Republished with permission from organiclifestylemagazine.com.
There’s nothing like a good buzz, but add to it with another drink and tomorrow morning may be torture. Hangovers are terrible, horrible things, as many of us can attest. But ironically enough, while we’re all too familiar with the symptoms of too much drinking, a lot of us have no idea how alcohol actually causes hangovers.
When we drink alcohol (ethanol, specifically), it makes it’s way through our digestive system. It is then absorbed into the bloodstream where it circulates until the liver is able to process it. Once it’s in the liver, the enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase, breaks it down into acetaldehyde – a toxin that’s far more toxic than ethanol itself. Luckily, the antioxidant glutathione is able to jump in with acetaldehyde dehydrogenase to break it down yet again, this time converting it into non-toxic acetate.
The metabolization of those Friday night cocktails is a pretty impressive process. However, as powerful an organ as the liver proves to be, there are limits to its detoxifying powers. The typical liver is able to process ½ oz of ethanol per hour (about one drink). When we tip back brews faster than we can metabolize them, our glutathione gets used up quicker than it can be replenished. There’s no other option but to put detoxification on hold while glutathione stores build back up. This leads to a build-up of the nasty toxin acetaldehyde, the culprit behind our hangover woes.
With alcohol in our system, our body stops producing the antidiuretic hormone ADH. Now all available water stores are tapped into — brain included — in order to flush the toxin out. This rise in fluid raises our blood volume, which leads to a spike in blood pressure. Luckily we’re able to offset this by sending fluids to the bladder, but every trip to the toilet deplenishes more of our water reserves, and precious electrolytes are being flushed as well.
With alcohol in our system, the body puts a halt on producing the stimulant glutamine — leaving us drowsy and ready to nap at a moment’s notice. This deep sleep won’t last though. Once our livers are able to process the last of the alcohol in our bloodstream, glutamine goes back into production and that booze-induced snooze is interrupted. Depending on the damage, waking up can be quite a doozy. All those lost water reserves leave us dehydrated, our brains shrunken, and our electrolyte levels low; a physiological recipe for disaster.
We can try to prevent hangovers altogether by drinking plenty of water and giving our livers a much-needed break between drinks. However, there are bound to be nights that we get carried away. In that case, a dose of electrolytes, supplements, and eggs can be paired with a nice long Epsom soak.
The important minerals we call electrolytes play a crucial role in hydration, so they’re a must for Saturday mornings.
To read the rest of Organic Lifestyle Magazine’s tips, including how to use a probiotic to recover from a hangover, please click here.