Ranjan Sinha

December 22, 2018

Alcohol - Your DNA. Your Gut and Your Body

It’s the most wonderful time of year! The time for holiday parties, get-togethers with family and friends, food, fun, and, of course, drinks. Before you reach for that wine glass, sip that bourbon, or throw back that beer, consider what’s about to happen inside your body...and it is not the same for everyone!!

Alcohol can quickly become dangerously toxic when consumed beyond 1 glass per day. With every sip of booze, your body has a multistep process for metabolizing and eliminating it. First, ethanol (alcohol) is broken down in your liver by alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes (ADHs) into the carcinogenic toxin acetaldehyde. That acetaldehyde is then further broken down (digested) by aldehyde dehydrogenase enzymes (ALDHs) to produce acetone. Yes, that’s the same acetone you’ll find in nail polish removers, but believe it or not, the acetaldehyde is worse for you – it can not only damage your liver, pancreas, brain, and gastrointestinal tract, it also contributes to that hangover awaiting you a few hours down the line.

You can find out the versions of ADHs and ALDHs encoded in your genes in your 3TandAi report to determine whether you are a “fast-“ or “slow-metabolizer” of alcohol and therefore govern how long the toxic byproducts of alcohol metabolism linger in your liver and bloodstream.

Image by Digbi Health

Some people (about 45% of folks from eastern Asia in fact!) carry a variant of an ALDH gene associated with non-functioning ALDHs, which results in internal build-up of acetaldehyde, leading to a red-flushed face and often even nausea and vomiting – colloquially known as “Asian glow.”

In addition to individuals with inactive ALDHs, some people can also have genes resulting in higher ADH activity, putting them at higher risk of Asian glow because their body converts ethanol into acetaldehyde so quickly that again, the latter starts building up.

Image by Digbi Health

Interestingly, new research indicates that how you metabolize alcohol isn’t just in your genes - your gut microbiome may also play various roles in how long acetaldehyde accumulates and lingers in your body. While some of your gut microbes help the toxin to accumulate, others can help it decompose. You can find their relative abundance in your 3TandAi report

Ruminococcus, Collinsella, Prevotella, Coriobacterium, and (some) Bifidobacterium are all associated with acetaldehyde build-up, whereas Parabacteroides, Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, Bacteroides, and (other) Bifidobacterium work to break acetaldehyde into less harmful acetate. Depending on your gut biome composition, you could end up with more or less toxin in your bloodstream after you’ve had a drink.

Check out your full 3TandAi report to learn more about what kinds of bacteria you have and how your genes affect how you feel when you drink. Next time you pick up that glass, you’ll know more about what will happen in your body.

Stay Informed. Stay Healthy! (…and Happy Holidays from 3TandAi :relaxed:).

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