Craving certain substances is not a matter of corrupt morals or weak wills. It is often a series of learned behaviours and body chemistry.[i] Something as simple as a genetic background can predict potential alcohol problems. For instance, people from Middle East background have been using alcohol for over 2,000 years. As a sharp contrast, some groups of people, such as the Inuit or Eskimo have been exposed to alcohol and refined starches for less than 100 years. Their bodies have not had the thousands of years to adapt to a substance that is largely foreign to them. (Before you dismiss me as a racist, read on.)
Some people may lack a certain enzyme (such as acetaldehyde dehydrogenase) to break down the harmful effects of alcohol. Others can process large amounts of alcohol without (immediate) ill effects. As the saying goes, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.” Alcoholics physically process alcohol differently than non-alcoholics.
HOW THE BODY BREAKS DOWN ALCOHOL[ii]
The alcoholic’s system converts alcohol to acetaldehyde twice as fast as a Non-Alcoholic and then is twice as slow to process the acetaldehyde into acetic acid (vinegar). The alcoholic gets a faster happy “high” feeling than the non- alcoholic, but retains the poisonous by-product (acetaldehyde) longer.
Hence, alcoholism tends to be higher than average among some ethnic groups such as the Irish and American Indian. These groups of people tend to have high amounts of acetaldehyde producing enzymes and low amounts of acetaldehyde-destroying enzymes.
Certain medical conditions can also influence the tendency towards alcohol (and cigarette or sugar cravings). Researcher Joan Mathews Larson explains that most alcoholic patients also suffer from the following medical conditions:[iii]
• Vitamin/mineral deficiency
• Food and chemical allergies
• Candida-related complex
Generally speaking and from my own personal experience, an unhealthy body will tend to crave alcohol, tobacco and sugar more than a healthy body.
1. Someone who drinks normally or has a nonalcoholic chemistry will tend to get tipsy quickly. Their bodies will also rapidly process alcohol to get it out of their bodies.
2. The person with an alcohol intolerant, nonalcoholic chemistry type lacks certain liver enzymes to process alcohol. These people just get sick when drinking.
3. The people who are hypoglycemic nonalcoholic will react to the alcohol as a refined carbohydrate. They go into a form of hypoglycemic reaction. In other words, these types of non-alcoholics will act drunk from the low blood sugar.
1. THIQ/ADH Alcoholic Chemistry makes the drinker feel great when drinking alcohol. In the 1970’s, a Texan researcher, Virginia Davis observed opiates in the brains of autopsied skid row alcoholics. It appeared that these very-low income alcoholics were affording expensive drugs. However, it turned out that they did not have to buy the drugs. Their own brains were naturally producing heroin-like substances from the break down of alcohol. These self-made opiates are called THIQs (Tetrahydroisoquinolines). (Talk about a “cheap high.”) These THIQs not only gave the drinker an opium-like high, but also stopped the user’s brain from producing natural pain-killers: endorphins. These alcoholics can actually perform better physically and mentally while drinking than when sober. A good example is the hard-drinking doctor played by Alec Baldwin in the movie, Malice.
I witnessed this condition during my younger “partying” years. I once was having several drinks with an oil rigger buddy while playing a computer reflex game. The more that I drank, the slower that my reflexes were. The more that my friend drank, the faster he reflexes became. This was not just my imagination, as the computer recorded our response times. My drinking buddy was actually becoming faster the longer that he played and drank.
Next of the alcoholic types are those who are allergy addicted. (My former situation.) Often this allergy is to grains. Illinois researcher, Herbert Karolus, M.D. found that most of the 422 alcoholics who he had studied had allergies to wheat and rye. These two grains are the basis of most distilled liquors. The same can be said for corn as some people feel unwell when they drink certain types of (corn-based) beer. Yet, these same people are less affected by rice-based beers such as Michelob© or Budweiser©.
Allergic reactions go beyond drunkenness. They can cause hives, diarrhea, headaches and mood swings. Usually the first experience with the alcohol (or food), the person will feel ill. Unfortunately, they may be trained to “not to waste,” drink and eat what is cheap and convenient” or conform to what peers are drinking and eating. Consequently, their bodies learn to adapt.
The body often reacts to allergic substances by protecting the body against pain with its own natural narcotics: endorphins. The alcohol or food substance, like sugar or chocolate, often causes an exhilarated feeling as the body is actually defending itself against the poison. This often makes the allergic person feel good initially (like a good adrenalin rush often does). But, when the defensive mechanisms slow down and the body is attempting to clean out the offending substance, the person can go into withdrawal symptoms of fatigue, confusion and mild depression. Rather than let the “poison” clean out, the quickest relief is from more of the offending allergic food. For example, during a hay fever attack, I have actually had temporary relief from eating small amounts of wheat-based bread.
Alcohol acts this way with the alcoholic allergic biochemical type. Withdrawals (hangovers) can be painful, so more drinking will post pone the pain. Much the same happens with tobacco and sugar.
The allergic alcoholic is unlike the IIADH/THIQ alcoholic, whose natural enzymes allow them tolerate large amounts of alcohol with few behavioral changes and hangovers. Instead, the allergic drinker tends to be a binge drinker who experiences mood swings, anger, depression and hangovers.
Aside from food allergies, one should be aware of environmental allergies. According to clinical ecologists, certain sensitive people will get intoxicated or high from fumes such as gasoline, cleaning solvents and formaldehyde. While working as a photocopier technician, I used to get groggy and nauseous from the chemicals used and found some relief from drinking beer.
If this sounds far fetched, take note of the number of heavy drinkers who work around with gasoline, paint and other industrial fume-producing products. (An alcoholic relative used to work with propane.) The solution to this problem can be as simple as changing careers, jobs or job sites. For instance, an allergy-prone janitor might find relief by switching from an industrial site to a banking site.
The last alcoholic body chemistry is Linoleic Acid (Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acid) Deficient Chemistry. Some alcoholics with backgrounds that are Welsh, Irish, Scottish Scandinavian or Native American will tend to have a history of depression as well as eczema, cystic fibrosis, premenstrual syndrome, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome or breast disease. The problem is often an inability to handle certain EFAs (essential fatty acids), which refers to a specific group of fats and oils.
In a normal body, EFAs are converted into certain hormones such as PGE1 (prostaglandin E1). PGE1 assists the brain in preventing depression, convulsions and hyper-excitability. In these EFA deficient people, alcohol will activate the PGE1 hormone, within the brain, to immediately lift depression. This happens at the cost of depleting this particular brain’s meager supply of PGE1. So, rather than feeding the brain its needed EFAs, the alcohol (and certain drugs) depletes the brain’s supply and sinks the person into deeper depression. It is kind of like running a car without an alternator to charge the battery. Without a constant supply of electricity, the car drains and eventually kills the battery.
To minimize alcohol damage, you have to slow down its absorption and quickly rebuild the body with nutrients and rest. Sometimes a drink of alcohol will bring on a boost of energy. This is just the adrenalin glands trying to fight off a poison in the body. This adrenalin “buzz” might feel accelerating, but it is burning up the body’s energy reserves. After the high wears off, with most drinkers, there is a drop in energy. Often the drinker will need another boost and take another drink. During the hangover stage, the drinker will usually crave sweets. This is usually due to dehydration and low blood sugar. Without replenishing nutrients and rest, the body slips into exhaustion and sometimes depression.
The reason why alcohol leads to depression is due to the destruction of vitamins C and B vitamins which are needed to transmit brain pulses. Alcohol also depletes zinc, vitamin A and protein. Therefore, to minimize the dangerous effects of alcohol, it is necessary to take extra amounts of the nutrients that protect and repair nerve damage caused by alcohol. I will explore recovery strategies in future articles and newsletters.