If you can’t enjoy a fine wine the way you used to, you’re not alone.
You see, your body metabolizes alcohol more slowly when you’re older – so you feel the effects earlier, even though you’re consuming less.
You also have less water in your body. Drinking just a few glasses means you have a higher percentage of alcohol in your blood than a younger person having the same amount.
As you know, alcohol is a diuretic. When you urinate more often you eliminate electrolytes, potassium, magnesium and other nutrients your body needs to make your cells function.
But dehydration is just the start.
Ethanol – the alcohol in your drink – triggers an inflammatory response in your gut, as well as your kidneys, pancreas and liver. But the worst hangover symptoms come from your body’s attempt to fight the presence of ethanol in your bloodstream using a super-toxin produced in your liver called acetaldehyde.
Here’s what happens…
Basically, your body gets freaked out by the alcohol in your blood. So it sends out free radicals to neutralize the danger. When you have one drink, this is fine. But if you keep drinking, the free radicals keep mobilizing.1
In a desperate bid to control this attack of free radicals, your liver produces acetaldehyde, which breaks down alcohol into water and carbon dioxide, before it gets flushed out of your system.
Acetaldehyde is most likely the primary catalyst for all hangovers.2
This poisonous biochemical byproduct of alcohol is estimated to be between 10 and 30 times as toxic as ethanol itself.3
It’s so poisonous that it doesn’t stay in your body for long, and is mostly gone by the time the hangover begins.
But researchers now believe that it’s the dreadful after-effects of acetaldehyde on your central nervous system that cause symptoms like drowsiness, dry mouth, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headache, rapid heartbeat and anxiety.
At the same time, certain microbes in your small intestine replicate when you drink alcohol. One produce dehyrogenase – an enzyme that triggers the production of acetaldehyde.4
I enjoy a few glasses of wine with dinner, as well as a couple after-dinner spirits. I never suffer from a hangover for one simple reason:
I maintain healthy levels of a molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD+.
NAD+ is vital for every process in the human body. It affects your metabolism, energy levels, hormone regulation, immune system function, and your body’s ability to absorb glucose and regulate electrolyte levels.
But when you over-imbibe, your body uses up its NAD+ supply, causing a build-up of acetaldehyde.5 By boosting NAD+, you speed up the deconstruction of alcohol and move acetaldehyde out of your body faster – reducing or even eliminating the brutal effects of a hangover.
Recent tests by scientists at MIT found that when they gave drunk subjects NAD+ intravenously, their blood alcohol concentration halved within minutes!6
2 Easy Ways to Boost Your NAD+ Levels
Let’s take a look at ways you can boost your NAD+ levels.
Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is a precursor for NAD+. Here is what I recommend to easily boost your NAD+ levels.
- Eat food rich in niacin. One of the simplest ways of getting this nutrient is eating foods that are high in niacin. Some of the best sources are eggs, green veggies, beans, fish, and whole milk. I highly recommend making sure you eat some of these foods at least once every day.
- Supplement. Choose either nicotinic acid or niacinamide. For best results, use 20 mg of nicotinic acid daily, or take 250 mg to 300 mg of niacinamide each day. But avoid the no-flush forms of niacin. Without the flush, you’re not getting enough to provide any benefit.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Wu D, et al. “Alcohol, Oxidative Stress, and Free Radical Damage.” National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Oct 2004.
2. Eriksson CJ. “The role of acetaldehyde in the actions of alcohol.” Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2001 May; 25(5 Suppl ISBRA):15S-32S.
3. Stromberg J. “Your Complete Guide to the Science of Hangovers.” Smithsonian.com. Dec 31, 2013
4. Betrapally NS, et al. “Changes in the intestinal microbiome and alcoholic and nonalcoholic liver diseases: causes or effects?” Gastroenterology 2016; 150:1745–1755.
5. Gariani K, et al. “Eliciting the mitochondrial unfolded protein response via NAD repletion reverses fatty liver disease.” \em>Hepatology. 2016;63(4):1190-204.
6. Bishop-Stall S. “Hungover: The Morning After and One Man’s Quest for the Cure.” Penguin Publishing. Aug 28, 2018.