Alcohol and any chronic illness do not go together. Alcohol, migraines and headaches are the same. Even though alcohol can be a treat to indulge in once in a while, it carries its own burden that gets added to the body when we ingest it.
A healthy individual can generally compensate as they have extra resources available inside of them, whereas someone who is battling with an ill does not. In this article I want to go through the 15 factors that we need to consider and 10 ways to mitigate damage when drinking alcohol. This applies to how it affects migraines and headaches in a negative way as well as some sure fire tips to give your body more resilience when dealing with the burden of alcohol.
15 Factors to consider:
1. Blood sugar regulation – alcohol in and of itself causes dysregulation in blood sugar but when paired with simple sugar drinks this issue gets compounded. For people with lots of stress, lack of sleep, obesity, insulin resistance or previous blood sugar handling issues, this is a sure fire way to spike their bodies inflammation and set them off.
2. Dehydration – Alcohol takes a lot of water and flushes it out of your body because it is a diuretic. This is not only a problem because intracellular water is crucial to every function in the body since we are molecularly 99% water, but also because this leads to mineral loss. Using some clean structured water full of minerals is essential to retaining this balance. I like to use some lemon, sea salt, cream of tartar, magnesium glycinate, honey and peppermint leaves to rehydrate. Careful not to add vodka and tonic water or you’ll be back in the loop.
3. Sulfites – found mostly in beer and wines but which can also be added as preservatives pose a particular problem, especially for the sulfite sensitive or those with Gastrointestinal issues. The more sulfites there are in a product, the more likely you are to have a reaction to them. The wine wand is a great way to remove sulfites and histamines inside of wines and even some beers.
4. Histamine Release – All alcohol releases histamine which is a neurotransmitter involved in immune reactions. Some individuals have particularly high histamine levels, deficiencies in histamine degrading enzymes or chronic illnesses where histamines become overactive in the body. These will be aggravated by anything releasing more histamine. On top of histamine release by alcohol, there are also histamines present in any fermented drinks or foods which pose their own problems. As we know, migraineurs in general have lower levels of a histamine and tyramine degrading enzyme called DAO. A product like the wand helps to remove sulfites and histamines from wine. See our article on the histamine migraine connection for more info.
5. Mineral loss – Migraine and headaches sufferers know how precious minerals like magnesium and potassium are. Alcohol is a known irritant of balance here partly because of its diuretic effect but also because it requires nutrients to process it and compensate for the damage it does.(Link) An easy way to balance the effect of alcohol on your vitamin and mineral balance is to have a high quality multivitamin/mineral complex ready.
6. Alcohol content and your biochemically individual means by which you detoxify it – Everyone has a different speed and effectiveness at which they detoxify and this will influence individual susceptibility and effect. We are all biochemically different and this means the speed at which every gene, organ and enzyme in our body functions is different from everyone elses, even our family members. As different as we are on the outside, we are on the inside. Helping to support the nutrients we lose from alcohol and the nutrients we need to repair, recover and protect ourselves from it is essential, some products like this one make it easy.
7. Acetaldehyde – Alcohol once absorbed is immediately filtered through the liver and takes priority over many other processes because it is a poison. During the breakdown process alcohol turns into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is a known carcinogen and creates a number of issues and strain on the body. A probiotic product like Zbiotics is engineered to help break down alcohol to take the burden off of the liver.
8. Tyramine – The heal your headache diet has made tyramines well known to migraine and headaches sufferers. Many alcohols like beer, sherry, liquors and wine contain levels of tyramine high enough to cause problems in tyramine sensitive individuals. This is not everyone, but for some it makes a big difference if they eat or avoid tyramine containing foods and drinks.
9. Hormones – Alcohol is known to lower testosterone and progesterone but increase estrogen especially beer. This process gets even worse when alcohol is stored as fat which is an estrogen producing gland, creating even more estrogen unabated by progesterone. Hormonal balance is a huge part of maintaining resilience against pain and keeping a healthy brain and gut.
10. Both a vasodilator and vasoconstrictor – at small levels alcohol is generally a vasodilator but at high levels can become a vasoconstrictor. This was once thought to be a major reason why migraine pain came to be but this theory has since fallen by the wayside. That said, there is still a reason for why the brain and our blood vessels expand and contract and they do affect the brain’s health. Some people are more susceptible to one or the other and we generally want to provide as much blood flow as we can to the brain.
11. Promotion of NMDA receptors activation and excitation in the brain(Link)
12. Wiping out of our intestinal microbiota and damage to our gut lining. (Link) One of the things we know alcohol does best is sterilize. It does the same thing inside of us. This is why it is best to drink alcohol with meals, in smaller amounts and with plenty of hydration before, during and after. Our microbiota protect us, form our immune system, signal to our brain and even make nutrients for us. We need them on our team.
13. More prone to mood swings, lower quality food intake and less mindfulness, generally. These speak for themselves, we all know how alcohol lowers our inhibitions. For those that are on a healing protocol, a really bad day or two can set you back weeks if not months of work. If you’re tired of feeling like this, find another way.
14. Amino acid burden is huge for our entire body. We constantly need more amino acids to repair and regenerate all of our tissues. When we are sick and battling something like the 80%+ of us that have fungal or parasitic infections, we need our acute response immune cytokines to be firing on all cylinders. This take a lot of amino acids and when we drink alcohol, we add another amino acid burden.
15. Leaky brain is the process by which the barrier our brain has separating itself from our blood stream so that only certain molecules are allowed access to starts to leak. This can allow bigger and more inflammatory molecules through.
10 considerations to mitigate damage:
There are also a number of factors that will affect how our body and brain react to alcohol as well as how we feel after. The better we can understand what our body needs, the more we can fine tune the support and recovery process when drinking.
- Adequate quality and quantity of sleep
- High protein meals before during and after
- Lots of hydration with mineral replacement
- Zbiotic supplementation prior to
- Anti inflammatory diet before during and after
- Slow and progressive adaptation to alcohol
- Organic brands free of preservatives
- The wine wand
- DAO enzyme supports
- Multivitamin/mineral supplement
We have to understand that each step along the way from our mouth to our brain, our body is trying to protect us and mitigate damage from alcohol. Our microbiota are trying to digest and break down the alcohol, but alcohol is highly antibacterial and wipes them out. Once alcohol gets through the gut it goes straight into the liver where the liver attempts to detoxify it and make it safe but it poisons the liver and slows down all processing here. Once it gets passed the liver and into free circulation the brain tries to protect itself but alcohol puts holes in our blood brain barrier and opens our brains up to even more damage.
Step by step our body has put barriers in place to protect us so the last thing we want to do is overload ourselves with alcohol and knock these systems out for a while. When drinking, drink responsibly and use the above tips to understand why your body is the way that it is and what you can do to support yourself if you must have a drink.
If you need help understanding why your brain is so close to its threshold, why your gut is not resillient or why your hormones keep creating problems, feel free to send me a message.
Holistic Health PractitionerMark Canadic is a writer, speaker, holistic health practitioner and migraine community leader. Read Mark’s inspiring comeback story, “My Burnout and Brain Fires that Lead me to the Root.” Feel free to send Mark a message here.