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‘Tis the season for parties, social gatherings, and a whole multitude of social interactions. For some this may include indulging in a glass of wine or two, or three; perhaps an extra beer or cocktail du jour? While it is always important to understand your own limits with respect to alcohol, even when drinking responsibly your body produces a specific physiological response to alcohol consumption. Sometimes this response can lead to some unpleasant mornings after.
Your Body on Alcohol:
As mentioned above there are a large number of responses your body can produce in response to alcohol. The responses depend on a number of initial factors such as the quantity of alcohol consumed, the type of alcohol, and the period over which it is consumed. An individual’s genetics can also influence how alcohol is absorbed and metabolised in the body.
Alcohol is metabolised in the liver from an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which converts the ethanol to acetaldehyde (which is toxic), it then gets metabolised to acetate by a different enzyme. This can create a number of reactive oxygen species. So as you can see enzyme function is quite important. If any of these enzymes in the chain are blocked it can lead to a buildup of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and their toxic by products. Acute withdrawal symptoms, known commonly as a “hangover”, are usually related to the build up of the metabolite acetaldehyde. This includes the light-headedness, rapid pulse, sweating, nausea, vomiting and more that many people experience. Hangover cures all aim to increase metabolism of alcohol, support the liver cells, and/or re-hydrate or replenish electrolyte imbalances caused by alcohol consumption.
Tips on to help your body recover from alcohol exposure:
1. Fruit consumption: a recent study from the University of Hong Kong, looked at the effects of consumption of 20 different fruits on alcohol metabolism in animals. This study looked at different parameters from: ethanol and acetaldehyde (remember that pesky metabolite) concentrations in blood, key enzyme function, markers of liver cell damage (ALT and AST), and the antioxidant capacity of the liver.
- Fruits which were able to decrease blood alcohol include lemon (Citrus limon yellow) and pear (Pyrus spp).This was thought to occur by inhibiting absorption through the GI tract. Starfruit (Averrhoa carambola) and wax apple or jambu (Syzygium samarangense) juices also decreased this concentration but increased the amount of acetaldehyde so they may not be best to help prevent a hangover.
- Of the 20 fruits the only one to increase the ADH and ALDH enzyme activity was a species of banana called Musa nana ( cavendishii or dwarf banana plant). Another study found that cucumber juice (Cucumis sativus L) was beneficial for these enzymes as well. Both the flesh and the peel from mango (Mangifera indica) has fructose and aspartate which can increase the activity of these alcohol metabolising enzymes.
- The molecules ALT and AST are used as markers of liver cell damage as they are released from the cells after trauma. Lemon (Citrus limon yellow), muskmelon (Curcumis melo), dwarf banana (Musa nana), all showed some decrease in one or both of these markers, offering some protection to liver cells.
- Since metabolism increases reactive oxygen species (ROS) , more antioxidants in the liver are required to quench these harmful molecules. Wax apple or jambu (Syzygium samarangense) juice contains anthocyanins, carotene, and vitamin C increase the antioxidant network and associated enzyme function. Blueberries can also improve this parameter. Persimmons (Diospyros kaki ) also have shown to improve alcohol metabolism due to its antioxidant flavone and phenol content.
- Some fruits aggrevate liver damage from alcohol and should be avoided these include: Chinese flowering quince (Chaenomeles sinensis), dragon fruit (Hylocereus undulates), black currant (Ribes nigrum), and passionflower (Passionfora eduli)
2. B vitamins– particularly vitamins B1 and B6: Drinking alcohol depletes key B vitamins in the liver, particularly vitamin B1, thiamine. So it is important to replete these vitamins. They can be taken before or after consuming alcohol.
3. Liver herbs: Milk thistle, dandelion, fenugreek, and artichoke are all considered hepatoprotective herbs and have a number of studies outlining their mechanisms of action. These all support both acute damage to cells and prevent long term damage. Further, ginger is being used to manage the symptoms of alcohol toxicity such as nausea and GI upset.
4. Hydration: Since alcohol blocks the release of the hormone that usually manages bladder function, one may find themselves urinating more than usual when drinking. With this comes a loss of water and other electrolytes. Thus many symptoms of a hangover are simply related to dehydration. This can be easily ameliorated by drinking more water, and replenishing magnesium, potassium, chloride.
Keep safe these holidays; drink within your limits, take care of your body before and after consuming alcohol, and of course never drink and drive.
Bajpai VK, Kim NH, Kim JE, Kim K, Kang SC. Protective effect of heat-treated cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) juice on alcohol detoxification in experimental rats. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2016 May;29(3 Suppl):1005-9.
Kaviarasan, S., & Anuradha, C.V. Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum) seed polyphenols protect liver from alcohol toxicity: a role on hepatic detoxification system and apoptosis.Pharmazie. 2007 Apr; 62(4): 299–304.
Renske Penning, Adele McKinney, Lucien D. Bus, Berend Olivier, Karin Slot, Joris C. Verster. Measurement of alcohol hangover severity: development of the Alcohol Hangover Severity Scale (AHSS).Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2013 Feb; 225(4): 803–810. Published online 2012 Sep 25. doi: 10.1007/s00213-012-2866-y
Wang, F.; Li, Y.; Zhang, Y.-J.; Zhou, Y.; Li, S.; Li, H.-B. Natural Products for the Prevention and Treatment of Hangover and Alcohol Use Disorder. Molecules 2016, 21, 64.
Vatsalya, V., Stangl, B. L., Schmidt, V. Y., and Ramchandani, V. A. (2016) Characterization of hangover following intravenous alcohol exposure in social drinkers: methodological and clinical implications. Addiction Biology, doi: 10.1111/adb.12469.
Zhang, Y.-J.; Wang, F.; Zhou, Y.; Li, Y.; Zhou, T.; Zheng, J.; Zhang, J.-J.; Li, S.; Xu, D.-P.; Li, H.-B. Effects of 20 Selected Fruits on Ethanol Metabolism: Potential Health Benefits and Harmful Impacts. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13, 399.