We’ve all been there. Rough day at the office, bad breakup, emotionally triggered…a glass of wine (or several)…or perhaps something a bit harder to take the edge off. Right? Wrong.
That post-fun-filled night—aka the-morning-after moment we all swear to never drink again—is a real squeeze on your adrenals for a much more chemical reason than just hoping you didn’t say something super embarrassing.
Hangovers often accompany a feeling of uneasiness that is, of course, physical, but so often very emotional. We can’t seem to shake an unknown anxiety that lives deep in our bodies, not just our rational mind.
What’s up with that? Well a lot of it has to do with our gut.
Serotonin, our feel-good hormone, is not limited to the brain. In fact, it is made primarily in the gut. If you’re wondering what that has to do with alcohol consumption, might we relay the friendly reminder that everything we consume is processed through the gut.
It might be pertinent to mention that before antibiotics, alcohol was used as the dominant substance to kill bacteria. Because it’s like, really good at it.
The downside of a night of partying (okay, one of the downsides) is that it can majorly f*ck with your gut microbiota.
These important gut bugs work closely with small, cell-signaling proteins called cytokines. These little guys are super important mediators for gut-brain communication, so when our microbiome is suffering, so are they. This means a major crash in serotonin and dopamine, aka our happy hormones, which has an immediate effect on mood and—you guessed it—a spike in anxiety.
While this is typically only perceptible after a night of heavy drinking, there are long-term effects on those who imbibe often, even if they aren’t getting absolutely martini-obliterated each and every time. Frequent drinkers may experience low-grade, but consistent, anxiety and even depression. Guess that’s why alcohol is considered a downer.
The good news is that if you lead a healthy lifestyle otherwise and make sure to nurture your microbiome, one rowdy night or a couple social drinks a week aren’t going to do any serious damage that isn’t managed by your good habits. The bod just needs a little balance.
Up next, already in the trenches with anxious feelings? Reach for these hacks to soothe the soul.