Alcohol and Hangovers
How alcohol is metabolized is influenced by age, genetic inheritance, sex and the state of one’s functional health. Not a lot you can do about this except to abstain, which works rather well against hangovers. If you choose to indulge, then there’s a lot you can do to influence the outcome.
Your choice of alcoholic beverage will be significant. The effects of booze is more than just its alcohol content. Fermented beverages contain a range of substances – methanol, acetone, aldehydes, and histamine- besides alcohol that have toxic effects. These are called ‘congeners’ and their presence along with alcohol aggravates the challenge of detoxifying the lot. Rich flavoured drinks like brandy, bourbon, portand red wine contain a lot of congeners while vodka, gin or white wine have few. The morning after a night of Kentucky Moonshine won’t be like that after a jug of white wine. You choose.
Alcohol as ethanol is mostly metabolized in the liver by enzymes. The first step of conversion produces acetaldehyde which is further oxidized in the second step to acetic acid which itself breaks down to carbon dioxide and water in the citric acid cycle. When the volume of alcohol exceeds the liver’s processing resources then acetaldehyde levels rise dramatically. Your sewer backs up and this toxic state is expressed by very unpleasant symptoms. Throw in a heap of also unprocessed congeners and you have a ‘hangover’.
The most straightforward way to deal with this hangover engine is to ‘upregulate’ the liver’s detoxifying functions. This means feed the liver the nutrients by which it performs its functions.
The most important nutrient which will speed the conversion of acetaldehyde is the essential amino acid ‘cysteine’. This supplies the sulphur donors that the liver needs to produce the enzymes which metabolize acetaldehyde. Many manufacturers offer ‘N-Acetyl-Cysteine’ (NAC) products. If you can remember, take one 500mg NAC capsule every hour when you are imbibing, two more when you crash and two more when you waken. Add one 500mg capsule of Vitamin C as ascorbic acid with each NAC dose to power this up.
The worst of the congeners is histamine. Red wine is loaded with the stuff and too much will leave you with a wicked headache and a lot of nausea. Another essential amino acid – methionine – will speed the metabolism of histamine and certainly improve your mood the next morning. Take two 500mg capsules of any ‘L-methionine’ product but only just before sleep.
Alcohol obliterates Vitamin B1 which becomes a special problem for chronic drinkers. Lack of B1 will make you feel stupid the next day. This is easily remedied by taking some Vitamin B1 at bedtime and in the morning. Most commonly, Vitamin B1 is available as thiamine hydrochloride or mononitrate but a much more effective form is ‘benfotiamine’ used in better quality products.
Green tea products containing a lot of epigallocatechins will supply the liver with the means to efficiently metabolize many congeners. Milk thistle (silymarin) is the most liver-protective herb to be found. Take both at bed and on arising. If you happen to have some luscious beet juice handy, your liver will demonstrate its appreciation. A thick slurry of activated charcoal will do wonders for you except that messing around with this black powder when you are hammered is not practical. If you are not recovering well the next day though, use activated charcoal. It’s a good idea to have a supply of this on hand as your next day back up but also for use in other emergencies.