As imbibers, if we choose to consume alcohol, we should be informed about the specifics of the damage our bodies take.
We all know alcohol is bad for us. But we still carry on and try not to get too crazy.
Common adage says that no more than 2 drinks a day is moderate and considered safe. False.
Current studies, as proposed by Dr. Huberman, point out that zero alcohol consumption is considered safe. At the most, two drinks a week is considered safe for minimal to no effects on the body.
I strongly suggest you listen to the podcast. It is dense with information so I listed 10 main takeaways.
If you want to know more, I listed 10 expanded takeaways.
10 Quick Take Aways
- Alcohol affects different people in different ways, ranging from increased alertness to impaired judgment and motor function.
- Alcohol travels to the brain and has indiscriminate effects on different areas involved in thinking and behavior.
- Alcohol suppresses the activity of neurons in the prefrontal cortex, leading to increased impulsiveness and reduced top-down inhibition.
- Chronic drinking can lead to changes in neural circuits and result in increased impulsiveness, even when not drinking.
- The effects of alcohol on the brain's neural circuits are not often discussed, but can lead to decreased top-down inhibition and increased impulsiveness and habit formation.
- Chronic drinking can lead to changes in the brain's neural circuits and result in a reduction of inhibitory contacts within the circuits controlling behavior.
- Changes in the brain's neural circuits can be reversed with a period of sobriety, usually ranging from 2 to 6 months, except in cases of heavy, long-term alcohol consumption.
- Alcohol consumption has a significant effect on the release and activity of serotonin, a neuromodulator involved in mood and feelings of well-being.
- Alcohol consumption can result in blackouts, where people perform actions but have no memory of them due to a shut down of memory-forming neurons in the hippocampus.
- The gut-liver-brain axis refers to the communication between the gut, liver, and brain, and alcohol consumption can disrupt this axis and lead to increased drinking.
Now for the main takeaways and some points on each:
Inebriation: Top-Down Inhibition, Impulsivity & Memory Formation
- Alcohol affects different people in different ways, with some feeling more alert and energetic while others experience impaired motor function and judgment.
- Alcohol is metabolized in the liver and travels to the brain, where it has indiscriminate effects on different areas involved in thinking and behavior.
- Alcohol's initial effect is a suppression of the activity of neurons in the prefrontal cortex, leading to increased impulsiveness and reduced top-down inhibition.
- Chronic drinking can lead to changes in neural circuits controlling habitual and impulsive behavior, leading to increased impulsiveness even when not drinking.
- Regular drinking leads to an increase in the number of synapses in neural circuits controlling habitual behavior and a reduction in the number of synapses in those controlling behavior.
Long-Lasting Effects & Impulsivity, Neuroplasticity & Reversibility
- The effects of alcohol on neural circuits, particularly in terms of decreased top-down inhibition and increased impulsivity and habit formation, are not often discussed.
- Chronic drinking, even as infrequent as once a week, can lead to changes in the brain's neural circuits and result in a reduction of inhibitory contacts within the circuits controlling behavior.
- These changes in the brain's neural circuits can be reversed with a period of sobriety, usually ranging from 2 to 6 months, except in cases of heavy, long-term alcohol consumption.
- The effects of alcohol intake can vary greatly based on factors such as body weight, with two drinks per night being considered a lot for some people.
- While there may be long-lasting impacts of heavy alcohol consumption, people who have struggled with alcoholism can still focus on their health and see improvement in brain circuits with sobriety.
Gut-Liver-Brain Axis: Alcohol, Gut Microbiome, Inflammation & Leaky Gut
- The gut liver brain axis refers to the communication between the gut, liver, and brain through nerve cells, chemical signaling, and neural signaling.
- Alcohol consumption disrupts the gut microbiome and increases the release of inflammatory cytokines, causing a leaky gut and allowing bad bacteria to enter the bloodstream.
- This disruption also affects the neural circuits that regulate alcohol intake, leading to increased drinking and further exacerbation of the gut liver brain axis.
- Replenishing the gut microbiome through fermented foods, probiotics, and prebiotics has the potential to repair the negative effects of alcohol consumption on the gut liver brain axis.
- Regular consumption of two to four servings of low-sugar fermented foods per day has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve the gut microbiome.
Hangover: Alcohol & Sleep, Anxiety, Headache
- Hangover is a combination of physical and psychological symptoms, including headache, nausea, and anxiety. The anxiety that follows drinking is caused by an increase in cortisol levels and a decrease in other stress hormones.
- Poor quality sleep is one of the main causes of hangover symptoms. Alcohol disrupts the architecture of sleep, including slow wave sleep, deep sleep, and rapid eye movement sleep, which are essential for a restorative night's sleep.
- The gut microbiome is also impacted by alcohol, leading to leaky gut and other gut-related symptoms. Ingesting low sugar fermented foods, prebiotics, or probiotics can help support the gut microbiome and alleviate some of the malaise associated with hangover.
- Headaches are caused by vasoconstriction, a rebound effect after a night of drinking, when the blood vessels constrict. Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin or Tylenol, can alleviate headaches but can have negative impacts on the liver and immune system.
- Deliberate cold exposure, such as taking a cold shower, may help with alcohol clearance, but it is important to be aware of the dangers of lowering the core body temperature while inebriated. The central command centers of the brain that regulate temperature regulation are disrupted by alcohol, making it dangerous to engage in cold exposure activities.
Are There Any Positive Effects of Alcohol?
- The idea that red wine is good for your health due to its high levels of resveratrol is not supported by peer-reviewed research.
- Drinking any amount of alcohol, including low to moderate levels, has been shown to reduce the thickness of the brain and increase the risk of shrinkage in gray matter volume.
- The best amount of alcohol to drink for health benefits is zero glasses per week.
- Alcohol consumption can alter DNA methylation and gene expression, leading to an increased risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer.
- The amount of alcohol in a drink and the size of the serving can vary greatly across different countries, making it difficult to determine the exact amount of alcohol consumed.
As someone who loves the taste of a great cocktail, cheap cold beer next to a body of water, a romantic day with a chill bottle of champagne—and who values cognitive performance every day—this is all a tough pill to swallow.
I successfully completed Dry January and felt great—super energized and got the most out of every day.
The first week of February came, my cognitive performance was low, and I had a two-day hangover. Wasted time.
There's a lot to say and consider, and I'll be sharing my notes and journey with y'all.
But for now, I want to share these notes from this podcast episode.