Moderate drinking is nothing to be excessively worried about. But it always helps to know what alcohol does to the human body. Alcohol has a key role to play in depleting the essential minerals and vitamins in your body. Here’s what happens to vitamin C when you drink alcohol.
What Does Vitamin C Do?
This is a water-soluble nutrient that humans don’t have the ability to synthesize. But vitamin C has an important role to play in many biological reactions that take place inside our body.
Vitamin C is important in helping the enzymes in our body function. It is also necessary for our hormones to biosynthesize. Vitamin C has antioxidant properties which protects the biomolecules in the body along with protecting the structure and the functioning of essential tissues. Some say it also has therapeutic properties, but there isn’t enough scientific evidence to prove that point.
Alcoholism, especially the chronic kind, is a major health issue not just in the US but across the globe. But in the US alone, it is the seventh leading cause for risks that cause death and disability. So drunken escapades, while fun, should not become a habit by any means.
Now vitamin C is also important for the body to produce collagen. This makes the connective tissues in the body that are like scaffolding that will keep your body together through your skin, gums and bones, to name a few.
Vitamin C helps collagen biosynthesis in the body and keeps the capillaries from becoming fragile. A vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy which can be detected through symptoms like:
- Bleeding gums
- Pain in the bones
- Inability to heal from wounds
- Quick bruising
A Powerful Antioxidant
Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that has many health benefits. For starters, antioxidants are used to subdue free radicals which are released in the body as a result of regular metabolism.
But overindulgence in alcohol leads to a significant increase in free radicals which is not good for the body. When they come into contact with cells, and they do, they cause damage that leads to inflammation.
In fact, a lot of diseases that are caused by inflammation like arthritis, dementia and heart problems are because of excess free radicals in the body. But taking antioxidants alone is not the answer to these problems. You need a healthy relationship with fun elements of life like alcohol.
What’s the connection? Here we go.
The Vitamin C and Alcohol Connection
Drinking more than 80 grams of alcohol per day is categorized as excessive consumption. It is recognized as one of the many things that causes scurvy. There was a time when it was assumed that scurvy was because of poor living conditions and the corresponding malnutrition caused by such conditions.
Back in the day, sailors who were away for a long time did not have access to fresh vegetables and fruits. As a result, they would develop deficiencies and die rather painfully.
And, of all the vitamins, vitamin C is a critical one because the right amount helps avoid so many dangerous conditions related to the heart, eyes, blood pressure and other problems too.
Studies since the 1980s showed that hypovitaminosis (or a severe deficiency) of vitamin C is also a key factor especially in cases of chronic alcoholism. That is because alcohol does an excellent job of getting the body rid of essential vitamins.
It does the same with the vitamin C in the tissues. But that is a problem that’s easy to solve because 500 mg a day of over-the-counter supplements can do the trick.
There is some debate about whether a good dose of vitamin C can help with hangovers too. Some say it helps the liver break down alcohol better but there isn’t enough evidence to prove that. Let’s see what that is all about.
Does It Help with Hangovers?
A hangover from excessive drinking is quite easy to spot. You will have a headache, nausea and dry mouth. You could have one or all of these symptoms.
The truth is, alcohol can cause your body to dehydrate because it is a diuretic. That means your body will release more liquid than you are consuming. You know what that is, more trips to the restroom than you would expect.
This happens because alcohol does not allow your body to release a hormone called ADH. This hormone is the one that takes care of reabsorbing water into your kidneys. So, when it is blocked, your kidneys just let go of all the fluid they can find. This causes dehydration in the body and leads to a hangover.
The second point is that alcohol is broken down by the liver. When it does, some toxic byproducts from the alcohol interact with the cells in your body and that’s not good. It results in inflammation in the body.
Typically, antioxidants get to work and neutralize them. But when you consume too much alcohol, the system gets overwhelmed and cannot handle the changes.
Alcohol also disturbs your ability to sleep. A lot of people don’t know this because they drink and pass out. But what it actually does is that it keeps your brains from achieving REM sleep. This is the stage of sleeping when you are fully rested and dream. When you don’t get REM sleep, you wake up tired even if you have slept for a long time.
What is vitamin C’s role in this process?
Well, you certainly did not give it an easy job, did you? Vitamin C, as mentioned earlier, helps reduce inflammation, especially in your liver. But there isn’t too much scientific evidence to connect it directly with the impact of excessive drinking.
A lot of the studies are limited to clinical trials on rats. Taking antioxidant supplements might help a little because they will neutralize the toxic by-products of alcohol but it is not something to count on.
It is important to moderate alcohol consumption rather than look for these easy shortcuts because, for one, these tricks mostly work only on chronic alcoholics who have done a lot of damage and even a little repair work can give them relief.
So, don’t consider this as the gospel truth. Understanding the relationship between vitamin C and alcohol consumption should only motivate you to cut back on the drinking, not increase supplement intake.