Monday, July 22, 2013

4 ways to mitigate the damage from alcohol

Let's face it, most of us like to throw caution to the wind and have some drinks on the weekends.  Whether you are going out with friends, attending a special event, or just sitting on your deck or porch and throwing a few back, there are a few things you can do to help your body process the alcohol.  Let's take a look at 4 strategies to help mitigate the negative effects of alcohol.

4)Plan your more intense workouts accordingly

Alcohol and exercise are both stressors to the body.  Since they both will cause damage that the body must repair, it's a good idea to space them apart.  A good rule of thumb is to plan more intense sessions away from your drinking days.  If you plan on drinking on Friday evening, your last intense session should be no later than Thursday morning.  If you drink on Saturday night, your next intense session shouldn't be until Tuesday morning.  If you decide to exercise on Friday or Monday you should perform low intensity work like light weightlifting, walking, or a leisurely bike ride.  As I've discussed before about your stress account, you always want to make sure you balance debits with credits.  Alcohol has the added problem of negatively affecting sleep which will increase the amount of the debit.   In this instance you can benefit from the stress reducing effects of meditation or yoga.  In fact, doing one or the other after a day of drinking can help you recover faster.

3)Use liver support

When you drink alcohol, your liver has to work overtime to process it.  Supporting your liver with the nutrients it needs to do this is a good idea.  Milk thistle tends to be the go to supplement for liver damage control, but most of the studies are in people with damaged livers from disease.  It appears as though milk thistle is beneficial to people with cirrhosis of the liver or liver damage from diseases such as hepatitis C, but whether nor not this translates in to being beneficial to someone with a healthy liver who is looking to prevent damage remains to be seen.  Regardless, it's cheap and non-toxic so it is probably a good option.  Another supplement that is of value is Pantethine.  Pantethine is the biologically active form of Vitamin B5.  When the liver processes alcohol, it turns it in to acetaldehyde which is then turned in to acetic acid where it can be excreted via the urine.  The problem in this process is that acetaldehyde is more toxic than alcohol and a potential contributor to the hangover you feel the next day.  Pantethine is used by the liver to help detoxify both alcohol and acetaldehyde so supplementing with it may help the body process alcohol better, or at the very least it can prevent a B5 deficiency after alcohol intake.  Molybdenum is a trace mineral that also helps convert acetaldehyde in to acetic acid and, therefore, may be of benefit as well.  In addition to this role, molybdenum is also used to metabolize the sulfites found in wine.  People deficient in molybdenum are prone to negative reactions to sulfites so making sure you are at least getting the RDA is a good idea.  With molybdenum, it's important to not take too much as high doses can interfere with copper absorption.

2)Use gut support

Alcohol causes significant gut inflammation.  To help repair this damage and prevent the bugs in your gut from getting out of whack, it's a good idea to make sure you get plenty of soluble fiber to feed healthy bacteria that will in turn help heal the gut damage.  The best way to do this is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables before, during, and after consuming alcohol.  Another good thing to do is add a little resistant starch to the mix.  While resistant starch isn't classified as fiber, it acts like fiber in the body.  We cannot digest resistant starch so it makes it's way to the colon where it can feed the good gut bugs.  There are resistant starch supplements available, but the best, cheapest, and easiest way to get resistant starch is to go to your local grocery store and purchase Bob's Red Mill Unmodified Potato Starch.  Each tbsp contains 8g of resistant starch, just make sure you don't heat it up or the starch will break down and become non-resistant.  Just mix it in water or add it to a vegetable smoothie to get a good dose of soluble fiber, resistant starch, and antioxidants to help repair the free radical damage caused by alcohol.

1)Get those electrolytes

Since alcohol is a diuretic, it will cause you to flush out water as well as electrolytes which can contribute to may of the symptoms of a hangover including headaches, dizziness, and thirst.  The 3 primary electrolytes you are concerned with replenishing are magnesium, potassium, and sodium.  I recommend most people supplement with magnesium as it is very important for human health and our soil tends to be deficient in it.  When consuming alcohol, it is probably a good idea to up your dosage of magnesium to offset the loss caused by the diuretic effect of alcohol.  Potassium is found in high levels in fruits and vegetables such as bananas, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, as well as many others.  As long as you are keeping the veggies coming while drinking you should be fine.  Coconut water is high in potassium but also high in sugar so if you are worried about body composition it is probably best to stick with the veggies.  The best way to get sodium is to salt your food liberally or add a small amount of salt to the water you drink throughout the day.  Obviously you should drink plenty of water, but neglecting your electrolytes will definitely lead to an electrolyte imbalance you are not going to enjoy the next day.