Mitigating the Negative Effects of Alcohol: Exploring Electrolytes, Fermented Foods, and Cold Exposure

Hangover Recovery, Dehydration & Electrolytes

Huberman discusses how to alleviate hangovers, which are multifaceted phenomena that can be caused by a number of things happening in the brain and body. One of the main causes of hangovers is dehydration associated with alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a diuretic that causes people to excrete not only water, but also sodium, which is an electrolyte critical for the function of neurons.

To ensure proper brain function and bodily organ function, it’s important to make sure that you have enough sodium, potassium, and magnesium, or electrolytes, in your body. Even for people that have had just one or two drinks the night before, it’s likely that their electrolyte balance and fluid balance will be disrupted. This is because alcohol also disrupts the vasopressin pathway, which controls different aspects of water retention and water release from the body in the form of urine.

To minimize the effects of a hangover, it’s ideal to have proper electrolyte levels before drinking alcohol. Huberman suggests that for every glass of alcohol consumed, it’s a good idea to drink two glasses of water, or even better, water with electrolytes. If this is not possible, then taking electrolytes upon waking or even before going to sleep can help.

Hangovers can also be made worse by disturbed sleep, a disrupted gut microbiome, and the depletion of epinephrine and dopamine. To alleviate these symptoms, replenishing the microbiome with fermented foods, using safe deliberate cold exposure to spike adrenaline, and consuming electrolytes can be beneficial.

Huberman concludes by stating that while there isn’t a lot of quality science to support the idea that any one compound can eliminate a hangover, there are a collection of powerful things that can be done to alleviate symptoms. 

Food & Alcohol Absorption

One of the key points he makes is that eating before or while consuming alcohol can slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream, meaning that people will not feel as drunk as quickly.

He explains that meals that include carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are most effective in slowing the absorption of alcohol.

However, he also clarifies that if someone is already inebriated and eats, it will not sober them up more quickly, but it will blunt the effects of any additional alcohol they may consume.

He suggest that for someone who is concerned about getting too drunk too quickly, having food in their stomach can be beneficial.

Tool: Improving/Replenishing Gut Microbiome

According to Dr. Andrew Huberman, there may be a way to at least partially mitigate the negative effects of alcohol consumption on the gut microbiome. Replenishing the gut microbiome may be beneficial for those who are currently ingesting alcohol or who have consumed alcohol in the past and are looking to repair the systems of the brain and body. Studies conducted by colleagues of Dr. Huberman at Stanford University have explored ways to improve the gut microbiome in order to reduce the production of inflammatory cytokines and adjust the inflammatome. The inflammatome is the total array of genes and proteins that control inflammation.

Dr. Huberman explains that consuming two to four servings of fermented foods per day, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, natto, and low-sugar varieties of yogurt and kefir, can reduce inflammatory markers and improve the gut microbiome. While this has not been specifically examined in the context of alcohol use disorder, it stands to reason that consuming fermented foods could be beneficial in terms of trying to repair or replenish the system. Taking probiotics or prebiotics may also be effective, but Dr. Huberman focuses on fermented foods, as there are more studies that have examined the benefits of fermented foods in humans and the relationship between consuming fermented foods and reducing negative markers within the inflammatome has been established.

Hangover Recovery, Adrenaline & Deliberate Cold Exposure

Huberman discusses the potential benefits of using deliberate cold exposure, such as taking a cold shower, to alleviate the symptoms of a hangover. He notes that although there is not a lot of research on this topic, some studies suggest that increasing the levels of epinephrine in the bloodstream can help with alcohol clearance and reduce the inebriating effects of alcohol.

However, Huberman also stresses the importance of safety when it comes to using deliberate cold exposure for hangover recovery. Alcohol lowers core body temperature, which can make people slightly hypothermic. Going into cold water, whether it’s a pool, lake, or shower, while inebriated can be extremely dangerous and can lead to further drops in core body temperature. This is because alcohol disrupts the central command centers in the brain that control temperature regulation, and can lead to hypothermia.

When the alcohol has been cleared from the system, however, deliberate cold exposure can be a safe way to spike adrenaline and dopamine, which has been shown to help alleviate hangover symptoms. Huberman also points out that cold exposure can provide long-extended increases in dopamine levels in humans, and that these benefits have been well-documented.

Mitigating Cancer Risk, Folate, B Vitamins

Huberman discusses how people can partially offset the negative effects of alcohol on the formation of certain types of tumors and cancers. He emphasizes that consuming folate and B vitamins, particularly B12, has been shown to decrease cancer risk in people who consume alcohol, but it is not a guarantee. The reason for this is not entirely clear but may have to do with the relationship between these vitamins and gene regulation pathways that can lead to tumor growth.

Huberman also mentions that the link between B vitamins and cancer risk is not yet fully understood and that they plan to have an expert in cancer biology, specifically breast cancer biology, on the program in the future to provide more information. He also points out that many reported hangover supplements and treatments include folate and B12, though it is unclear if their creators had cancer literature in mind when developing them. He also explains that alcohol disrupts B vitamin pathways, both in terms of synthesis and utilization.

Overall, it is important to note that consuming adequate amounts of folate and B12 might partially offset the increased risk of cancer associated with alcohol consumption. But it’s also important to keep in mind that it’s not a complete guarantee and should not be considered as a replacement for the guidelines set by the health authorities.

Wrapping Up 

We’ve discussed some strategies for reducing the negative effects of alcohol consumption on the body and brain, as outlined by Dr. Andrew Huberman. He suggests that replenishing the gut microbiome may be beneficial for those who are currently ingesting alcohol or who have consumed alcohol in the past and are looking to repair the systems of the brain and body. Consuming two to four servings of fermented foods per day, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, natto, and low-sugar varieties of yogurt and kefir, can reduce inflammatory markers and improve the gut microbiome.

He also discussed the potential benefits of using deliberate cold exposure, such as taking a cold shower, to alleviate the symptoms of a hangover but stressing on the importance of safety. Moreover, He discussed how proper electrolyte levels before drinking alcohol can minimize the effects of a hangover and suggested drinking water, water with electrolytes for every glass of alcohol consumed, or taking electrolytes upon waking or even before going to sleep can help. Additionally, He also stressed on the importance of staying hydrated and replenishing the electrolytes lost during alcohol consumption.


Related Posts


Articles Mentioned

Articles Associations between alcohol consumption and gray and white matter volumes in the UK Biobank: https://go.nature.com/3PNFj7y

Gut Microbiota at the Intersection of Alcohol, Brain, and the Liver: https://bit.ly/3AaeF2F

Tolerance to alcohol: A critical yet understudied factor in alcohol addiction: https://bit.ly/3CmfCYo

Associations Between Drinking and Cortical Thickness in Younger Adult Drinkers: Findings From the Human Connectome Project: https://bit.ly/3AeUosJ

Moderate Alcohol Consumption and the Risk of Breast Cancer: https://bit.ly/3PHlJcK

Can alcohol promote aromatization of androgens to estrogens? A review: https://bit.ly/3dJjGHZ

Other Resources Examine – Alcohol & Hangover: https://bit.ly/3QHYpx4


Huberman’s Socials

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/hubermanlab

Twitter – https://twitter.com/hubermanlab

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/hubermanlab

Website –

https://hubermanlab.com

Newsletter – https://hubermanlab.com/neural-network

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@hubermanlab

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrew-huberman/

Our Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/andrewhuberman


Huberman’s Sponsors

AG1 (Athletic Greens): https://athleticgreens.com/huberman

Levels: https://levels.link/huberman

Eight Sleep: https://www.eightsleep.com/huberman

ROKA: https://www.roka.com/huberman

Supplements from Momentous https://www.livemomentous.com/huberman


Disclaimer

The content above is a summary from the Huberman Lab podcast. I’m not affiliated with him. This is an attempt to convert a podcast into a readable blog post.

If you’d like to support Huberman, you can do so by checking out the sponsors. All affiliate links go to Dr. Huberman.


Thanks for reading Huberman Labs! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.

Leave a Comment