What is a hangover according to science and how to get rid of it?

(ORDO NEWS) — Alcohol is almost an indispensable companion of any holiday in many human cultures. But sometimes such a holiday has unpleasant consequences.

Today we will tell you why a hangover occurs, consider the effect of alcohol on the body and find out if modern medicine can answer the question of how to get rid of a hangover?

Not so long ago, there was an opinion in the medical community that ethanol is a metabolite familiar to us (participant in metabolism) and that “endogenous” ethanol is produced in the body, for the utilization of which there are special enzymatic systems.

But this statement is outdated: to date, not a single biochemical reaction with the formation of ethyl alcohol has been found in the internal environment of the body. Of key importance here is the distinction between the internal and external environment of the body.

The internal environment is hidden behind various barriers. Based on this logic, the intestinal lumen is the external environment. It is there that symbiont bacteria live, which just know how to produce ethanol, using vegetable raw materials that come with food.

The volumes of microbial home brewing are not impressive: only about 3 g per day. True, there are such mushrooms, saccharomyces (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), here they have the production of ethyl alcohol put on stream.

Several cases of “self-intoxication syndrome” are described, when people were permanently in a state of drunkenness, not understanding why this was happening. It was possible to cure them with a course of specialized antifungal drugs and a diet with a minimum carbohydrate content.

What is a hangover according to science and how to get rid of it 2A good night’s sleep can cure a hangover. It has been proven that long days without rest only exacerbate the hangover

Ethanol is not a vital substance. It is quite possible to live life safely without contact with alcohol at all. But the presence of a separate system for the neutralization of ethyl alcohol suggests that not all of our ancestors adhered to “dry” tactics. So, they were looking for an effective remedy for a hangover.

Why is ethanol needed?

The first reason is nutritional: alcoholic fermentation is one of the most ancient ways of preserving plant nutrients. Like many other things, it was spied on in nature, modified and assigned to the cause of feeding mankind.

The second reason is recreational: the consumption of first fermented fruits and then specially prepared drinks produced several interesting effects.

For example, the attractiveness of the opposite sex increased sharply. The explanation has already been found in our time: most people consider symmetrical and regular facial features to be beautiful, and alcohol dulls the ability to recognize asymmetry.

What is a hangover according to science and how to get rid of it 3You can get rid of a hangover at home with the help of antioxidants. So, they are found in berries, spinach, carrots, nuts and seeds, black and green tea. The effect will not be overwhelming, but these products will help you feel cheerful and fresh

Another pleasant consequence is euphoria, relaxation, detachment from problems, as well as a real physiological pleasure. Not without a reward system, it is also the mesolimbic pathway, a set of neurons that produce dopamine in order to reinforce one or another evolutionarily correct action.

Ate sweets – well done, provided yourself with scarce energy, get a neurotransmitter of pleasure. Had sex – well done, attended to the continuation of the family, sign for the next dose.

Psychoactive substances, including alcohol, are able to raise the level of dopamine without any intermediaries like physical activity in search of food or a partner. The brain “evaluates” this and fixes it as the most preferable way to receive positive emotions.

That is why, in some people, alcoholic beverages first become indispensable companions of food and sex, and then gradually displace them, that is, a psychological dependence is formed, and then a physical one (metabolism is being restructured).

But for those whose frontal lobes are well developed, the level of self-control is sufficient and there are no genetic “surprises” in the form of a predisposition to alcoholism, ethanol for a long time, almost all their lives, can remain only a way to “relax a little”.

But on the other hand. Why is alcohol bad?

However, the use of even moderate doses of ethanol has negative consequences. One of the main ones is hangovers. This word denotes two completely different states. What is a hangover, really?

First, there is alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AAS) – the most natural ethanol withdrawal. Alcohol is a drug that causes both psychological and physical dependence.

If, with the formation of alcoholism, the level of ethyl alcohol in the body falls below a critical level, an extremely unpleasant condition arises, which can be eliminated in two ways: either drink or endure.

If, under the pressure of withdrawal symptoms, a person chooses the first option, a binge is formed, from which the alcoholic cannot always get out on his own.

Hangover mornings are definitely tough. But the consequences of fighting this condition with the same alcohol will turn into much more serious consequences.

Secondly, there is veisalgia, which occurs only in non-alcoholics. This is essentially poisoning with a metabolite of ethanol and its processed products (metabolites).

What is a hangover according to science and how to get rid of it 4How to recover from a hangover without harm to the body? You should definitely not eat fatty foods, because alcohol is broken down in the same metabolic way as fat. So you will only increase the load on the liver

Ethanol itself is a powerful reducing agent, it reduces the number of oxidized NAD+, the universal electron carriers in biochemical reactions.

This reduces the oxidative potential of the cell and leads to a slowdown in the synthesis of glucose and a decrease in its level in the blood (hypoglycemia), the accumulation of lactic acid and, as a result, a shift in pH to the acid side (acidosis), an increase in the synthesis of fatty acids and the uptake of fat by liver cells (only reversibly with episodic alcohol consumption, when moving to a professional league, it leads to the development of alcoholic fatty liver disease), as well as to a slowdown in protein metabolism.

In addition, ethanol inhibits the release of the hormone vasopressin from the pituitary gland, as a result of sodium, potassium, glucose and water pass through the renal tubules without reabsorption (reabsorption) and rush straight to the bladder.

That is, alcohol acts as not the most sparing diuretic, massively bringing out substances that are extremely necessary for the life of the body. Poisoning with the main metabolite of ethanol, acetaldehyde, also affects: it dilates the vessels of the cranial cavity and face, causes headache, nausea, vomiting, tremors, tremors, aching muscles and joints.

Another factor is the toxic effects of side metabolites from the infamous “fusel oils”. Under this term, substances are hidden that are formed during the manufacture of an alcoholic beverage.

Basically, we are talking about various alcohols (methanol, 1-propanol, isobutanol, isoamyl alcohol), ethers (ethyl acetate) and aldehydes (acetic). The more artisanal the drink, the more “fussy” it contains.

Raw materials also matter: if it contains a lot of pectins (apples, pears, sugar beet, sunflower), the output will be a tangible amount of methanol, the lethal dose of which is only about 50 ml.

In industrial production, the risk of getting hit from this direction is not so great, there are enzymatic processing technologies that minimize the content of by-products.

Add here the products of microsomal oxidation (and it is sure to turn on if too much ethanol has entered the body), concomitant factors that affect alcohol tolerance (stress, fatigue, lack of sleep, the phase of the cycle in women, mood, and many others).

What is a hangover according to science and how to get rid of it 5The ADH and ALDH enzymes are different. Seven varieties of ADH are known, and two of its variations are possible: “slow” (“European”), processing an average of 110 mg of ethanol per 1 kg of body weight per hour, and “fast” (“Mongoloid”) – about 130 mg. In people with the first variant of ADH, the state of intoxication lasts longer, in the second case it quickly passes into the stage of unpleasant consequences. ALDH also comes in two types: ALDH1, a low-throughput cytosolic, and ALDH2, a mitochondrial, the main working variety of the enzyme. In some people, due to a mutation in one of the loci of the 12th chromosome, ALDH2 is synthesized incorrectly and completely loses its enzymatic activity. In the owner of both active ALDH, in the presence of 0.5‰ ethanol in the blood, the concentration of acetaldehyde will not exceed 2 μmol / l, and if ALDH2 is inactive

Are there hangover cures?

In 2005, a meta-analysis (study of studies) on anti-hangover drugs was published in the British Medical Journal.

It turned out that only eight papers more or less met the scientific criteria, which studied borage (borage), prickly artichoke (sowing), prickly pear cactus, a mixture of dry yeast and multivitamins, tropisetron (antiemetic), propranolol (non-selective β- blocker), tolfenamic acid (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) and fructose with glucose. A significant effect of removing the hangover was observed only in three.

When testing the effectiveness of hangover pain relief with γ-linolenic acid from borage officinalis, a significant reduction in both the overall severity of the hangover syndrome and individual signs of headache and fatigue was revealed compared with placebo.

A mixture of dry yeast and multivitamins reduced the symptoms of discomfort and anxiety. Of the four drugs (tropisetron, propranolol, tolfenamic acid, and fructose/glucose), only tolfenamic acid worked, reducing hangover symptoms such as headache, nausea, vomiting, thirst, dry mouth, tremors, and irritability compared to placebo.

Please note: the hangover was not “cured”, only some of its symptoms decreased, that is, the funds worked as symptomatic therapy.

However, the key concept for any scientific fact is reproducibility. But with this just problems. In 2015, at the annual conference of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, an attempt was made to use these same eight remedies for severe hangovers on student volunteers. In all cases, the effect was at the placebo level.

There are no magic pills, no “KGB pills”, no other “anti-hangovers”. If you understand the mechanism of action of such “hangover cures”, it quickly becomes clear that it is either completely invented (“enzyme acceleration”) or aimed at reducing individual symptoms (and in some cases can also seriously damage).

The only thing that can really be done at home is to drink, that is, to at least partially replenish the loss of fluid and electrolytes (fruit drinks, compotes, brines, table mineral waters, low-fat broths), as well as sleep, allowing the enzymes to finish their work.

You can quickly get rid of a hangover with moderate exercise. So, cleaning the house may well improve blood circulation and speed up the body’s fight against a hangover. Many people have their own recipes for dealing with a hangover, but, as practice shows, they do not harm at best.

What is a hangover according to science and how to get rid of it 6What helps with a hangover? First of all, you should drink plenty of water. After all, the root causes of this unpleasant condition are dehydration and intoxication of the body. It is important to restore the water-salt balance, the level of sugar and oxygen in the blood

Dangerous hangover cures

But there are also dangerous approaches. For example, coffee in large quantities aggravates dehydration. In addition, caffeine increases myocardial oxygen demand, and the heart is already having a hard time. Hangover heart attacks are not uncommon.

In addition, coffee stimulates the stomach cells that produce hydrochloric acid, which adds heartburn to the hangover bouquet. Another dangerous way to deal with a hangover is a bath. Theoretically, it seems to work: with sweat, toxic metabolites will leave the body faster.

But here again we are faced with aggravation of dehydration, and a very sharp, low oxygen content in the air, high humidity and high ambient temperature, which has an extremely negative effect on the heart.

Well, the main harm is done to themselves by those who are trying to hangover, knocking out a wedge with a wedge. Indeed, it is possible to achieve a very short period of euphoria.

However, the first-line enzyme systems (alcohol dehydrogenases, catalases and cytochromes) accelerated to maximum speed will very quickly distill all ethanol into acetaldehyde, which is already in excess in the blood, and the condition will only worsen.


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