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Hangovers – how to lessen the pain

The best way to lessen the pain is to avoid over indulging in alcohol, but for many of us we learn the hard way! Also if you have a few too many, you will often forget how many drinks you have imbibed as your defences are weakened. But you will remember how you felt the next morning!

Your liver is the primary site for alcohol breakdown (metabolism). In the liver, alcohol is detoxified through a process called oxidation. Oxidation prevents the alcohol from accumulating and destroying your cells and body organs. A healthy liver oxidizes pure alcohol (ethanol) at the rate of about ⅓ of an ounce (10mls) per hour, which is less than 1 ounce (30mls) of hard liquor.

Once alcohol is in your bloodstream, your body makes getting rid of it the top priority. Thus it will stop metabolizing anything else in order to first get the alcohol metabolized. The reason for this is because unlike protein, carbohydrates, and fat, there is nowhere for alcohol to be stored in our body so it has be metabolized first.

Those who choose to drink alcoholic beverages should do so sensibly and in moderation — defined as the consumption of up to one standard drink per day for women and up to two standard drinks per day for men.

Why do hangovers occur?

Excess alcohol is very toxic to human cells because it is broken down (or metabolized) into a substance called acetaldehyde which is even more toxic than alcohol itself. Acetaldehyde is not created until the alcohol reaches the liver. In the liver ethanol is broken down by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase into acetaldehyde.

The acetaldehyde is then broken down by another enzyme called acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and the antioxidant enzymes containing glutathione. Acting synergistically, the acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and the glutathione, turn the toxic acetaldehyde into non toxic acetate. Acetate is a substance found in vinegar.

Yes, alcohol metabolism all happens in the liver!

If your liver is working normally, this process works efficiently, giving the acetaldehyde only a short amount of time to damage cells if only safe amounts of alcohol are consumed.

BUT . . . the liver’s stores of glutathione rapidly run out if large amounts of alcohol are consumed quickly.  (Taking acetaminophen regularly can also deplete the liver’s stores of glutathione). This causes the toxic acetaldehyde to build up in the body for long periods of time. Much more damage occurs to your cells, especially in your liver, kidneys and brain. Your liver can repair itself, however the brain is less able to restore killed brain cells.

The breakdown of acetaldehyde is crucial to avoiding short and long term damage from alcohol excess. For example, studies where the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (that breaks down acetaldehyde) is blocked with a drug called Antabuse, showed that the resulting acetaldehyde toxicity caused such severe headaches and vomiting that even alcoholics were wary of their next drink. Antabuse is a drug prescribed by doctors to fight alcoholism.

Females have less tolerance to alcohol because they have less acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and less glutathione in their liver. Thus they can get worse hangovers than men because it takes longer for the body to break down the alcohol.

Strategies to prevent a hangover

Hydrate

It is wise to drink plenty of water before, during and after drinking alcohol. Before going to bed drink 2 large glasses of water and do the same again on rising the morning after.

Water is the most important thing but it works even better if you add the juice of a lime or lemon. Add a teaspoon of Magnesium Ultra Potent powder to the water to prevent the headache and muscle pain and cramps.

Eating fatty foods before you go out to party

Eating fatty foods before drinking can reduce chances of a hangover. Putting any food in the stomach prior to drinking alcohol helps to prevent a hangover. Fatty foods in particular take longer to digest and therefore slow down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. This gives the body more time to process the alcohol and will increase your chances of feeling reasonable the morning after.

Drink in moderation

Ideally limit yourself to one standard drink per hour because the body takes about an hour to process a standard single drink.

Mix your drinks with soda water or water or add a lot of ice

Drink one or two glasses of water after every alcoholic beverage

This will keep you well hydrated and give your liver more time to process the alcohol and dilute the toxins. As a prevention method, drinking a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage slows down drinking, providing more time for the body to deal with the alcohol.

Watch your drink choice

Drinkers generally fare better when they stick with one type of drink. Each new type of alcohol a drinker imbibes makes the body work that much harder and puts that many more toxins in the body, leading to a more severe hangover.

After Drinking

Before Bed

  • Take a liver tonic such as LivaTone Plus that contains the herb Milk Thistle, B group vitamins, selenium and sulphur amino acids and vitamins C and E to help support your liver to recover and detoxify your body
  • Take NAC in a dose of 1200mg (2 capsules) to increase glutathione production
  • Take vitamin C 1,000mg to get rid of the rest of the toxins and reduce inflammation

In the Morning

  • Take a liver tonic such as LivaTone Plus that contains the herb Milk Thistle, B group vitamins, selenium and sulphur amino acids and vitamins C and E to help support your liver to recover and detoxify your body
  • Take NAC in a dose of 1200mg (2 capsules) to increase glutathione production
  • Take vitamin C 1,000mg to get rid of the rest of the toxins and reduce inflammation.
  • Make a raw vegetable juice – include orange, lemon, lime, pineapple, ginger, carrot, cabbage and some green herbs such as mint and parsley
  • If you feel like it, eat breakfast – include some scrambled eggs as they contain sulphur bearing amino acids such as cysteine and methionine. Include a banana for extra potassium. Keep in mind that caffeinated coffee and tea will further dehydrate you, although it can reduce a pounding vascular headache.

Tea

Make ginger tea – cut up fresh ginger and boil it in water. Add honey and fresh squeezed lemon/lime.

Tiger Balm

This popular, topical used traditionally in Asia as a multi-purpose remedy, is blended from camphor, menthol, cajuput oil and clove oil and known for its analgesic and blood flow promoting properties. It may not be made to mitigate hangovers, but it is one of the best topical headache cures around. Dab the potent, eye-stinging salve on the back of your neck and temples, massage it in, and wait a few minutes until your headache seemingly melts away.

Hair of the Dog

Contrary to popular belief, more of the “hair of the dog that bit you” only delays the inevitable. One of the reasons hangovers are so unpleasant is the liver is still processing the toxins left over from alcohol metabolism. Drinking more alcohol can make the symptoms seem to lessen at first but will only make the situation worse once the liver breaks the alcohol down, because it will have even more toxins to deal with.

The next day, try to get straight back to your regular healthy diet.

Many people crave high sugar and high salt foods after a night of drinking and this is a common symptom of adrenal gland exhaustion. Drinking alcohol is very stressful to your body and it depletes your body of several vitamins and minerals; particularly B vitamins, vitamin C and magnesium. Try to eat lots of fresh vegetables the next day, along with high quality protein and fat.

Major types of alcohol and their effects

Beer

– has the lowest percentage of alcohol (2.4 to 6 percent), but it’s also carbonated, which speeds up the absorption and can lead to toxin build up.

Wine

– has a higher percentage of alcohol (7 to 15 percent) than beer, but it’s usually not carbonated. White wine is safer than red or blush because it has fewer congeners. In general, the cheaper the wine, the higher the congener content and the worse the hangover.

Liquor

– has the highest alcohol content (30 to 95 percent) and therefore increases the likelihood of a hangover. Clear liquors like vodka, rum and gin are safer than dark or sweet liquors like bourbon, scotch or tequila because they have fewer congeners. Generally, cheaper liquor will result in a worse hangover than more expensive liquor.

How quickly does the blood alcohol level rise and fall?

Once alcohol enters your stomach, up to 20% of it can be absorbed there and go directly into your bloodstream. Within minutes, alcohol will reach your brain and give the feeling of being a stimulant. No other nutrient is able to do this. The remaining alcohol goes to your intestines and is absorbed there with the rest of the nutrients. A small amount of alcohol is excreted through sweat, saliva, urine, and your breath, which is how it is detected by a Breathalyzer.

When you drink alcohol, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) will rise rapidly. Within five minutes of having a drink, there’s enough alcohol in your blood to measure. The BAC is determined by how quickly alcohol is absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and excreted. You are legally intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 in the U.S. (the BAC in Australia is 0.05).

The consumption of one standard drink will result in a peak in BAC within 35 to 45 minutes. A 150-pound person with normal liver function metabolizes about 7 to 14 grams of alcohol per hour. This is comparable to 8 to 12 ounces of beer. These figures are indicative of the BAC in the U.S.

Controlling the rate of consumption will give your liver time to metabolize the alcohol and limit your BAC. Once you stop drinking, your blood alcohol level decreases by about 0.01% per hour.

Time is the only way to eliminate alcohol from your system, so cold showers and coffee will not sober you up!

 

What are the chemical side effects in the body of alcohol excess?

Dehydration

Alcohol in the bloodstream goes to the pituitary gland in the brain where it blocks the creation of a pituitary hormone called vasopressin (also known as the anti-diuretic hormone). Without vasopressin the kidneys do not reabsorb water into the bloodstream when they filter the blood, and the water goes straight to the bladder. This is why heavy drinkers have to make frequent trips to the toilet during and after drinking.

According to studies, drinking about 250mls (¼ litre) of an alcoholic beverage causes the body to lose around 1,000mls (one litre) of water in the urine; in other words four times as much liquid is lost as is gained. Thus the morning of the hangover you will have symptoms of dehydration – such as extremely dry mouth, headaches and fatigue and a foggy brain. The dehydrated brain shrinks in size and pulls on the membranes that connect the brain to the skull; this causes the headache pain.

Loss of minerals

Mineral salts (such as potassium and magnesium) are lost in the urine and this affects the nerves and muscles leading to headaches, dizziness, palpitations and nausea.

Unstable Blood Sugar Levels

Alcohol breaks down the liver’s store of glycogen and blood sugar (glucose) levels become more unstable as a result. Lack of glucose causes mental fogginess, headaches, cravings for sugar and light headedness. This is especially dangerous in diabetics who may experience dangerous fluctuations in blood sugar levels that could even lead to loss of consciousness or convulsions.

Glutamine rebound

Some of the most common hangover symptoms can be attributed to something called glutamine rebound.

After a night of alcohol consumption, a drinker won’t sleep as soundly as normal because the body is rebounding from alcohol’s depressive effect on the system. Alcohol inhibits glutamine, one of the body’s natural sources of energy and fuel. When the drinker stops drinking, the body tries to make up for lost time by producing more glutamine than it needs.

Severe glutamine rebound during a hangover may be responsible for tremors, restlessness, anxiety and increased blood pressure.

Stomach irritation

Because alcohol is absorbed directly through the stomach, the cells lining the stomach become irritated and this may cause vomiting. This can lessen hangover symptoms because vomiting gets rid of the alcohol in the stomach and reduces the number of toxins the body has to deal with. The stomach’s irritation is also a factor in some of the other unpleasant symptoms of a hangover, such as diarrhea and lack of appetite.

 

As I said, drinking too much alcohol is not good for you, but if you’re going to do it every now and then, there are smarter ways to go about it.

 

The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.

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THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED BY THE FDA AND ARE NOT INTENDED TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT OR CURE ANY DISEASES.