Many of you know that I am studying nutrition and have been doing so for a very long time.  I love learning about health, wellness and energy. This weeks topic is the production of hormones.  During my study I came across some very relevant information about the metabillism of alcohol. I want to share this with you. I have totally changed my relationship with alcohol and have long periods of time alcohol free. The following information is with thanks to Precision Nutrition. Each of us has to make up their own mind about alcohol consumption and some of this information may help you. Try switching your 5pm favourite drink for a smoothie or juice several times per week and feel the difference in energy.

how alcohol damages your health

Alcohol and digestion

Chronic alcohol ingestion impairs pancreatic enzyme secretion, which can result in nutrient malabsorption, particularly of fat and protein.  Along with pancreatic digestive function, pancreatic endocrine function can be affected: Insulin resistance is a common side effect of alcoholism, which results in a lack of glycogen formation and energy store depletion.  Anaerobic energy production can predominate within the cell, resulting in excessive lactic acid production.

Alcohol and nutrients

Alcohol consumption can alter nutrient status.  Alcohol consumption leads to impaired amino acid uptake and protein synthesis in the liver (e.g. lipoproteins, albumin, fibrinogen), along with increased protein oxidation due to necessary cell regeneration.  Other compounds, including leptin, are often increased in alcoholics, which can be pro-inflammatory and decrease appetite.

The liver is a major storage depot for vitamins and converts vitamins into metabolically useful forms.  Heavy alcohol consumption diminishes the uptake and utilization of folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B1, and vitamin A.  Folic acid deficiency is the most common vitamin deficiency among alcoholics, most likely due to the increased demand for nucleic acids needed for regeneration of injured liver cells.  Nevertheless, poor dietary intake of folate also contributes.  Alcohol acts as an antagonist to vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B3, and vitamin K.  Vitamin E has also been depleted in those who consume alcohol.

Alcohol and tolerance

In chronic alcoholics (and regular heavy drinkers; i.e. when alcohol is 10% of total calorie intake or more), a transition is made in the method of alcohol metabolism, from LADH to another oxidizing system.  This other system increases alcohol tolerance and lowers caloric output.

Alcohol and hangovers

Alcohol influences blood vessels and fluid volume.  This can result in a headache after excessive drinking.  Tylenol should never be taken for a hangover headache, as it can interact with ethanol’s byproducts and damage the liver.  Nausea is related to the toxic byproducts of alcohol elimination and irritation to the stomach.

Alcohol can suppress anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) release.  This means more urine.  One standard drink can add 150 mL to urinary output.  A few successive drinks can result in a trip to “dehydration-land” (and the restroom).

Alcohol and hormones

Chronic alcohol intake is one of the most powerful mediators of sex hormones. Ethanol is a testicular toxin and can increase the activity of aromatase, an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen in the body.  Chronic male alcoholics develop an assortment of endocrine disorders, including infertility, gonadal atrophy, and feminization, caused in part by elevated production of estrogens and low testosterone levels.  Alcohol abusers tend to have lower testosterone (and LH and FSH).

Alcohol, heart disease and oxidative stress

Moderate alcohol consumption has been associated with health benefits.  Data from over 100 studies taking place in 25 countries demonstrates a U- or J-shaped link between alcohol intake and heart disease.  This means that the highest mortality is seen among heavy drinkers, with the next highest among abstainers.  The lowest mortality is observed among moderate drinkers.  One of the reasons that high mortality is seen among abstainers could be due to the “sick former drinker” phenomenon — abstainers are so sick from years of excess alcohol consumption that they must abstain to exist.  Also, moderate drinkers may be moderate people, which can lead to improved overall health.