Our genes and alcohol: A complicated relationship

Ever wonder why some people seem to handle alcohol much better than others? DNA has a lot to do with it. Our genes are what make us unique — and also can have a significant impact on how our bodies process alcoholic beverages.

The actual process of metabolizing alcohol is the same for everybody. After a person starts consuming an alcoholic drink, their liver begins the work of using the enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) to break down the alcohol they consumed and flush it from their system. How efficiently each person’s body handles this seemingly simple task, though, can be very different.

At Frelii, we study a number of genetic markers that provide you with some important insight into how your body metabolizes alcohol. For those with a slow-acting ALDH, or the ADH1B variant, it can be significantly more difficult to clear alcohol from their systems, putting them at greater risk for the adverse affects of alcohol. In a newly released study — the largest of its kind to date — ADH1B also is linked to a greater risk of alcohol dependence. The gene CYP2E1 also can provide some insight into how your body — and mind — handles alcohol. People with the inactive form of ALDH2 are often more likely to have severe hangovers.

We provide you with a easy-to-read report that contains information about your unique alcohol metabolism characteristics and any recommended lifestyle changes based on your DNA. We’ve also created Bind, a supplement that helps rid your body of the toxins created by drinking alcohol. It uses a scientifically tested blend of charcoal and herbs to promote both the absorption and flushing of toxins out of your system. Bind absorbs up to 300 times its weight in toxins! Bind may not cure a hangover, but it may help prevent one!

Here are some other simple ways to reduce the adverse effects of drinking alcohol:

Stay hydrated: 1 for 1. For each alcoholic drink you consume, make a commitment to drink a glass of water. That way, your body will have plenty of water to help eliminate the toxins created by drinking alcohol. As a bonus, water can also help prevent dehydration, which can cause severe and lingering hangover symptoms the next day.

Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Eating healthy food before and during a party can slow the absorption of alcohol.

Take your time. Small sips over time can be a great way to go. Consider ditching the straw: It can make you drink more, faster.

Watch your portion size. As with food, portion size matters. Want a full glass? Fill it with a small amount of an alcoholic drink and then fill it to the top with seltzer water.

Choose your alcohol wisely. Some alcoholic drinks have a lot more toxic by-products for your body than others. They are, in order from best to worst: Vodka, gin, tequila, whiskey, other distilled spirits, dry cider, dry champagne, dry white wine, white wines, red wines, dessert wines and beer.

Steer clear of those sugary mixers. Heavy sugar mixers can increase the negative side effects of consuming alcohol. Opt for low- or no-sugar alternatives. If you want to sweeten an alcoholic drink, we recommend Zevia, Vitamin Water Zero and other stevia sweetened drinks.

Plan a party without alcohol. The non-alcoholic drink market has grown by 16 percent in the past two years, according to Nielsen data. Surprised? Beverage companies are adding a wide variety of new alcohol-free beverages to appeal to those who want to drink less alcohol or not at all. Here are some super cool non-alcoholic beverages to try at home.

Have a talk with your teenagers about alcohol. Studies show that alcohol use between the ages of 13-17 (the legal drinking age is 21) is more common than you might think — and also can have a variety of long-term adverse health effects, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, digestive problems, metabolism issues and mental issues.

You’ve heard the phrase ‘too much of a good thing.’ That definitely applies to alcohol! Keep in mind that alcohol use has been linked in numerous studies to an increased risk of various cancers, diabetes, liver, kidney and heart diseases. New findings from the University of Missouri School of Medicine suggest that even a single episode of binge drinking can affect the gene that regulates sleep and even more importantly, the quality of your sleep, indefinitely.

Regardless of your genetic risk, if you are going to drink, we always recommend doing so responsibly. If you do drink, know that:

  • Some people may experience facial flushing, nausea, and a rapid heart rate when consuming alcohol. These effects can occur with even moderate alcohol consumption.
  • In men, alcohol metabolism may contribute to testicular injury and may impair testosterone synthesis and sperm production.
  • Studies show that alcohol consumption can lead to weight gain for overweight people.
  • Alcohol consumption affects the metabolism of many different medications, increasing the activity of some and diminishing the effectiveness of others. Ask your physician for more information. Chronic heavy drinking has been found to activate the CYP2E1 enzyme, which can change acetaminophen into a toxic chemical that can cause liver damage even when taken in regular therapeutic doses. If you have a cold or flu and are taking over-the-counter medications containing Tylenol or acetaminophen, pay attention to warnings on the labels.

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