Hangover Hacks You Can Hang Your Hat On
Mark’s Daily Apple
by Mark Sisson: Alcohol:
The Good and the Bad
is an interesting beast. Like Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and any other
huge, hirsute crypto-hominid, nearly every culture and every nation
has an extensive literature (whether it’s entombed in writing or
not) on the subject of hangovers. After all, alcohol is the universal
intoxicant, and hangovers are the inevitable consequence of overindulgence.
Or are they?
Mike, a reader,
recently wrote to me with the tale of the missing hangover:
I have been
following the Primal Blueprint for over 2 months now. My diet,
fitness, etc – has been very strict with one exception –
The occasional drink.
While I don’t
particularly crave alcohol, when I am around it in social settings
– I will indulge in 1 to several drinks, then walk home.
This past week I have had 2 occasions where I have been under
extreme duress while also finding myself in social settings with
people buying me ‘drinks’ – mainly bourbons.
In the past if I went on a binge I might find myself worshiping
the porcelain goddess or at the minimum wake up with a headache,
disoriented, and bubbly guts. I would then feel crappy for the
most part of the day, and not want to eat anything. At 38, I would
think that it would only get worse.
I did a tally,
9 makers mark neat and 3 ‘lite’ beers over 5 hours.
I walked home, went to bed, and woke up in plenty of time to go
to work. Ate some breakfast, and never felt the worse for it.
The following nite 7 beers and 3 wines over a 4 hour time period,
I polished off the nite with some organic locally grown smoked
ribs from one of the local farms that does ‘drunk food’
and walked home. This morning, no headaches, no problems. There
was a minor loose stool movement and that was it. It’s off
to work and sharp as a tack.
I have no
plans of continuing this drinking trend and plan on drying out
over the next week, however I am perplexed by the ‘lack’
Is it because
I more efficiently rid myself of toxins?
Is it because
I have an increased metabolic rate?
how my body is burning fuel?
It is not
the walk, the glass of water I have before going to bed, or the
late night meat. These are all things I did before and when I
would have that occasional binge, I would pay for it. I’m
curious if others have had the same reaction or if they have insight
as to why the ‘hangover’ has disappeared?
is a hangover, exactly, why do they happen, and how can we prevent
their occurrence or mitigate their severity?
Well, the obvious,
absolutely foolproof way to prevent hangovers is to abstain from
but that’s not the focus of this post. We can avoid drink altogether
and never get a hangover, sure, just like we can avoid any of the
potentially negative consequences (unplanned pregnancy, disease)
that accompany sexual intercourse by abstaining from any and all
sex – but where’s the fun in that? People are going to drink, even
healthy, Primal people, and it doesn’t help to simply say, “Don’t
drink.” People drink. Let’s figure out how to manage this fact.
garden variety hangover manifests in several classic symptoms: headaches,
dry mouth, spacey-ness, fatigue, depressed mood, physical weakness,
lack of concentration, sweating, anxiety, sensitivity to light and
sound, irritability, extreme thirst, extreme hunger, among others.
Some only get the headache and the fatigue, while others are sidelined
with the whole shebang. Either way, a hangover absolutely and unequivocally
sucks. Its only benefit may lie in its capacity as negative reinforcement
for the next time you decide to binge.
presence of ethanol (alcohol) in the body induces diuresis, or an
increase in urination. We’ve all noticed this. You’re having
a few with friends and having to head off to the bathroom in between
each drink, where you find yourself expelling more liquid than you’re
taking in. What gives? Ethanol inhibits the secretion of antidiuretic
hormone (ADH, or vasopressin) by the pituitary; this is the hormone
that keeps you from wetting yourself, and without it, the kidneys
send water straight to the bladder, bypassing absorption by the
body. When you urinate from ethanol-induced diuresis, it’s mostly
water (notice the color – it’s very light), along with electrolytes
necessary for proper bodily function. This leads to dehydration,
which in turn leads to headaches (the thirsty
body draws water from the brain, constricting it), fatigue, dizziness
(lack of potassium and sodium will do that to ya), and dry mouth.
of hangover woes comes from acetaldehyde, which is created when
an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase breaks down ethanol in the
liver. Acetaldehyde is far more toxic than ethanol itself, so the
body then releases acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and glutathione to
break down the acetaldehyde. If you stick to just a few drinks and
space them out accordingly, your body’s natural enzyme production
can keep up. If you start binging, though, glutathione stores become
overwhelmed and the liver must produce more. Meanwhile,
acetaldehyde, which is between
10-30 times more toxic than ethanol, accrues in your body.
Certain groups are underequipped to deal with alcohol, however.
Women, for example, produce smaller amounts of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase
and glutathione than men, making them more susceptible to hangovers.
Many people of East Asian descent possess incredibly efficient alcohol
dehydrogenase genes, thus increasing the amount of acetaldehyde
produced from ethanol. Roughly half of those folks have inefficient
acetaldehyde dehydrogenase genes, however, thus decreasing the amount
of acetaldehyde that can be broken down. When these people drink,
acetaldehyde accumulates faster and stays there longer, leading
to an instant hangover.
and distillation, congeners – or byproducts of the processes – are
produced. Congeners can include acetone, acetaldehyde, tannins,
and even flavorants used to distinguish drinks. As a general rule,
darker liquors contain higher levels of congeners, with brandy ranking
highest. One study showed that whiskey
drinkers suffered worse hangovers than vodka drinkers when both
groups were given equal amounts of alcohol, with the higher levels
of whiskey congeners taking the blame. Red
wine, which tends to be high in tannins, is another famous hangover-inducer.
The basic effect of ethanol-induced diuresis is enough to
cause a hangover, but it seems that congeners can make things even
Okay, so we’ve
established why hangovers hurt as much as they do, but what can
we do about them?
the rest of the article
to Lew's recent podcast with Mark Sisson
November 24, 2012
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