How Can I Counteract The Toxic Effects of Alcohol?

Fish Oil, Turmeric, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Exercise and Abstinence

Many nootropics users enjoy the pleasant subjective state that alcohol produces. When it comes to drinking, research seems to indicate that use in moderation may have significant health benefits, and different consumers also find their creativity and linguistic fluency temporarily boosted in due to psychological disinhibition, results that initially persuade different individuals to keep the habit at least during the weekends. On the opposite side of the spectrum, roughly 88,000 Americans die from excessive alcohol use each year. High levels of alcohol over the years will damage the heart, liver, brain and blood vessels, as well as increase risk for multiple cancers.

Alcohol-induced degeneration occurs due to neuronal death during alcohol intoxication, in which levels of oxidative stress in the brain coincide with the induction of pro inflammatory cytokines and oxidative enzymes that intemperate the nervous system. These long-term effects of alcohol all stem from the fact that in high doses -aka binge drinking-, it’s actually toxic. In the brain, alcohol is an oxidant, triggering a series of inflammatory pathways that are thought to contribute to dementia. So, how can we continue enjoying alcohol while diminishing the toxic effects of it?

In this study from the Loyola School of Medicine, brain cells exposed to DHA with alcohol showed significantly less inflammation and cell death than those exposed to alcohol alone. In effect, administration of DHA seemed to shut down the oxidative damage that binge drinking usually exerts on the brain: the team observed that there was up to 90% less neuroinflammation and neuronal death in the brain cells that had been exposed to DHA than in the cells that had just been exposed to alcohol. “Fish oil has the potential of helping preserve brain integrity in chronic alcohol abusers,” says study author Michael A. Collins, PhD. Thus, this findings strength the data for the powerful health benefits of DHA on the brain.

Furthermore, a study conducted in India at Panjab University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, “Protective effect of curcumin against chronic alcohol-induced cognitive deficits and neuroinflammation in the adult rat brain”, was recently completed during 2013. What researchers basically did was exposing rats to ethanol dosing during 10 weeks, and observed the consequential dysfunctional neurocognitive behavior. Afterwards, the rats received Indian curcumin during other 10 weeks, and they were again observed and measure. The results were promising: curcumin was found to significantly and dose-dependently prevent the behavioural, biochemical, and molecular alterations induced by chronic ethanol administration. Thus, impairments in spatial navigation and poor retention were apparently solved alleviated the compound. You can find curcumin in your delicious turmeric, essential ingredient in the preparation of curry. Check our article about Turmeric’s antioxidant benefits here.

Researchers from the University of Nebraska found similar neuroprotectant properties in Acetyl-L-Carnitine, which seems to dissolve considerably nitric oxide (iNOS), subtance that result in free radical damage to the frontal cortex. Coadministration of ALC with alcohol showed a significant reduction in oxidative damage and neuronal loss and a restoration of synaptic neurotransmission in this brain region, suggesting that ALC protects brain cells from ethanol-induced oxidative injury.  Thus, it seems that Acetyl-L-Carnitine protects nerves and brain plasticity.

On the other hand, according to a new University of Colorado Boulder study, aerobic exercise may help prevent and perhaps even reverse some of the brain damage associated with heavy alcohol consumption. “We found that for people who drink a lot and exercise a lot, there was not a strong relationship between alcohol and white matter,” said Karoly. “But for people who drink a lot and dont exercise, our study showed the integrity of white matter is compromised in several areas of the brain. It basically means white matter is not moving messages between areas of the brain as efficiently as normal.”  The design of this experiment can only provide correlative data. The associations revealed here must be tested in further experiments to show that there is a causal link between exercise and protection against white matter damage caused by drinking alcohol, and to uncover the biological mechanisms for the protection. However, these findings revealing the protective effects of aerobic exercise on preventing white matter brain damage in drinkers are compelling and valuable, regardless of whatever biological link to explain this correlation may be found in the future. You can analyze the clinical trial by yourself  here.

Finally, regeneration of brain occurs during abstinence following binge ethanol treatment. Bursts of proliferating cells occur across multiple brain regions, with many new microglia across brain after months of abstinence and many new neurons in neurogenic hippocampal dentate gyrus. Thus, abstinence after binge ethanol intoxication results in brain cell genesis that could contribute to the return of brain function and structure found in abstinent humans.

In conclusion, if you drink, consider a daily omega-3 supplement containing mostly of 100mg DHA; try some delicious Indian food;  and acetyl-l-carnitine, which will be also really helpful when doing exercise. And evidently, your brain will be grateful if you give it some days of recuperation after that big party.