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Planning a ‘Drinksgiving’? Your Genes May Drive Your Hangover

November 11, 2021 – Blackout Wednesday, the ill-fated nickname for Thanksgiving Day, is the busiest bar night of the year. With students home for the holidays and distant friends and family getting together for a long weekend, the allure of socializing sometimes trumps the nightmares of a hangover, especially when you. sleep with midday turkey-induced naps.

But when the consequences set in, many curse themselves and curse the headaches they’ve contracted. Well, there’s a reason you’re having a hangover, and it’s not far from science and genetics.

In fact, “about 50% of the differences between people and the way they have hangovers are due to genetics,” says Puya Yazdi, MD, scientific director of SelfDecode, a company that uses DNA testing and laboratory to provide personalized healthcare recommendations.

The science and genetics behind the hangover

“Hangovers are more complex than you might think. Genetics can have an impact on how you experience a hangover, as can many other factors, ”says Serena Poon, community health nurse and reiki master in Los Angeles.

Thanks to these genetic variations, some people cope better with alcohol and have a less severe hangover than others.

In fact, “a genetic variation that affects the way alcohol is metabolized can make some people less severe than others,” says Grace Yoon, an herbalist in New York and South Korea.

Yoon, founder of Qi Alchemy, an oriental herbal and medicine market, says that “drinking on an empty stomach, mixing alcohol with other drugs, and not sleeping well after drinking” might also increase your chances. to have a horrible hangover.

A few genes are responsible for how people experience hangovers: CYP2E1, ADH1B, and ALDH2.

The CYP2E1 gene codes for the enzyme that breaks down alcoholic compounds. When there is a slight change in its structure, people eliminate alcohol from their system faster.

Variants of the ADH1B gene speed up the work of the enzyme. Usually, this gene encodes part of the enzyme ADH, which breaks down alcohol in the liver.

ALDH2 normally encodes part of the enzyme ALDH, which helps clear things out of your system. Variants make the enzyme less effective, causing toxins to stay in your system longer.

Interestingly, some people are allergic to alcohol because they don’t have the genes to digest it.

“Some Asians have genetic variants that affect their ability to break down alcohol. Sometimes they display extreme reactions like flushing, vomiting and an exalted heartbeat, right after a few drinks, ”Yazdi explains.

Besides these gene changes, your inflammatory response can affect your hangover. “The more alcohol you drink, the more severe these inflammatory reactions and the more severe your hangover symptoms,” he says.

The darker the drink, the worse the hangover

“Science has found that this old wives’ tale, ‘the darker the drink, the more severe the hangover,’ turned out to be true,” Yazdi explains.

“These darker drinks contain a substance called congeners, which gives alcohol its flavor. This is why people say that light drinks like vodka and gin are tasteless while brandy and whiskey have more flavor.

“Darker liquors, like rum and whiskey, contain more congeners than lighter liquors. When your body metabolizes these congeners, the process can create toxic substances that can increase the severity of your hangover, ”says Poon.

Some examples of these congeners include “methanol and tannins, which are chemicals from the fermentation process that give alcoholic beverages their distinctive flavor.” These darker drinks contain higher concentrations of congeners, which will certainly cause a more serious hangover, ”says Yoon.

What your age has to do with a hangover

“Although we all feel that as we get older the hangover gets worse, scientifically that may not be true,” Yazdi explains. “What is happening is that your alcohol tolerance may have decreased because you don’t drink as much alcohol as when you were much younger.”

Basically you have more energy and stamina when you are younger than when you get older, which also includes the mood for drinking.

In addition, Yoon points out, “your liver may become slower to metabolize alcohol with age, prolonging the effects of a hangover.”

However, a study cited by Poon indicates that as you get older your pain sensitivity decreases, therefore you may not feel the hangover effects compared to your younger self.

Home remedies and how to avoid a hangover

“The best way to avoid a hangover is to moderate alcohol consumption and stay hydrated as much as possible while you drink. Avoid sugary drinks as they can disrupt your blood sugar and reduce the amount of sleep you get asleep, ”says Poon.

“Experts generally recommend switching to water 3-4 hours before going to bed to allow for restful sleep. Your body heals while you sleep, and it can use extra rest while it works to process and remove alcohol from your system.

Yoon advises us to use red ginseng to reduce inflammation when drinking alcohol.

“Red ginseng has beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” she says. “In Korea, red ginseng has been used as a traditional herbal medicine to reduce inflammation, which helps fight hangovers.”

Alcohol dehydrates your body and can cause low blood sugar.

Yoon says that “red ginseng extract in particular has short-term effects on ethanol metabolism and helps reduce the concentration of ethanol in the blood, inhibiting inflammation and increasing the antioxidant capacity of cells. It also helps improve blood sugar levels.

In cases where you don’t want to drink alcohol at all, Yoon advises people to try an alternative fermented tea drink called kombucha, which has very low alcohol content and beneficial probiotics.

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