Can you fight a hangover by eating asparagus?

Guillermo López Lluch

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If I suddenly started talking to you about the veisalgia, practically no one would know what I mean. But if I tell you that it refers to a series of symptoms that produce general discomfort due to excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages, I think everyone will understand that I speak of the hangover.

The most common symptoms of a hangover are feeling nausea theinability to ingest due to dehydration of the gastric mucosa, but intense due to this same dehydration since alcohol is a powerful diuretic, heartburn, a slight amnesia, headache, muscle weakness and pain and dullness.

Obviously no one wants to suffer all those kinds of unpleasant symptoms after having had a lively party. But, despite the foreseeable damage, it does not seem that many will stop drinking because of these symptoms. That is why we do not stop looking for remedies.

Home remedies against hangovers

Most hangover remedies are based on treating symptoms. Headache is treated with pain relievers or anti-inflammatories. Dehydration with the consumption of many liquids, even alcohol. Antacids are for heartburn. And so we cover the damage that alcohol has been causing in the body.

Other so-called “cures” are based on ingesting substances that correct the metabolic ravages triggered by alcohol. This is the case of isotonic drinks, coffee or tea, but also a breakfast rich in carbohydrates and antioxidants.

Do Asparagus Speed ​​Up Alcohol Metabolism?

Practically everything we eat passes, in the first place, through the liver, responsible for eliminating toxins such as alcohol from our body. In fact, it is considered a powerful liver aggressor, the main cause of fatty liver, cirrhosis, fibrosis and cancer.

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The main enzymes that metabolize alcohol in the liver there are two: alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and a form of cytochrome P450, CYP2E1. ADH oxidizes ethanol and produces acetaldehyde as a product. Acetaldehyde is also one of the main factors causing many of the symptoms of hangovers such as increased temperature, heart rate, decreased blood pressure, nausea or headache.

On the other hand, acetaldehyde is highly toxic in the liver, but its cells contain another enzyme called acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) that transforms acetaldehyde into acetate, which is much less toxic and can be metabolized into fats.

Therefore, any compound or food or supplement that increases the activity of the enzymes that eliminate alcohol and acetaldehyde can be considered good for a hangover. This is the reason why, recently, the use of probiotic bacterial strains to protect the liver from damage caused by alcohol. And the same has happened with asparagus, which contain bioactive compounds that reduce oxidative stress and increase the activity of ADH and ALDH.

Detoxifying mechanisms and the key against hangovers

There is nothing special about all these studies. As already indicated before, one of the main activities of the liver is to eliminate potentially toxic compounds that accompany food.

The fruits and vegetables contain a large amount of substances that activate the liver detoxifying activity. It occurs because, in low concentration, these substances are considered toxic by liver cells, and it activates its enzymes to eliminate them.

We can consider that these compounds act as a kind of vaccine at the metabolic level that activates the systems to eliminate harmful compounds present in the diet. What in the jargon is known as hormesis.

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For example, polyphenols and flavonoids, very present in vegetables, induce this type of response. Hence the recommendation to ingest extracts rich in these substances to treat hangovers. As vegetables also contain antioxidants, they prevent oxidative stress produced by alcohol intake and liver damage.

Be that as it may, any massive and unbalanced intake of any substance, be it food or alcoholic beverage, produces liver damage to avoid. Alcohol is toxic not only at the liver level but also cardiovascular and neuronal, so its intake is totally discouraged.

If on top of that we maintain a diet poor in fruits and vegetables that reduces the activity of the protective systems of the liver, a hangover will be the least of our problems.

Guillermo López Lluch. Professor of the Cell Biology area. Associate researcher at the Andalusian Center for Developmental Biology. Researcher in metabolism, aging and immune and antioxidant systems, Pablo de Olavide University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

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