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Hangovers in two views

Find out how your liver processes alcohol in two views.

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How does your liver process alcohol?

Doctors and scientists believe that there really isn't any upside to the way excessive alcohol intake is processed in your body. Or, as they put it, metabolised by your liver. So that often thankless organ is basically doing a ton of extra hard work just to keep as much of the poison out of the rest of you as possible. Remember that before you order that one last drink.

liver with beer


Your liver is what actual processes alcohol and it does so in two rather simple stages.

First, there's an enzyme found in your liver cells called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH). This ADH converts the alcohol it comes in contact with into a toxic substance called acetaldehyde.

Acetaldehyde is then converted to acetate (a non-toxic substance) by another enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). Normally, this conversion is quickly done and excreted from your body. But when you've consumed a lot of alcohol, your liver often does not convert the acetaldehyde as quickly. At this point it may build up enough of that bad stuff it can't convert and that's what contributes to the nausea, vomiting and sweating of a hangover.

It's not just ethanol that causes our hangover since it isn't the only type of alcohol in beer, wine and/or spirits. Methanol can be present, particularly in cheap wine, and that is a poison to humans.

When the liver breaks down methanol, formic acid is formed - a really nasty chemical that you don't anywhere near your body. So take it easy the next time you decide to pour another glass of that good ol' methanol. Your liver will thank you for it.

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Hangover 'remedies'.

Here's a list of home remedies we've found that supposedly taking care of that massive, pounding hangover. Some are from bartentders, some are just folklore. Some are even billed as natural ways to take care of 'the dog that bit 'ya'. Just remember, only time and water are what most doctors and scientists believe in. That, and the fact that prevention is often the best form of medicine.

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