In our 10 years of researching alcohol metabolism and liver detox to develop the Intox-Detox product, there’s one thing we can say for sure: Very few people have any idea whatsoever about what happens to alcohol when it enters your body and how exactly it is eliminated and detoxified. Despite the fact that nearly everyone imbibes every once in a while, no one understands HOW REALLY ALCOHOL WORKS. Like, not at all!
It’s like asking 5 personal trainers questions like “what’s the best workout plan?” or “what’s the best diet?” for weight-loss; you’re likely to get 10 different answers and passionate, convincing arguments from all. The Internet makes things even worse, with its arm-chair gurus and die-hard, though often a little “touched”, bloggers, “experts” and influencers.
Alcohol is different though, because there is a RIGHT ANSWER. We know what happens when you drink alcohol. And I’ll break it down for you right now in terms that anyone can understand. Then we’ll de-bunk 5 of the biggest myths about alcohol that just will not die on the Internet and in the minds of average drinkers
Alcohol = Ethanol
Unless of course you are interested in blinding yourself by drinking methanol or “wood alcohol”. The rest of us are drinking ethanol.
Once you drink it alcohol is quickly absorbed and ends up in the liver. Contrary to popular belief it is not treated like a fat or a sugar in the body (more on that coming). It’s treated like an alcohol because that’s what it is. Duh! It has 7 calories per gram and must go through the liver to be broken down. Although a little comes out through the lungs and urine, which is why breathalyzers and urine tests can detect BAC levels.
The 2-Step Process in the Liver
Step 1: Ethanol + ADH liver enzyme = Acetaldehyde (the true cause of alcohol toxicity in the body and primary cause of many “hangover” side effects)
Step 2: Acetaldehyde + ALDH2 liver enzyme = Acetic Acid (an inert, harmless chemical similar to vinegar that is recycled into the body as an energy source or excreted through the urine)
Summary: Mildly toxic beer, wine or liquor (ethanol) absorbs. ADH liver enzyme turns the ethanol into HIGHLY TOXIC (and probably carcinogenic) Acetaldehyde. ALDH2 liver enzyme breaks Acetaldehyde into harmless Acetic Acid, carbon dioxide and water. And that’s it!
*Re-read that 2nd step because it’s critical to understand how to avoid hangovers, as well as why alcohol in and of itself does not make you fat! Intox-Detox goes to work at Step 2 to eliminate that nasty Acetaldehyde stuff faster by boosting the 2 things needed (and clinically proven) to protect your liver and help avoid the misery of the negative after effects of drinking alcohol. Specifically it increases the ALDH2 liver enzyme and a protective antioxidant called Glutathione (but that’s a story for another day).
Without further ado…
Top 5 Notorious Alcohol Myths
- Alcohol is a Sugar and/or Breaks Down into One – (FALSE) As hinted above, alcohol is not and will never be a sugar! Some research suggests that the brain treats alcohol like sugar in that we can come to be addicted to it via similar pathways and mechanisms. This has nothing to do with how the stuff is actually metabolized in the body. Nor does alcohol break down into sugar. Check the simple equations above. Alcohol breaks down into Acetaldehyde, and then into Acetic Acid. The only other byproducts of the process are carbon dioxide and water. Many people argue this point with us out in the field when we pass out our samples. You don’t have to take our word for it. Consult with your physician or the American Liver Foundation. Don’t just search Google. If you want the truth you have to seek out credible sources of information. A fatty liver can be the result of alcohol abuse, primarily because the liver prioritizes the metabolism of alcohol over other nutrients (to prevent damage), which can lead to high levels of dietary fat and sugar remaining in the blood. Often the liver stores these as a natural defense mechanism, leading to a fatty liver. But this ONLY happens due to poor diet or overconsumption of alcohol. That brings us to the next point…
- Beer Bellies are Caused Exclusively by Drinking Beer – (FALSE) In the end, the alcohol in beer gets oxidized in the liver, via the exact 2-stage pathway above, which makes Acetaldehyde, and not sugar or fat. However, beer does also contain grains and sugar, meaning calories, which add up and actually do convert to sugars. But even these are not likely the primary cause of the infamous “beer belly”. More likely it is the overall diet, including high-calorie foods taken in along with alcohol that are the culprit. Remember that your body preferentially metabolizes alcohol first while your noshing on burgers, fries, nachos, pizza and all the other foods we crave while watching football at the bar. Also recall that alcoholics who get most of their calories from alcohol lose weight and suffer malnutrition, due to a lack of vitamins, minerals and quality dietary nutrients. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is thought to increase belly fat storage, especially in those genetically predetermined to accumulate fat around the abdomen. Overall, the beer belly phenomenon is most likely a combination of poor diet, genetics, lack of physical activity and over-consumption of beer and/or any alcoholic beverage. So, any claims that alcohol causes obesity are probably only completely justified in those who drink WAY too much.
- Alcohol Ruins Diets and/or Makes You Fat – (FALSE, but with conditions) There is practically no metabolic pathway that can allow alcohol itself to be stored as significant amounts of fat, hence the malnutrition of alcoholics. When alcohol is combined with high cholesterol and/or high sugar diets, your dieting efforts can definitely be heavily impacted. A recent study showed that heavy sugar and fat intake, aka the “typical fast food American diet”, is far worse for the liver than moderate consumption of alcohol. Alcohol does have an effect on male and female sex hormones, the stress hormone cortisol and fat-burning hormones. However, moderate, occasional consumption in healthy adults is unlikely to cause a significant, sustained impact. Some evidence even suggests that eliminating some carbohydrates, especially sugar, in the diet and replacing them with moderate amounts of alcohol may be beneficial for weight-loss goals. Again, lifestyle choices, such as diet and exercise, as well as total calorie intake, have far more bearing on weight-loss results than moderate alcohol consumption.
- Dehydration Exclusively Causes Hangovers – (FALSE, contributes but does not EXCLUSIVELY cause hangovers) This is our favorite! And one of the most contentious arguments we have with people we meet at events. Many, many people are just 100% convinced that hangovers are just plain old dehydration. Closely related to the “sugar camp”, they completely ignore the impact of Acetaldehyde on the body. It’s not really their fault because alcohol metabolism is not clearly understood by the general population. And that’s why we are here to educate! Acetaldehyde is a highly toxic chemical, far more so than the beer, wine or liquor that you originally drank. It’s one of the weird inefficient biological pathways in nature, like the way rabbits and cows digest food. Our alcohol detox process is inefficient, taking something mildly toxic, turning it into something up to 30X more deadly and then into something harmless. Why not go straight from mildly toxic to harmless? It’s just not the way we work. It probably developed out of necessity from eating rotten fruit when food was scarce. Humans and primates who detox BOOZE well could get energy from the rotten fruit, and yes the alcohol too, and live to see another day. Back to dehydration: Go sit on the beach for a few hours in the Florida sun or take a long walk or jog. You will get mildly dehydrated, but you are unlikely to develop the vomiting, nausea and headache associated with a hangover. Certainly, extreme dehydration can be deadly, but not from a simple night out on the town. Going for a run will tire you out, but the feeling is nothing like a MISERABLE HANGOVER. Equating the two is nonsensical and silly, especially once you understand how toxic Acetaldehyde truly is. Then, it becomes clear that it is toxicity and not dehydration that is the primary cause of hangovers. Drink plenty of water and/or Gatorade or Pedialyte and you might not get dehydrated, but you will still feel HUNGOVER, sick from toxic Acetaldehyde buildup. (That part we can help you with!)
- Alcohol Itself Negatively/Positively Effects Libido (Hormones) – (FALSE, the byproduct of alcohol negatively effects many hormones, yet partially TRUE in as much as alcohol converts into Acetaldehyde) Some people claim alcohol is an aphrodisiac. It certainly does lighten us up socially to literally lubricate personal interaction and enable us to “come out of our shells” to engage other people. However, anyone who has had a few too many and tried to “get it on” knows that ultimately alcohol has negative and even severely limiting effects on sexual function. If you’re out on a date, this undeniable fact can actually be powerful motivation to drink moderately, in hopes of getting to the “finish line”. Alcohol does also have powerful effects on testosterone, estrogen, cortisol and HGH (human growth hormone). All of these negative effects may contribute to the adverse health outcomes of long-term alcohol abuse. In the short-term, inflammation increases, healing and recovery decrease, metabolism slows, deep sleep is inhibited and sexual function can be severely impaired. Interestingly enough, there is research that suggests it is actually Acetaldehyde itself that is most responsible for these effects, especially as regards the sex hormone testosterone, rather than alcohol. Therefore, eliminating Acetaldehyde from the body faster may help to improve returning to “normal” and even avoiding some of these symptoms. If you want to hit the gym the next day or have sex witihin 24 to 48 hours, you will need these hormones on your side!
Don’t believe everything that you read (or think) about alcohol. Alcohol is a drug that deserves respect. It can cause serious health problems, without a doubt. However, the more you educate yourself about its effects in the body, the better you can make informed decisions about how to conduct yourself when you choose to have a few drinks. It goes without saying that drinking and driving is moronic and illegal, so just don’t do it ever. The ABSOLUTE BEST policy is to set the standard for zero tolerance. That means if you drink a drop, you should not drive anywhere, at all. It’s the only way to guarantee the outcome. Uber and Lyft are so inexpensive, compared with the legal fees of a DUI. And even if you can afford all that, the price of being responsible for the death of another human being is one that no one ever wants to pay.
Intox-Detox strives to help educate people about HOW ALCOHOL REALLY WORKS. We find the subject fascinating and continue to expand our knowledge to help the drinking public, as well as to develop new amazing products. Our goal has always been to help moderate responsible drinkers maintain the balance in their lives between enjoying life and staying healthy.
Intox-Detox is the only Alcohol Detox & Recovery Formula that contains 2 clinically proven ingredients that both protect the liver and help avoid the misery of the morning after, when taken BEFORE drinking alcohol.
In the meantime, stay tuned for more educational and entertaining articles about alcohol and liver detox.