By Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN
Everyone knows that consuming high levels of alcohol is toxic. But do you know how alcohol causes toxicity? We’ll cover that in this article and discuss a critical therapy that helps protect against damage from alcohol overindulgence.
Alcohol metabolism is a two-step process that takes place in the liver. The body’s available glutathione levels are constantly depleting during alcohol detoxification. Thus, people who regularly consume alcohol at moderate levels, such as one or two drinks a day, are also continually lowering their level of available glutathione and decreasing glutathione’s benefits.
In the first step, an enzyme named alcohol dehydrogenase converts alcohol into a compound called acetaldehyde, an intermediate metabolite.
In the second step, an enzyme called glutathione-S transferase facilitates the joining of acetaldehyde with glutathione. The acetaldehyde-glutathione complex is readily excreted in the urine. When adequate glutathione levels are available in the liver, alcohol detoxification goes smoothly. However, one evening of heavy drinking will quickly deplete the liver’s glutathione stores.
Acetaldehyde Toxicity and Alcohol Detoxification
Acetaldehyde is estimated to be 20 to 30 times more toxic than alcohol. Acetaldehyde destroys enzymes and proteins it contacts and causes DNA damage. Elevated levels of acetaldehyde in the liver destroy liver cells and lead to alcoholic liver disease (ALD). Finally, acetaldehyde is highly neurotoxic. Hence, high levels of acetaldehyde damages nerves and accelerates cognitive decline.
The damage from excess drinking is not due to the alcohol but rather to the toxic effects of acetaldehyde. When glutathione levels in the body are not adequate to keep up with the amount of acetaldehyde produced during the first phase of alcohol detoxification, acetaldehyde begins to exert its powerful, damaging effects.
Chronic Alcohol Use
While the body may be able to capably metabolize moderate alcohol use and recover from an occasional overindulgence, chronic alcohol abuse is another story. The constant barrage of alcohol into the human system causes long-term damage to just about every system in the body.
Over-consuming alcohol regularly or even in one spectacular binge can cause heart damage, including:
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
Chronic alcohol use can disrupt the brain’s communication channels. The brain of someone who regularly drinks too much even looks different from that of someone who doesn’t. Alcohol can affect mood, behavior, coordination, and thinking.
We’ve talked a lot about how alcohol impacts the liver. Here are a few conditions that long-term alcohol consumption can cause:
- Fatty liver
- Alcoholic hepatitis
You wouldn’t think that alcohol consumption could precipitate cancer, but scientists believe that is the case. Studies have shown a strong connection between alcohol and certain types of cancer.
- Oral and pharyngeal cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Breast cancer
- Laryngeal cancer
- Liver cancer
Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning
Alcohol poisoning occurs when someone accidentally or intentionally consumes alcohol faster than the body can metabolize it. Many adults know what drinking too much feels like, but alcohol poisoning is a step beyond a binge that precedes a bad hangover. It can even be life-threatening.
If you see someone exhibiting signs of alcohol poisoning, seek medical attention immediately. It may be tempting not to act to save someone embarrassment with friends and family, but alcohol poisoning is serious business, and it’s better to act on their behalf than for them to die because you didn’t
There are several symptoms of alcohol poisoning. A person does not need to exhibit all of them to require medical attention:
- Blue, gray, or pale skin
- Breathing less than eight breaths a minute
- Irregular breathing
- Low body temperature
- Trouble staying conscious
How Much Alcohol Can a Person Safely Consume?
There is no one-size-fits-all gauge for how much alcohol is safe to drink. It varies from person to person. However, the CDC has developed guidelines recommending two drinks or less daily for men and one drink per day or less for women.
You should not drink alcohol at all if you have one of the following conditions:
- Confirmed or potentially pregnant
- Taking medications that interact with alcohol
- Under age 21
- Certain medical conditions
- In recovery from alcohol addiction
Lifestyle Changes to Aid Alcohol Detoxification
How quickly your liver recovers from alcohol damage depends on how much it is compromised and whether complications are involved. Any time without drinking alcohol is helpful; the liver can begin to improve after two to three weeks.
How long it takes your liver to detox depends on factors such as weight, age, how much alcohol you drink and how often, and other health conditions. Here are two things you can do to improve your health with lifestyle changes.
Refrain from Drinking
Saying no to alcohol can be challenging because of its role in social occasions and celebrations. If you find it difficult to give up the social aspect of alcohol, bars, and restaurants offer many non-alcoholic options. Consider seltzer water, non-alcoholic beer or wine, or the increasingly popular mocktails.
For someone who has consumed alcohol chronically for a long time, withdrawal is safest with medical assistance. Doctors and recovery centers often suggest twelve-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous when alcohol compromises a person’s health, but the drinker cannot stop.
Improve Your Nutrition
Filling nutritional gaps can begin to help your liver heal. Nutritionists often recommend the Mediterranean diet for its reliance on fish, olive oil, fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and starchy vegetables.
This eating regimen became popular when scientists recognized that people living around the Mediterranean Sea had fewer health problems than those who ate a diet typical in first-world countries today.
The Mediterranean diet limits red meat, dairy products, refined flour, egg yolks, commercial bakery items, and fried foods.
Exercise is essential for many body systems, but cardio and resistance exercises help prevent fat buildup in the liver. You don’t have to do an Iron Man workout to begin to benefit.
Start with an energetic walk, tune in to an online workout, or dust off your bicycle and take a spin around the neighborhood. Your liver will thank you.
How Does Glutathione Figure In?
Glutathione is sometimes called the Master Antioxidant. It also regulates the immune system and detoxifies all cells in the body. Alcohol consumption depletes glutathione levels, and the whole body suffers. Free radical damage increases, the immune system weakens, and toxins build up in the body.
On the other hand, research relating to boosting glutathione levels in those with alcoholic and non-alcoholic liver diseases shows promising results.
How to Boost Glutathione Levels
Taking a glutathione supplement as easily as a vitamin C or D capsule would be convenient, but it’s not that simple. Scientists think that the stomach acids and enzymes break down glutathione before it reaches the liver, so an oral supplement has had little effect.
However, in clinical studies, Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 (or ME-3), a probiotic, was found to be “…a complete glutathione system: syntheses, uptake, and redox turnover.” So, while direct supplementation with glutathione has had limited results, ME-3 supplementation has been much more successful.
Choose an Effective ME-3 Supplement
Boost your glutathione levels with Reg’Activ Detox & Liver Health, a glutathione supplement that contains Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 (or just ME-3), a strain of probiotic bacteria that synthesizes glutathione, aiding in alcohol metabolism.
Each two-capsule daily dose contains six billion viable bacteria. When you take two Reg’Activ Detox & Liver Health capsules, you ingest six billion little glutathione manufacturing factories, resulting in constant glutathione production.
In human clinical trials, people taking ME-3 had a 49% increase in the ratio between reduced to oxidized glutathione, which equates to a significant increase in levels of active glutathione in the body. People wondering how to improve their health by increasing glutathione can easily reap its benefits with Reg’Activ Detox & Liver Health.
Taking Glutathione Supplements
Two capsules of Detox & Liver Health daily support your body by increasing glutathione levels and helping protect against the harmful effects of alcohol consumption. Learn more on the Essential Formulas website.