We all do our best to stay healthy. And although we all know the importance of moderation, sometimes those backyard and patio parties have us staying for one more drink… and one more drink. So what happens to your body, and most importantly your liver, in those times of overindulgence?
The liver has numerous functions, including:
• Bile production and excretion
• Excretion of bilirubin, cholesterol, hormones and drugs
• Metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates
• Enzyme activation
• Storage of glycogen, vitamins and minerals
• Synthesis of plasma proteins, such as albumin and clotting factors.
So, basically everything you consume will find its way through the liver at some point. When you consume alcohol, a particular enzyme in your body converts alcohol into acetaldehyde, which is the toxin that is blamed for the hangover effect. The liver further breaks down this specific toxin to reduce the alcohol into carbon dioxide and water, where it can then be excreted through the skin, urine output, lungs and sweat.
Ninety percent of the alcohol you consume is filtered through your liver, taking up a lot of space, energy and focus on ensuring the toxic effects of alcohol are removed from your blood. A healthy liver can metabolize one drink per hour on average and the drink size is considered 6 oz. Any more than this and your liver cannot keep up, resulting in several unpleasant effects, the most common being a hangover.
A hangover is your body’s reaction to an overload of impurities and sugars found in the alcohol and your liver’s inability to keep up with removing the toxins. Dehydration also plays a significant role in hangovers because ethanol works in the body as a diuretic. When you are dehydrated, your blood vessels narrow, restricting the flow of blood and oxygen. Your body tries to compensate by dilating its blood vessels, which can lead to headaches and that achy feeling. Alcohol can cause your stomach to produce more gastric acid, causing inflammation of the gut and intestines, leading to nausea. The severity of your hangover will depend on several factors, including the health of your gut and liver, how much food you ate, how much sugar you consumed, and the obvious one, how much alcohol you consumed.
So how do you avoid this? Well, as said before, moderation is key. For many health reasons, you should not have more than two drinks per day, but if you know that you will be indulging a little more, make sure to limit your drinks to no more than 1 per hour and stay hydrated. If you still find yourself waking up with a hangover, here are some tips to help your body recover.
- Emergen-C: These little electrolyte packages contain sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium to help regulate nerve, muscle and tissue, and to hydrate the body. Just open a pack and add to your water.
- Take a B vitamin complex that includes vitamin B12 before you go out and when you get home. B vitamins are water-soluble, and they are depleted when you are dehydrated.
- Chewable ginger may help to reduce nausea and vomiting.
- Milk thistle: Give your liver a helping hand by removing some of those toxins by using milk thistle. It won’t cure your hangover, but it will help to remove some of the impurities that are causing your liver to work harder on removal.
Photo from here, with thanks.