February 26, 2012


Acetaldehyde. Google it. It's what is probably what is behind most of the pain in your hangover; it's a by-product of alcohol metabolism that is more toxic than alcohol itself, acetaldehyde is created when the alcohol in the liver is broken down by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase. 

When one drinks moderately, the acetaldehyde usually gets converted to acetate (an innocuous substance) with the aid of  acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, and  glutathione. However, when drinking excessively, the liver often runs out of glutathione, and a massive pile-up of toxic acetadehyde occurs in the body.

Or, you happen to be one of the many unfortunate people (an estimated 67% of Asians and Native Americans who carry one or two mutations of the aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) gene which causes them to experience much higher levels of that evil acetaldehyde almost as soon as they start drinking. (NCBI study: Hangover symptoms in Asian Americans with variations in the aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) gene. )  

Here's a simplified chart of what it looks like for moderate drinkers:

However, when we drink excessively, or happen to be cursed with a mutated ALDH2 gene, this is what happens:
So, what works against acetaldehyde? Cysteine

REMEDY #1 Here is one formulae I used centering around N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) - a derivative of cysteine- both before and after drinking. Better living with amino acids.
  1. 600 - 1,200 mg of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) (about $20 for a 250 x 600 mg bottle: Take two (2 )capsules every 3-4 hours as needed)
  2. 250 mg of Alpha Lipoic Acid - helps off-set any potential side-effects of NAC as well as improve the effacy of it; it is also itself an anti-oxidant. (about $10 for a 120 x 250 mg bottle: Take one (1 )capsule every 3-4 hours as needed )
  3. 500mg or 1,000 mg of Vitamin C; you can get these anywhere. I don't have any attachment to a particular brand, but I did like the NOW Foods brand for the harder to find NAC and AlphaLipoic Acid tabs. (about $14 for 250 x 1,000 mg tablets: I wouldn't take more than 2 grams in a single day and certainly no more than 1 gram on an extended basis) 

REMEDY #2 What if you're hungover right now and don't have time to get these things? 
Look in your fridge and hopefully you'll have a excellent source of cysteine available - eggs, or more specifically, egg yolks

Here is a very simple but effective remedy. Takes only a few minutes to watch.
The addition of the orange juice adds water and sugars plus makes the eggs yolks go down a lot easier unless you like doing the Rocky thing.

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