There’s no denying it: Hangovers are the actual worst. The headache, the nausea, the sudden inability to process sounds above a whisper without feeling like your head is about to explode? It’s all enough to make you consider giving up drinking forever…or until the next time you go out. Despite the discomfort, when we’re in our early 20s, most of us can easily pop a couple aspirins, devour the most delicious grease-covered foods, and be ready to face the world again. But the older we get, the more our hangovers change — and not for the better.
You’d think after years of drinking in our early 20s, we’d build up some sort of tolerance or super-adult ability to fight off the less-than-awesome effects of alcohol — including hangovers. However, that’s not the case. As we get older, our bodies honestly get tired of putting up with drunken shenanigans.
You might be wondering: How else does getting older affect our hangovers? Well, lucky for you, we’ve reached out to medical professionals and done the research so you don’t have to.
Here are 5 ways your hangovers change in your late 20s.
1Your body’s defense weakens
According to Atiya Hasan, MD and co-founder of browngirlmagazine.com, when we’re dealing with a hangover in our late 20s, our bodies are more susceptible to infections and other toxic things. She says, “You might notice even normal colds can have you down and out for days whereas before you were able to work through them just fine.”
The National Institute on Aging refers to the gradual weakening of your immune system as you age as, “immunosenescence.” It’s not that your body isn’t recovering; in many cases, it just won’t recover quite as quickly.
2The headaches are more intense
Dr. Michael Oshinsky, a neuroscientist with the National Institute of Health, says, “Your liver breaks down ethanol into a toxic chemical compound called acetaldehyde, which is then converted into another toxin called acetate. This acetate conversion happens throughout your body, including in the tissues of your brain.” But in your late 20s, this process slows down, meaning these chemicals will stick around longer in your body, and the inflammation they cause might be the root of your intensified hangover-induced headaches.
3The dehydration gets worse
As we get older, we have less water in our bodies (we don’t know why it happens; it’s just science) so when alcohol is added to our already dehydrated bodies, we become further dehydrated a whole lot faster than we normally would. Our body fat also plays a role here: The higher your body fat percentage, the lower your body water ratio. Which means your hangovers now come with an unquenchable thirst.
Dr. Hasan suggests increasing your water intake. Have one glass of water for every alcoholic drink.
4You’re kind of dumber
Researchers at the Keele University School of Psychology report that in your late 20s, hangovers will have a greater impact on your memory, reaction time, and the rate of mental errors and can last for up to 10 hours.
5Your body is just more toxic
A South Korean researcher named Young Chul Kim found that the production of glutathione, which is an antioxidant produced in our bodies, slows down as we age. Glutathione is the antioxidant responsible for detoxifying the toxic metabolite in alcohol called acetaldehyde. So with less glutathione being produced in our bodies, it is harder for the alcohol to break down, therefore giving a longer and more uncomfortable hangover.
The best way to avoid a killer hangover is to, ya know, not drink…but we’re not quite ready to make that commitment, and maybe you aren’t either. So, until we can figure out how to slow down the aging process, we suggest drinking with caution. And the next time the bartender asks if you’ll have another, opt for water instead.