原创 蜂鸟健康TheHummingBird 2022-11-16 原文
Throughout the centuries, all the way up through today, we have associated someone who’s had too much to drink with slurred speech, the inability to walk in a straight line, the inability to think or speak clearly. We call it being drunk. If it becomes more severe and that person is vomiting or incapacitated, we may call it alcohol poisoning. Do we really know what happens when our bloodstream is saturated with a high volume of alcohol? We don’t, and we never did.
We assumed, because medical research and science assume, that more alcohol in the bloodstream leads directly to these actions and symptoms— that alcohol itself affects the brain to cause these experiences. Here’s the truth: no one knows exactly what happens inside the brain with alcohol. Intoxication is not fully understood; it’s only one aspect of what happens to the brain when someone drinks.
Alcohol’s effects start out with what is called getting a little “tipsy.” Some say alcohol helps them loosen up and speak their mind. Some say a couple of beers help them relax. Some say wine helps numb them out. Yethow does alcohol seem to loosen them up, relax them, or numb them out?
As we’ve discussed throughout this book, your brain survives on glucose. A lack of glucose to your brain can slowly starve it over time. And if glucose were eliminated from your bloodstream and never entered your brain, you could go into brain failure within moments. Alcohol is the all-time trick on your brain. That’s because your brain believes alcohol is sugar, sugar it can use. It believes it’s like the glucose that’s created by the foods you eat that contain carbohydrates and sugar. Really, alcohol ismethyl-sugar. It’s a hybrid of whatwas sugar—more of a vaporized sugar versus a usable sugar. Alcohol’s essence is sugar, yet it’s not.
As a result of this charade played on your brain that leads it to identify alcohol as critically needed glucose, several things go wrong. The more alcohol in your bloodstream, the harder it is for your brain to use any real source of glucose in your bloodstream. And alcohol dominates over any glucose storage left in the brain.
Your liver is your main glucose storage bin. Its job is to release glucose congruently as your brain needs it. There are moments when we aren’t getting sugar or glucose or fructose or any kind of carbohydrate in our diet, and we go into glucose deficits in the bloodstream. Your liver’s job in that case is to release glucose so your brain doesn’t completely starve. This includes circumstances where you aren’t eating for a long period of time. Remember, without glucose, your brain can’t survive. The liver fulfilling this role is why someone can do a water fast and their brain can survive the experience—because the liver is releasing ample glucose for the brain. Glycogen reserves in the brain and glucose reserves in the liver determine how long someone can withstand a water fast. Now, not everybody’s liver functions that well. Many people’s glucose storage bins can be minimal due to the liver being sluggish or stagnant, so drinking alcohol can affect these people more than alcohol affects people with strong livers. That’s why some say, “I can’t handle alcohol,” or “He can’t handle his liquor.” Because their livers are weakened, especially as they age.
Regardless of someone’s alcohol tolerance, when enough alcohol is consumed, the effects are all the same. As you’re drinking alcohol, it starts to poison and numb the liver, and your liver is your defense mechanism to stop alcohol from getting to your brain. By the time you start getting tipsy—or whatever you personally call the beginning stages of feeling alcohol’s effects, no matter how mild—your liver is already at its saturation level for protecting the brain. When we talk about “moderation” with alcohol, we miss this crucial point.
Alcohol is toxic in any amount, so the liver’s job is to soak up every last drop it can. When your liver is being poisoned by alcohol, it can’t release glucose anymore. Even if someone has a large storage bin of glucose, eventually the liver becomes paralyzed by the alcohol in this vitally important function—because the liver’s job of releasing glucose is halted. Its job instead becomes soaking up alcohol.
At the same time, alcohol pushes aside any glucose that is in the bloodstream, so alcohol becomes the brain’s number one choice for fuel, because alcohol seems like glucose, even though in the end, it isn’t. Alcohol is a byproduct of glucose. It’s a byproduct of sugar. It’s a ghost of what sugar was. So the brain becomes a victim of the ghost effect of alcohol. As more alcohol enters the brain, a person exhibits more drunken (that is, inebriated) behavior. When someone gets to the point of drunken behavior—slurred speech, inability to function normally—that means the brain is already starting to starve to death. And here’s a key understanding: most of the symptoms we associate with drunkenness and alcohol poisoning aren’t only from alcohol itself. Most are symptoms of the brain starting to die.
The more alcohol you consume in an evening or day, the less glucose the brain absorbs and then fuels itself with. If we think of the optimum as 100 percent of glucose entering the brain and keeping it alive, then drinking alcohol brings that glucose percentage down to 5 to 10 percent, depending on how inebriated someone is. It’s like taking a fish out of water, watching it gasp on the beach as it takes in oxygen instead of water, then putting it back in the water to revive it, and then taking it back out and repeating. The fish will stay alive, although it pays the price for being thrust into survival mode. This is what happens when someone drinks alcohol regularly. Just enough glucose is getting to the brain to keep the person alive, yet it’s so little that the person loses the ability to function. You become a walking, talking example of a dying brain.
Alcohol dominates over glucose getting to the brain because not only is the liver intoxicated and paralyzed and cannot release enough glucose to get to the brain—but the brain chooses alcohol over glucose. This is not because the brain needs alcohol, or because alcohol is good for the brain. Again, it’s because the brain is being tricked into thinking the alcohol is the most accessible, viable form of glucose.
THE INTOXICATION ELEMENT
The effect of alcohol on the brain isn’t solely from this trick sugar effect, where the brain becomes starved of valuable glucose. Alcohol is indeed a poison, and as a poison it does have an effect that can be intoxicating and debilitating. Yet the slurred speech when someone is on their third drink is because the brain is starting to starve from glucose and therefore losing the ability to function.
When inebriation becomes extreme and drastic and someone drinks so much that they collapse, conk out, and fall asleep, that drunken sleep is a game of Russian roulette. Because if the brain doesn’t get any glucose at all due to the intensity of intoxication, the brain can actually starve and that person can die in their sleep. Or due to alcohol poisoning (one aspect of inebriation that’s not about lack of glucose), they may need to vomit. As the brain is dying from a lack of glucose, the nerves are not functioning optimally. The vagus nerves can become paralyzed as the brain is losing deeper glucose reserves, meaning that as someone is vomiting in their sleep, it’s easier to choke and die.
Eating enough glucose-rich foods and keeping your fats low is important before a drinking night so you have ample storage bins of glucose freshly available. This is why when someone says, “I’m drinking on an empty stomach. I haven’t eaten today,” you’ll see them get buzzed faster, showing those first effects of drinking early. We think this buzz, this tipsiness, is because the brain becomes intoxicated with alcohol. Really an alcohol buzz is a brain starving of glucose. The liver is starting to mop up the alcohol, so it’s not releasing glucose anymore, and because someone didn’t eat, they also don’t have freshly available glucose in the bloodstream. For someone who did eat that day, it takes longer for the alcohol to affect them as they start drinking because they at least have that fresh glucose for the brain.
It takes a larger volume of alcohol for intoxication to come into it—that is, for the poison aspect of alcohol to play a role in someone’s symptoms. Even then, drunkenness is part intoxication by alcohol and part brain starving of glucose.
If drunkenness were only about intoxication of alcohol, the symptoms would be limited: someone would be nauseous, vomiting, feel sick in the head, feel dizzy, yet while greatly sick, they would still be coherent. It’s the starvation of the brain happening at the same time that leads to loss of motor skill function, slurred speech and other difficulties speaking, not understanding what someone is saying, and at the same time, saying things you don’t know you’re saying. As the brain is getting very little glucose, on the edge of staying alive, certain parts of the brain start to shut down.
MISGUIDED HANGOVER CURES
A hangover, like drunkenness itself, is part from starvation of glucose, part from intoxication of alcohol. The worst approach for recovery is to drink again the next day. Even though that’s the advice given to many people who drink, it’s the worst option. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t shake a hangover— because once again, you’re starving the brain of glucose.
The reason people tend to gorge on food the day after drinking is because their brain is asking for glucose. Depending on how much alcohol someone consumed, the brain narrowly missed starving to death from lack of glucose, so now the organ sends messaging throughout the body that it needs large amounts of glucose desperately and immediately. At the same time, someone could still be nauseous from the alcohol, feeling sick to the stomach and like they can’t really hold down food yet. That queasy part of a hangover is from the toxic nature of alcohol.
Many people don’t drink to the point of nausea and vomiting. They are still looking to scarf down food to sober up. The same night they drank, they’re looking for a diner or drive-through at two or five o’clock in the morning, ordering a whole stack of pancakes with maple syrup, toast, eggs, bacon, waffles, hash browns, burgers, fries, tacos, or burritos. Or they’re turning to ample food the next day. The common phrase is “sopping up the alcohol.” It even happens when someone is actively drinking, out at a party or a bar when a companion says, “You’ve got to eat something to sop up that alcohol.” What no one realizes is that eating food after drinking alcohol is actually about getting glucose to the brain so it can come out of its starving state and start to function again.
Because we misunderstand what’s going on in the brain and body, we’re still not getting what our brain really needs—because we’re adding fat. Mistakenly, we reach for a combination of carbohydrates plus fat, and that fat inhibits the carbohydrates’ glucose from getting to the brain. For example, frying hash browns in oil, butter, and grease inhibits the potato’s glucose from easily getting to the brain. Now we’re getting insulin resistance, and our body has to fight to divide the sugar and fat so the sugar can get to much- needed places in the brain and other parts of the body. It’s not like we’re trying to recover from a drunken stupor by consuming fruit such as bananas or papayas or mineral salts from sources such as spinach, other leafy greens, or celery juice. Instead we go for a plate of eggs, which is fat. Or we go for toast with avocado, or oatmeal with nut butter—and avocado and nut butter are both fats getting in the way of the glucose from the carbohydrates of the toast or oatmeal. Across the board, pizza (again, sugar plus fat) is often the most popular go-to after a night or even day of drinking.
ADRENALINE SURGE OF SURVIVAL
Why is starving the brain of glucose addictive—that is, why is alcohol addictive? Because there’s an unexpected adrenaline high that comes with the brain losing its fuel source to stay alive. The more alcohol that gets to a brain, in turn starving the brain of glucose, the more adrenaline (epinephrine) is released. This adrenaline can affect each person differently. It can determine if someone is going to be an angry drunk, or if someone is going to be sitting down on the ground crying or outright bawling when they’re drunk.
When we say alcohol is talking for someone, what we’re really witnessing is adrenaline being used by a brain starving to death. Any time we’re in danger on any level, our adrenals send out an adrenaline blend in hopes of changing the chemistry of our bloodstream to help in any way possible. Adrenaline becomes a backup fuel when the brain has no fuel. And remember, adrenaline in itself is an addiction. The more inebriated we get and the more our brain starves of fuel, the more adrenaline is released.
This adrenaline surge often affects people based on what experiences they’ve had in their life. We each feel different emotions when adrenaline is released. Life experiences and wounds tend to peek their heads up when someone drinks. That’s one reason why each person has a different emotional experience when they drink. Some people call alcohol relaxing, some say it gives them a migraine, some say it makes them sad and depressed, some say it makes them happy, some say it gives them strength, energy, and courage. It’s all about how someone’s reacting to the adrenaline surge. Some people get pumped up when they start to drink—excited, screaming, and yelling with their first round of beers, whether cheering at a sports event or simply celebrating that happy hour moment.
They call it “happy hour” for a reason. The sensation that occurs when you’re knocking back that first drink is this adrenaline surge of survival in the face of brain starvation. If we understood this, what we’d be shouting instead of “Cheers!” is “My brain is about to start starving to death! My adrenal glands are going to release a tremendous amount of epinephrine to keep my brain alive! At the same time, I’m going to feel the brain effects of intoxication from alcohol’s poison! All in one, it’s going to give me a great night!” Except it wouldn’t feel like such a great night after all.