ve been told not to drink while taking certain medications that have been prescribed to you as you’ve aged, but you might be doing it anyway. Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, antibiotics and blood thinners commonly have unpleasant interactions with alcohol, intensifying hangovers.
5. As you get older, all recovery takes longer
This can’t be avoided—as you advance in years, your internal organs just ‘slow down’, and that’s normal. Work with your body by refraining from binge drinking, opting for clear alcohols like gin and vodka instead of whisky or champagne, and increasing your energy with healthy foods before a night of drinking.
Read the full story by a Hong Kong-based nutritionist here: Five Reasons Why Hangovers Get Worse As You Get Older—And How You Can Reduce the Suffering
What’s the Best Advice for Drinking?
If you choose to drink, it’s important to drink responsibly. Taking care of your health is vitally important to your longevity. But the best thing you can do today is to thoughtfully and honestly evaluate your relationship with alcohol. If you feel it may be unhealthy, contact us to learn what can be done to help. Thailand offers an extensive choice of luxurious and affordable rehab centres, delivering top-quality residential treatment programmes. We can explain the different treatments available and help you find the programme that works best for you.