From time to time, we all like to indulge with a glass or 2 of alcohol, but how does this impact on our next day productivity? Many substances can give you hangover like symptoms. Basically, anything that causes dehydration or an allergic reaction (if you are allergic to it). The real culprits in alcoholic beverages are not just sulphite or congeners. If you are not allergic to sulphite, or if you only drink alcoholic beverages that have no congeners, you can still get a hangover by drinking more than what you liver can metabolise per hour. So after the quality of the beverage (for those who are sensitive to the impurities), it is the amount of alcohol we consume that is the issue.
We know that the average liver typically metabolises 10g of alcohol per hour. So when we drink more than that, the extra ethanol is metabolisedthrough a different pathway that leads to the build up of acetaldehyde in the body. Numerous studies have shown that this toxic by-product of alcohol metabolism causes the symptoms of hangover listed below.
Now, these symptoms can be labelled as “feeling seedy” or “off you’re A-game” the next day, but all of these labels, including “hangover” refer to the after effects of alcohol metabolism for the majority of people, and commonly include
- Headache (vasodilation and/or dehydration).
- Dehydration (excess urination-for every 200ml alcoholic beverage we void 320ml).
- Tiredness (depleting your body of nutrients and stressing your liver and other organs).
- Nausea and many other symptoms.
Lots of other things can give you the above symptoms too, like a simple flu for example. If these symptoms present after drinking, we associate them with or call them a hangover. It makes sense to look at what is in an alcoholic beverage that can cause these symptoms. Possible contenders are:
- Congeners (Congeners are ingredients produced as by-products of fermentation and distillation. They include acetone, acetaldehyde, tannins, and some flavouring agents in different alcoholic beverages).
- Sulphide not sulphur (some people are allergic to it and can cause vasodilation leading to headache).
- Impurities (an expensive scotch has fewer impurities. So it is easy to swallow, taste good and gives you less side effects).
- Ethanol (liver can only metabolise 10g/hr) excess leads to build up of acetaldehyde.
The percentage of the population that is sensitive to Sulphite (0.05%) is not that big, but we do know that everyone’s liver works the same way. The metabolism of congener alcohols as of ethanol is nearly exclusively catalysed by liver through alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme, which need a helping hand with alcohol dehydrogenase cofactors.
There is not just one simple answer. Anything that causes dehydration, stresses the liver, or depletes the body of essential nutrients, can result in the symptoms of hangover.
After removing the allergen issue for those minorities, the only way to reduce the side effects of alcohol metabolism (i.e. hangover) if you are not going to stick with W.H.O’s recommendation, is to support your liver to metabolise alcohol. That is done by taking amino acid cysteine, and alcohol dehydrogenase cofactors WHILST drinking, not after a big night.
Products which support the liver to more effectively metabolise alcohol are the best add on to have while consuming alcoholic drinks. These products should be provided as an add-on-sale in liquor stores, bars and pubs, to make sure consumers of alcoholic beverages do not have a bad experience the next day.