Your liver is an amazing organ. It’s a multi-tasker that detoxifies stuff in the blood, screens incoming chemicals from the digestive tract, stores vitamins and other necessary molecules, and even helps with getting rid of old red blood cells. Oh, and it makes bile to aid digestion of food in the duodenum. Most people go through life never giving their liver a second thought, but sometimes, it’s nice to take the time to appreciate this busy organ that also regenerates at blazingly fast speeds. After all, without your liver, you would have a hard time staying a-live.
Ethanol is Legal Poison
Ethanol is the active ingredient in beer, wine, and liquor. By active, we mean… it gets your drunk. It is the most popular and legal drug in the world, right next to caffeine. When you drink, ethanol is first absorbed in your stomach, then in your intestines. It alters, mostly depresses, your brain functions from the top down – inhibition, logic and reason, motor control, and finally involuntary reflexes (like breathing). Aside from the brain stuff, ethanol is toxic because it kills cells by disrupting membranes and producing free radicals that damage DNA. To make sure that your Friday night doesn’t end up with you in the morgue, your liver steps in.
In order to rid your body of this toxin called ethanol, your liver begins to pump out enzymes. Alcohol dehydrogenase turns ethanol into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde, also toxic, is broken down by acetaldehyde dehydrogenase into acetate, basically vinegar. So, while you’re woo-ing and shooting shots at the club, your liver is working overtime pumping out enzymes, desperately trying to reduce the amount of ethanol you’ve been chugging.
Feeling like crap the next morning after all that clubbing? Blame the acetaldehyde. This molecule builds up in your liver and your body and is thought to be the cause of all those hangover symptoms: headache, nausea, general sick feeling. It’s no surprise that the more you drink, the worse your hangover, because in short, you’ve poisoned yourself. There’s also other reasons why you feel like crap – dehydration (because ethanol is a diuretic), loss of electrolytes (from sweating), not getting enough sleep (ethanol disrupts your sleep), and possibly twisting an ankle on the sidewalk as you stumble home.
Ethanol and the Liver
We think it’s time to give kudos to the most fun legal drug in the world and the hardworking organ that tries to reverse all your post-sunset, adrenaline-fueled, mid-party ethanol decisions. Our liver necklace goes well with our ethanol earrings. Not only will you look sparkly and well-accessorized, you’ll also be wearing jewelry that accurately describes what is going on in everyone’s body. Who loves science nerds at a party? We do!
written by Science with Evie