Can a Hangover Kill You?

Nutritional Therapist
Nutrition for Cancer Prevention and Longevity

Anyone who drinks is familiar with the unpleasant hangover effects from excessive drinking. This is how I would define it:

...pounding head, aching body, dry mouth full of thirst, dizziness, nausea, spinning room. You feel like you were beaten up with a hammer and swear you’ll never do that again. Many people liken it to feeling like the flu or even better yet, like they were poisoned.

But can you die from a hangover?

Remarkably, little is known about the physiology underlying the hangover condition. Scientists aren't clear whether hangover signs and symptoms are attributable to alcohol’s direct effects on the body, its aftereffects, or a combination of both. So let’s present the facts of what we do know.

1. Alcohol is a poison

Your body regards alcohol as a poison. Because it can only process one unit of alcohol per hour until it is all out of your bloodstream.

Alcohol poisoning occurs when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain controlling basic life-support functions – such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control – begin to shut down.

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include confusion, difficulty remaining conscious, vomiting, seizures, trouble with breathing, slow heart rate, clammy skin, dulled responses, such as no gag reflex (which prevents choking), and extremely low body temperature.

2. Alcohol dehydrates and imbalances your electrolytes

Without getting too technical, here's how alcohol dehydrates you: alcohol inhibits the hormone that makes you not pee (vasopressin). And so this extra urine production sends the water right to your bladder thus preventing your kidneys from reabsorbing that water. Bad news for vital kidney health. That frequent urination also expels salts and potassium that are necessary for proper nerve and muscle function, thus imbalancing your electrolytes. These sort of complications can contribute directly to cardiac arrest.

3. Severe intoxication depresses vital centres in the central nervous system

There are a number of more serious reactions like stupor, respiratory failure, hypotension or cardiac arrest. Oh, and while we're in the thick weeds of truth here, understand that death may occur from respiratory or circulatory failure or from aspiration of gastric contents.

Cardiac arrhythmias – that's a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat – are another potentially fatal complication of an alcohol binge.

So, depending on your body's ability to handle, process and clear the alcohol in your system, you could be looking at some serious issues – especially if you've drank enough to experience a significant hangover.

"It happened to me once, a long time ago. I was out with a friend. Only later I realised that I suffered from alcohol poisoning with a 'hangover' that lasted for three whole nights and days. I thought I was going to die. Never again, I said!"

How about drinking to a level just above the guidelines?

On the other hand, what about drinking to that level just above the guidelines, but not on a regular basis? Known as binge drinking, it's quaffing a large amount of alcohol over a relatively short period of time. And it has some serious hazards itself.

UK youths are topping the charts with teenage girls in Britain as the second biggest boozers in the developed world. The dangers of this alcohol abuse are causing serious illnesses. But the biggest danger: death.

An overdose of alcohol is when you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) sufficient to produce impairment that increases the risk of harm.

Overdoses can range in severity, from problems with balance and slurred speech, to coma or even death. Binge drinking affects your mood and memory. Over time this can lead to some grievous hangovers and mental health problems.

Consuming alcohol over the long term puts you in harm’s way with a greater risk of developing serious health problems. Near the top of the list are liver disease, gastrointestinal problems, and cancer.

Did you know that alcohol causes 3% of cancers in the UK every year? That's around 11, 900 new cases a year, according to Cancer Research UK.

Here are four serious direct effects of alcohol over time:

  1. Excessive alcohol use causes three types of liver damage that range from fatty liver to cirrhosis.
  2. Long-term alcohol use can cause major toxicity in the gastrointestinal system, especially in combination with nutritional deficiencies.
  3. Results from several large studies have firmly established that heavy alcohol consumption is associated with a higher cancer incidence and mortality.
  4. Even moderate drinking leads to short-term impairment and lack of control, as shown by extensive research on the impact of drinking on driving.

In conclusion – yes, a hangover can kill you.

It's a depressant and it can be deadly. But rather than die directly from a hangover, what will ransack you is the poisoning, dehydration and/or severe CNS (central nervous system) depression of over consumption.

You're more informed now, so make sure to drink in moderation and if you choose to drink, do it responsibly.

Do you know of someone who might drink too much or could be helped by just more information? Pass this article onto them.

How about you? Do you have a shareable drinking-story-lesson that comes to mind? Did it help you shed some light or did it downright slap you in the face on the reality of alcohol over-consumption?

Nutritional Therapist

Nutrition for Cancer Prevention and Longevity

What If You Don’t Go To University

It’s August, which means it’s that time of the year again: A Level Results Day.

And whether it’s your friends or your grandma, there’s one question on everyone’s lips…

Are you going to university?

You might be heading back from college to the tune of ‘Did you get the grades?’

Or maybe you never wanted to go to uni in the first place.

Whichever boat you’re in; what happens when your friends are prepping for freshers’ week, but you’re not?

No fear – we’re here to help! The first thing you need to consider is:

Are you sure about your decision?

It’s difficult to aim for your goals if you don’t know what they are, or how to reach them. This means that if you have a particular career in mind, you might want to see a careers advisor or thoroughly research alternative routes into the field you’re passionate about before making a final decision.

But then what? Well, first, it’s important to know…

There are a ton of careers that don’t require a university degree

It’s true! You may have considered some of these options: hairdressing, beauty, personal training.

But those aren’t the only choices – many careers have a variety of pathways into them, from accountancy, to journalism, to nutritional therapy.

Read on to see what you can do instead of going to university:

Take a Gap Year

Fondly known as the ‘gap yah’ among millennials, many teens take a year out to decide what they want to do before continuing their education. This often takes the form of travelling, learning a language, and gaining lots of experience of different cultures – but it can also involve volunteering in a mix of industries to help you make a more informed decision about your future. While this kind of break provides a temporary solution, it’s common for people to head back to school once they complete their gap year, but many teens also open doors to careers they never knew existed!

(Pssst… Looking for the latest work experience opportunities? GoThinkBig is a good place to start).

Find an Apprenticeship

Becoming an apprentice is a great way to get straight into work AND gain a qualification while you earn. From farming, to hospitality, to law, you can choose your apprenticeship from a huge selection of fields and levels, from Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) right through to Level 6/7 (degree equivalent). Depending on the level, an apprenticeship can take between 1 and 5 years to complete, but you’ll be learning loads of job-specific skills along the way.

If you’re in the UK, you can click here to find an apprenticeship.

Get an Entry-Level Job

While a large number of entry-level jobs will attract applications from students and recent graduates, many employers offer roles aimed at school-leavers – including training schemes. The obvious benefit of heading straight into work is that you’ll be earning right away.

A great way to find entry-level jobs is to keep an eye on websites that advertise vacancies in specific fields. Mediargh is a great example for media-related careers (publishing, science – whatever).

Become an Entrepreneur

Ever wanted to start your own business? Now might be your chance! This can be an exciting option for those not looking to go to university, but it’s wise to first consider the funding, support, and advice you’ll need along the way. If you’re in the UK, check out these government guidelines for new businesses.

For an extra boost when it comes to marketing your business effectively, check out Google’s Digital Garage for free digital marketing training.

Study for an Online Diploma

A huge barrier for many prospective students is the possibility of getting in over £50,000 of debt for a qualification in an area they’re not entirely sure about, or wasn’t necessary for their preferred career.

Whether you’re looking to boost your entrepreneurial endeavours, or you want to get a feel for a subject before jumping into a degree, an online diploma can be a great way to go! Loads of platforms offer you the chance to study via the web and many don’t require specialist technology, so you can get going with just a laptop and a cup of tea.

If it’s nutrition you’re into, we at The Health Sciences Academy® have a whole host of certifications and short courses for you to explore.

Nutrition not your thing? Not to worry – there are loads of other great providers out there. Check out Coursera and Lynda for an array of online courses on a variety of subjects.

They’re called options for a reason…

It’s important to remember that choosing to not go to university isn’t something that sets your career in a permanent direction. You may try one of the above and decide you want to go to uni after all! Perhaps you want some work experience, maybe you’re looking to boost your know-how before embarking on a degree, or you might even decide to do both an online course and an apprenticeship – the point is: the sky’s the limit.

What you’re doing this September doesn’t necessarily define the rest of your life, but it CAN boost it. Do what’s best for you and remember: it’s quite natural to need a little bit of extra time to work out where you want your career to go.

The Health Sciences Academy® is the UK’s largest online educator in nutrition science.

We are home to a variety of Level 5 online diplomas, in addition to a range of accredited short courses in nutrition topics – ready to help you ignite your career.

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