99% of you: “It’s been a rough week.” Because when you’re chronically ill, you rarely do things without thinking about the consequences. The phrase “carefree” is something you hear with envy, but not anger, because more than likely getting angry will also make you sicker. Sometimes you just wanna get away from living in a jail cell of insane rules.
The worst part about Southwest Airlines is not the nasty cabin smell. No, it’s that they rub in how, for most people, “Wanna get away” is a few bucks and peanuts. Most patients can’t physically travel without paying dearly, nor can they get away figuratively by having a few drinks. So when Dr. Cheney described the benzodiazepine klonopin as “brain-protective”, patients everywhere did a little mental dance because about this potentially-healthy getaway. Then they tripped mid-dance when they discovered that a vegetative state wasn’t really the getaway they were looking for, and the deal with the devil comes with a side of addictive and withdrawal symptoms. So that takes us back to alcohol…
“Dionysus: Is it too much to ask the God of Wine for an occasional cup of fugg-it-all?”
Mid-prayer, I recalled Greek Gods don’t like to intervene in human affairs, so I turned to science and started a (mostly painful) n=1 experiment to see if I could get around the alcohol intolerance.
A brief background: My autoimmune disease kindly incorporates a series of detoxification impairment from methylation and biotoxin-stuckage to liver phase 1 | phase 2 imbalance. I haven’t had an alcoholic drink in 6 years that I didn’t profoundly regret the next day. I used to have a fairly high alcohol tolerance.
Experiment #1: New Grist Gluten-Free Sorghum Beer
Amount: 1 bottle
Buzz: What’s that?
Effect: Brain and gut inflammation, dry mouth, insomnia, rapid HR
Day-After effect: Rapid HR and dehydration continued, muscle soreness and malaise
Thoughts: Although gf, sorghum is still a grain and may have bothered me. If you’ll notice, gluten-free beers are never yeast-free too. Filtered beers filter out most of the yeast so are a safer bet, but I have never seen a filtered gluten-free beer so you’re picking your poison there. Sapporo claims it comes close to yeast-free.
Experiment #2: Frey Vineyards Organic Sulfite-Free Red Table Wine
Amount: 2 glasses
Immediate effect: Same as beer, with less brain inflammation
Day-After effect: Same as beer
Thoughts: On paper, this looked like a winner. None of the headaches I used to get from sulfites. Likelihood of yeast is much lower than in beer (if it looks cloudy, that’s yeast). In reality, I was scared shitless. The rapid HR on party night was one thing, but the tachycardia and I both extended uncomfortably into day 2 like Stretch Armstrong. At this point, I thought it had to be either the alcohol or yeast that was causing most of these symptoms (since wine is totally gluten-free and grain-free).
Experiment #3: Reposado Tequila
Amount: 4 shots
Immediate effect: Dehydration (a normal reaction), moderately elevated HR, insomnia, no gut issues
Day-After effect: Listless and sore in the morning, but much better after detox
Thoughts: The clear winner. I’ve always read that hard liquor is the best choice because it’s distilled (totally yeast-free), but hadn’t had the cajones to say “F U” to my liver after all these years of compromising it with illness and babying it with liver support supplements and coffee. In the name of science, I stopped being a liver prude for 1 night and got a legitimate buzz for the first time in almost a decade. Literally, this is probably the happiest a human being has ever been watching a movie about medieval war strategy. The most impressive part: I was functional the next day on 6 hours of sleep.
I think the real culprit for immediate symptoms of alcohol intolerance is yeast, and possibly mycotoxins. I think the wine gave me less inflammation than the beer because of lower yeast. Hard alcohol eliminates both these issues (and was the only one that didn’t give me gut issues), so with hard alcohol, I suspect that symptoms here are an equation of how fast you detox the alcohol.
Since I’m on Paleo, I went with 100% agave tequila instead of grain-based liquor like Vodka. I drank this in the form of Robb Wolf’s Norcal Margarita and it went down without a hitch. The lime in the recipe blunts the insulin response caused by the alcohol. Robb also recommends rum with coconut water.
Get Outta Here!
Here’s the case where I would recommend a one-night stand: make the alcohol to GTFO after tonight’s fun.
To make sure you metabolize the alcohol, the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase, or ALDH, is the enzyme present in your liver that changes alcohol from a toxic substance into acetic acid, also known as vinegar. Life Extension’s Anti-Alcohol Antioxidants looks like it may support this enzyme and other antioxidants that neutralize toxic alcohol metabolites, but I haven’t tried it. (Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in or affiliation with this product.)
Cholestyramine or other binders plus a coffee enema the next morning may go a long way to clearing the toxins and making sure they’re not reabsorbed. After I took CSM, my soreness and brain fog went away. If drinking in the evening causes insomnia, drink earlier in the day. Ignore (or embrace!) the cries of “drinking in the afternoon…you an alcoholic?” Alcoholism, much like a stutter, will cause your peers to underestimate you, giving you a leg up in battle.
Pre-Party: Eat high fat before drinking! The fatty acids will line your stomach and slow down absorption of alcohol, giving your body more time to break down the toxins.
After-Party: Eat high-cysteine foodslike eggs after drinking. Cysteine helps break down aldehyde.
No matter how you cut it, alcohol isn’t healthy so I’ll keep to 1x a week. There’s also a fine line between getaway and dependence. But there’s also something to be said for the health benefits of socializing, laughing, being spontaneous, all of which are side effects of debauchery. To my fellow patient warriors: hopefully my little experiment will carry over to good times for you. You deserve it.