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9 Supplements To Counteract The Negative Effects of Alcohol

Despite clinical proof that alcohol has detrimental effects on the human body, even more so than certain illegal substances, it still remains one of the world’s most readily available and favorite intoxicants. Alcohol has been a mainstay in nearly every society for thousands of years, and its commonality leads some people to not even recognize it as a drug. From sporting events to celebrations with family, it’s likely you will toss back a few drinks on occasion.

However, even moderate alcohol use can carry negative side effects. Consequently, many people seek supplements that will help mitigate some of the deleterious effects on the human body caused by consumption. Whether it’s for an occasional night on the town or more frequent use, or even for recovering from years of alcoholism, there are natural herbs, supplements, and nootropics that have been proven effective for harm reduction with alcohol use.

  • Before consuming any substance along with alcohol, be careful to check for any known interactions. Some nootropics have not been extensively studied and may possess undocumented interactions.
  • GABAergic nootropics like phenibut should be avoided because they can boost the effect of alcohol by producing similar effects of intoxication. It is generally not a good idea to mix alcohol with other depressants.
  • Many ADHD medications that contain amphetamine salts or methylphenidate can delay the onset of alcohol effects leading to increased consumption and potential heart problems.

Dihydromyricetin (DHM)

dihydromyricetinDihydromyricetin, a flavonoid, increases metabolism of both alcohol and its primary metabolite, acetaldehyde, by increasing key enzymatic action. In addition to ridding your body of these toxins, it has demonstrated effectiveness at blocking alcohol at the neurological level by binding to GABA receptors in place of alcohol. [1] While this compound theoretically shows promise for hangover prevention, many clinical studies need to take place before it’s classified as a safe supplement for human use.

Milk Thistle

Milk_thistle_flowerMilk Thistle, used as a natural medicine for over 2000 years, can accelerate the regeneration of liver cells and reduce fatty liver deposits that build up with alcohol use. It has been hypothesized that milk thistle increases the rate of protein synthesis in the liver, allowing it to more readily repair itself from alcohol-induced damage. [2] Milk thistle contains silibinin, which is thought to be the main active constituent of the plant.[3] Many users take milk thistle as a daily supplement, but it can also be consumed after a night of drinking to aid the liver in detoxification.

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC)

NAC is a nutritional supplement that is able to increase levels of the endogenous peptide glutathione [4], an important antioxidant. If you take NAC before a session of drinking, it can potentially reduce the oxidant side effects of alcohol. [5] It can also decrease the acetaminophen toxicity induced by alcohol. [6]
NAC also has anti-addictive properties.

Emoxypine

emoxypineEmoxypine (also known as Mexidol) is an antioxidant drug that is molecularly similar to pyroxidine, a form of vitamin B6. Emoxypine was first synthesized in Russia, where it is used in the medical field for its anxiolytic, nootropic, neuroprotective, and anti-inflammatory effects, among others. [7] Emoxypine possesses general antioxidant properties, but also can specifically counteract the negative effects of alcohol. It displays therapeutic effects against health issues caused by chronic alcohol use and acute intoxication. In experiments, emoxypine administration reversed the learning deficits caused by chronic alcohol use in rats. [8] Emoxypine also lowers lipofuscin amounts in the cerebrum, much like piracetam. In terms of acute alcohol use (one night of heavy drinking), emoxypine significantly reduces the physical and mental feelings of intoxication that alcohol produces, specifically improving muscle coordination and mental clarity.[9]

Tauroursodeoxycholic Acid (TUDCA)

TUDCATUDCA is a bile acid that is found in trace amounts within humans. However, additional supplementation may be beneficial for those who are attempting to recover from alcoholism. TUDCA is used in some countries to treat gallstones and cirrhosis of the liver, but it is not FDA approved for this purpose in the United States.[10] TUDCA has been demonstrated to increase healing rates in unhealthy livers, specifically ones that have been damaged by alcohol. [11] TUDCA should not be consumed before drinking, as it carries the possibility of potentiating liver damage. Rather, TUDCA should be supplemented after drinking, or could be used on a regular basis by former alcoholics who wish to promote healing in their liver. [12]

Ashwagandha

HER-ASH01-2Ashwagandha is an herbal supplement that contains various chemicals known collectively as withanolides. These chemicals have been found to be effective at decreasing social anxiety when paired with alcohol, and ineffective threshold doses of either appear to be highly effective when combined. [13] However, the social disinhibition produced by alcohol alone may make this combination unnecessary for some users. Another use of this popular supplement is to aid in quitting alcohol consumption altogether. Indeed, alcohol cessation cold turkey can lead to an increase in anxiety. Ashwagandha has been clinically proven to reduce spikes in anxiety from abstinence. [14]

Agmatine

Agmatine is an amino acid and neurotransmitter derived from the amino acid, L-Arginine. It has been noted for its positive effects on neuropathic pain and drug addiction. Agmatine appears to reduce symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and dependence, such as anxiety and tremors. [15] [16] One note of caution: Agmatine is known to be a gastro-protective agent but when co-ingested with alcohol it can enhance ulcer formation. [17]

Piracetam

piracetam_structure_500pxWhile moderate alcohol use does not typically cause damage to the brain, cognitive functions are significantly impaired following the consumption of alcohol, and can continue to be impaired the next day or so after it is consumed. Nootropics that possess cholinergic mechanisms are potentially effective in improving cognition against alcohol-induced impairment. [18] Alcohol consumption increases neuronal lipofuscin, which contributes to age-related neurodegenerative disorders. [19] Piracetam and other racetams, in general, inhibit the accumulation of neuronal lipofuscin, counteracting neurodegeneration. [20]

L-Theanine

Matcha
Matcha is a Japanese green tea with a very high content of L-Theanine

The amino acid theanine, which is naturally found in green tea, is another important supplement that may provide liver protection from alcohol consumption. In one study, mice treated with L-theanine prior to alcohol consumption had lower ethanol concentrations in their blood after one hour compared to mice that were administered only alcohol. [21] This implies that L-Theanine could help the body recover faster from the negative effects of alcohol. (Consequently, this also implies Theanine could also decrease the duration of alcohol’s “positive” recreational effects.) Alcohol use typically impairs the antioxidant capabilities of hepatocytes (liver cells), and L-theanine has been found to restore the antioxidant capabilities of these cells. [22]

Conclusion

Alcohol has maintained its status as society’s drug of choice throughout history. As a result, it will continue to be used extensively and excessively by many despite its potential health risks. Those who are well armed with the knowledge of the aforementioned substances can use them to counteract and overcome the neurological and physical difficulties caused by alcohol consumption.

At the end of the day, supplements and nootropics can only do so much to prevent the negative effects of alcohol. A cautious and responsible approach to alcohol consumption is ultimately the most important component of using alcohol safely.

References   [ + ]

1. Dihydromyricetin As A Novel Anti-Alcohol Intoxication Medication (2012)
2. Biochemical effects of the flavonolignane silibinin on RNA, protein and DNA synthesis in rat livers. (1986)
3. Silibinin protects OTA-mediated TNF-alpha release from perfused rat livers and isolated rat Kupffer cells. (2009)
4. Alcohol and thermally oxidized pufa induced oxidative stress: role of N-acetyl cysteine (2004)
5. Antioxidant therapy attenuates deficient bone fracture repair associated with binge alcohol exposure (2011)
6. Clinical course of repeated supratherapeutic ingestion of acetaminophen.
7. Comparative Analysis of the Anxiolytic Effects of 3-Hydroxypyridine and Succinic Acid Derivatives (2015)
8, 9. Antioxidant Mexidol. The main neuropsychotropic effects and the mechanism of action. mechanism of action. (2009)
10. The clinical profiles of primary biliary cirrhosis with a suboptimal biochemical response to ursodeoxycholic acid. (2011)
11. Endoplasmic reticulum stress inhibition protects steatotic and non-steatotic livers in partial hepatectomy under ischemia-reperfusion. (2010)
12. Toxicity of ethanol and acetaldehyde in hepatocytes treated with ursodeoxycholic or tauroursodeoxycholic acid. (2004)
13. Effect of Withania somnifera Dunal in ethanol-induced anxiolysis and withdrawal anxiety in rats. (2008)
14. Evaluation of Ashwagandha in alcohol withdrawal syndrome (2012)
15. Effects of agmatine on ethanol withdrawal syndrome in rats. (2000)
16. Agmatine, an endogenous imidazoline receptor ligand modulates ethanol anxiolysis and withdrawal anxiety in rats. (2010)
17. Investigation on the mechanism involved in the effects of agmatine on ethanol-induced gastric mucosal injury in rats. (2000)
18. Can nootropic drugs be effective against the impact of ethanol teratogenicity on cognitive performance? (2001)
19. Chronic alcohol consumption induces lipofuscin deposition in the rat hippocampus. (1986)
20. The effects of piracetam on lipofuscin of the rat cerebellar and hippocampal neurons after long-term alcohol treatment and withdrawal: a quantitative study. (1991)
21. Effects of theanine on alcohol metabolism and hepatic toxicity. (2005)
22. L-Theanine prevents alcoholic liver injury through enhancing the antioxidant capability of hepatocytes. (2012)

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