Hangovers – Headaches

Hello Children, it’s time to learn about one of the many upsetting effects of alcohol. Okay, I know most of you are probably people actually going through a hangover and you want to know why this is happening to you… I mean, you’re a good person (probably). So why oh why is last night hurting you today?

What is a hangover?

Unlike the movie ‘The Hangover’, where the characters pretty much go on an adventure the day after a rowdy night with seemingly no physical repercussions other than a couple tattoos, a hangover would probably make you want to sleep for a whole day.

A hangover, formally called a veisalgia, is basically the umbrella term for the after effects of drinking. It includes headaches, body aches, tiredness, weakness, thirst, nausea (sometimes vomiting), general stomach pain, diarrhea, and a slew of other symptoms like depression, vertigo and decreased attention.

Of course, you won’t likely experience all of these symptoms at once! There are different hangovers and they depend on how much you drink and how well your body is at detoxifying the alcohol. If you drink a lot and your body detoxifies alcohol at a very slow rate, then you will likely have an extremely bad hangover (unless you take some precautions – which will be explored in a later post!).

Why do we get hangovers?

If you recall last week’s post, where we discussed the effects of alcohol on the body, alcohol inhibits a hormone. This hormone, the antidiuretic hormone, is responsible for the reabsorption of water by your body’s kidneys. Without the activity of this hormone, the water that would have been retained by your body goes straight to your bladder and is then excreted. This loss of water results in your body becoming dehydrated, which leads to you getting a hangover.

Headaches and Hangovers, oh my!

Even though you are consuming a form of liquid, the amount of alcohol consumed is not as much as the amount of water lost during urination. This dehydrated state is what causes your headache, as the organs in your body are trying to their best to retain as much water as possible – even if that means stealing water from your brain. This results in your brain shrinking in size, making the membranes that connect your brain to your skull stretch – thus your headache. Crazy, huh?

Next week, we’ll talk about the relationship between Electrolytes and Hangovers.

Alcohol and Urine

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve talked to you about pee… a lot. But now that we’ve got all of that good stuff down pat, it’s time to get to the point of this whole thing: the effects of alcohol on urine!

Whenever you drink alcohol, you eventually feel the need to urinate frequently. But why?!

Well, last week we learned about the two hormones that are involved in regulating the production of urine: the antidiuretic hormone and aldosterone.

Interestingly enough, alcohol has an inhibitory effect on the antidiuretic hormone. This hormone is responsible for helping the body retain water by preventing the loss of water through excretory pathways, like the urine system.

The inhibition of the antidiuretic hormone results in the loss of regulating how much water is reabsorbed in the kidneys, which means that there is an uncontrollable loss of water in your urine, which is why you feel the need to urinate a lot. Your bladder is always filled because there is no reabsorption of water in the nephron of your kidneys.

So basically, alcohol reduces the amount of water reabsorbed in the kidneys, which leads to the water ending up in your bladder and putting pressure on your urinary sphincters. And then you feel the need to urinate, even if you already went to the bathroom 10 minutes ago.

One of many life’s mysteries have been solved. The inhibition of the antidiuretic hormone by alcohol is another reason why rehydration is so important for post-drinking. You lost all of the water your body would have reabsorbed when you peed, so you need to drink even more water to save your body from being in a state of dehydration.

And that’s how alcohol affects your body’s urinary system! Next week, we’ll look into hangovers.

The Urinary System – Filtration

Last week, we talked about the basics of the urinary system, including the organs involved. This week, let’s take a closer look at what happens in the kidney, starting with filtration. The posts will be segmented because there will be a lot of new terms coming your way, and I would hate for you to get overwhelmed! So let’s learn how our bodies makes our pee, step by step.

Parts of the kidney

The basic functional unit within the kidneys is known as the nephron. This consists of all of the numbered portions, starting at the glomerulus (5) and ending at the distal tubule (6). 

The main components involved in filtration are the arteries, and the glomerulus.

Filtration

It is at the Bowman’s capsule where the filtration of blood occurs. The blood from the renal artery (renal means ‘kidney’) flows into a smaller version of an artery, known as the afferent arteriole. The name sounds weird, but ‘afferent’ basically means ‘towards something’. So this arteriole is moving blood towards the glomerulus. So this arteriole can also be referred to as the afferent glomerular arteriole.

The afferent arteriole then branches to form tiny blood vessels known as capillaries. These capillaries form a ball-like structure, which is part of the glomerulus (5). The capillaries are therefore called the glomerular capillaries.

The blood from the capillaries continues to flow into the next vessel, which is another arteriole, named the efferent arteriole. ‘Efferent’ means ‘away from something’, so the blood is moving away from the glomerulus. So this arteriole can also be referred to as the efferent glomerular arteriole.

This movement of the blood increases the amount of pressure within the capillaries, causing fluids to leak out. These fluids pass through a filter-like membrane, known as the glomerular basement membrane. Some substances are too large to pass through the basement membrane and, therefore, continue to circulate through the bloodstream.

The filtrate that goes through the glomerular basement membrane enters the Bowman’s capsule. The space inside the Bowman’s capsule is continuous with the rest of the tubule, which includes the proximal tubule, the loop of Henle and the distal tubule. The filtrate is concentrated and modified within these components of the tubule, which will be discussed next week.

And that is, thankfully, all there is to the filtration process for the urinary system! Next week, we’ll learn about what happens to the filtrate in the tubule.