March 14, 2018
Who among us hasn’t suffered from an overactive elbow, throwing back a few too many libations? Nearly everyone who drinks alcohol has overdone it at some point and has suffered the consequences of “brown bottle flu” the next morning.
You may know a few tricks for feeling better, such as drinking a lot of water and sleeping it off, but you may not know that the bacteria living in your gut can also make you feel better.
A number of factors influence how well you recover from hangover symptoms: the amount you drank, the type of liquor, drinking on an empty stomach, and more. Your overall health, and specifically the health of your liver, also affect the severity and duration of your hangover symptoms. Now researchers think that the balance of harmful bacteria and beneficial bacteria also affects your hangover. They also think that probiotic supplementation can help ease symptoms the morning after.
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes the body to dump fluids by causing you to pee more. The diuretic action of alcohol can lead to dehydration symptoms, such as dry mouth, poor sleep, and headache. Alcohol can affect electrolytes and sugar in the blood to cause fatigue, nausea and body aches.
The human body breaks down alcohol, first into acetaldehyde and then into acetate. The second product acetate is non-toxic but the first product, acetaldehyde, will cause hangover symptoms. Some people metabolize alcohol quickly, so alcohol spends only a short time as the hangover-inducing acetaldehyde before it turns into harmless acetate. Alcohol metabolism is slower in other drinkers, though, which means acetaldehyde hangover is more severe and lasts longer.
Chronic alcohol consumption causes direct harm to your liver. Alcoholic hepatitis is inflammation of the liver associated with drinking, for example, and this inflammation can scar the liver. Doctors can detect and assess liver inflammation through blood tests that measure liver enzymes. High liver enzymes can indicate liver inflammation.
Tipping the bottle regularly can also cause bacterial overgrowth and microbial imbalances, also known as dysbiosis, where unhealthy bacteria outnumber beneficial bacteria. The overabundant bad bacteria can enter your bloodstream through your digestive tract. Once in your bloodstream, the unhealthy bacteria can spread to other parts of your body to make you feel worse during a hangover.
If you drink regularly, you may be able to help your body recover from the direct and indirect negative effects of alcohol faster by taking probiotic supplements.
Research shows that the presence of certain strains of probiotics is associated with the restoration of the microbiome and greater improvement in alcohol-induced liver injury than with standard therapy of vitamins and abstinence. Scientists enrolled sixty-six adult Russian males with alcoholic psychosis into a prospective, randomized, clinical trial in an effort to study the effects of alcohol and probiotics on the gut biome and alcohol-induced liver injury. After five days of therapy with probiotics or standard therapy, those taking probiotics had significantly increased numbers of beneficial bacteria in their stool. They also had better results on liver enzymes, which is a type of blood test that measures liver function.
Alcoholics tend to have lower levels of the gut bacteria Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli, and Enterococci, as compared with those who do not imbibe. After taking a short 5-day course of probiotic supplements, however, the levels of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli rose. Probiotic supplementation even improved liver enzymes; high liver enzymes may indicate liver inflammation.
We’re not saying that probiotics are the antidote for alcohol abuse, or that they mitigate the long-term effects of drinking, however there is evidence to suggest that the secrets to quick relief from a hangover may involve the beneficial microbes living in your gut; so make sure you feed them well – a little strategic probiotic supplementation might go a long way after a long night!
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