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Almost everyone faced with a hangover in his life, when a fun evening turns into an awful morning. Why does the body feel so bad after drinking alcohol? Is it possible to alleviate your suffering? This article will describe the alcohol biotransformation in a human body, its impact on human health, and in the end of the article there are a couple of tips on how to help the body to survive the alcohol consumption with the least damage (how to relieve hangover symptoms).
When alcohol (ethyl alcohol, ethanol) enters the organism, ¼ of it is absorbed in the stomach and ¾ in the upper small intestine. Through the mucous membrane of the stomach and intestines, most of the ethanol enters directly into the blood and then into the liver through the portal vein system. Absorption of ethanol depends on several factors: the area of contact of alcohol and the gastrointestinal tract wall, the state of motor function and tone of the stomach and intestines, body temperature, and the amount and type of food taken before or during alcohol consumption. Starchy food, meat and fats inhibit alcohol absorption, while in the opposite side, carbon dioxide (carbonated drinks) and an empty stomach increase the rate of absorption.
Around 90-98% of the ingested alcohol is oxidized and metabolized inside the body; 2-10% of ingested alcohol are excreted unchanged with exhaled air, urine, feces, saliva, and through the skin with sweat. The biggest amount 90-98% of the ingested alcohol is metabolized in the liver. Minor amounts of ethanol are degraded in other organs.
Alcohol oxidation has three biotransformation pathways: with the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase (70-80% of consumed alcohol), with catalase (15% of consumed alcohol) and “inducible” microsomal alcohol oxidase (5-10% of consumed alcohol). The main alcohol biotransformation pathway is carried out with enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase:
Fig. 1 Scheme of Alcohol Biotransformation in Human OrganismThe ethanol oxidation reaction with the participation of alcohol dehydrogenase proceeds in the presence of the coenzyme nicotine amide acetyl dinucleotide (NAD) with the subsequent formation of acetic acid aldehyde (acetaldehyde). Acetaldehyde is known to be the main hangover factor, have fume smell from a mouth. Acetaldehyde is converted to acetic acid with the participation of the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. The reaction is able to proceed in both directions. Both enzymes work only in the presence of NAD, which turns them into the active oxidized form. NAD is reduced during the oxidation of these enzymes. The acetic acid is then oxidized to carbon dioxide and water with the energy release.
The ethanol transformation rate in the liver is limited mainly by the alcohol dehydrogenase activity. The presence of NAD+ is another limiting factor.
Alcohol Impact on Human Health
The variability of concentration levels in different tissues are determined by the different solubility of alcohol molecules. The greatest amount is found in those structures that are richly supplied with blood due to the presence of blood vessels. These features play an important role in determining the concentration of C2H5OH.
By this criterion, the bulk of ethanol amount is detected in the brain. Compared to muscles, the blood supply to brain tissue is 16 times higher. That is why the CNS takes the main toxic blow. Highly organized neurons are most susceptible to destruction.
Tips on How to Treat Hangover Symptoms
The main reason of a hangover is acetaldehyde, an intermediate product of alcohol biotransformation in the body. Therefore, to alleviate hangover symptoms, it is logical to reduce the acetaldehyde concentration in the body. Here are some “must do” things that will help you to reduce alcohol impact on your health:
–Eat while drinking: fatty food inhibits alcohol absorption;
–Drink water during the alcohol uptake (one glass of water per one glass of alcohol);
-Take any drink or fruit enriched with vitamin C (the acid interacts directly with acetaldehyde reducing its concentration) both during alcohol uptake and after;
-Take any absorbent after alcohol uptake (peroral sorbents, enterosorbents). For example, the best supplement is activated charcoal tablets: one tablet per 10 kg of body mass.
-As alcohol dehydrates the body, it is important to restore the water balance after drinking. Electrolytes solutions will help to restore both the body water balance and the shortage of electrolytes.
The best way to avoid hangover is not to drink alcohol. But if it had happened, always remember about your health. Try to minimize the damage of the alcohol.