Eating and drinking


Question:We all know that a good ‘stomach lining’ slows down the absorption of alcohol in the blood. But just how important is it to eat a good meal the morning after? I know from personal experience that I need a ‘square’ meal the day after, mostly spaghetti. Not only because it gives me the feeling that I’m recovering ‘faster’, but also because I get that nice ‘warm’ feeling inside as the spaghetti goes down. How do I get that feeling? And is it really a good idea to eat a good meal the morning after a heavy session?

Answer: Anyone who goes out and ‘gets a good skinful’ sets off heavy chemical weather in the stomach and neurological thunder and lightning in the brain. The forms of expression are highly individual, and depend on your personal make-up. So it’s hardly surprising that your stomach, after putting in all the overtime, should wish to more or less return to its old habits the morning after. The brain receives the signals, compares with past experience, and decides that the spaghetti will settle the troubled system down again. Which explains the likelihood of a pleasant reaction. Whether such a chemico-neurological explanation gives the last-word answer to your question is uncertain. Scientific tests in which the human guinea pigs are asked to drink themselves legless and try eating the morning after will probably offend the current code of ethics governing medical scientific tests.


Composition of different beers


Vraag:where can I find the composition of most (all) of the different kinds of beer? Kcal, alcohol content, carbohydrates ?

Answer: I’m sorry to have to tell you that a “cut and dried” list does not exist. However, the Confederatie van de Belgische Bierbrouwers does give the alcohol content of most beer types (you can find them on the internet at ). The calorific value, alcohol content and amount of carbohydrates of five different types of beer (pils, Bleek Beiers, Lager U.S.A., table bier and alcohol-free beer) are given in the book by Jean-Jacques De Blauwe “La bière, un atout pour la santé” (Editions Ellébore, Paris, ISBN 2-86898-061-9)


Beer and gastritis


Question:I’ve been suffering from gastritis for the past two years. My family doctor tells me that it’s all down to stress and nerves. He also knows that I used to drink 6 beers a day. Considering my condition I made an effort to cut my beer-drinking down to once a week. Have I eliminated the risk? Is there any risk for the treatment?

Answer: Your doctor will no doubt have told you that alcoholic drinks are bad for patients with gastritis. In this case it would be wiser to cut out alcoholic drink altogether until complete recovery.


Blood test does not indicate drinking pattern


Question:can a blood test be used to determine a given drinking pattern (amount, how long and when a person has drunk beer?

Answer: a blood test gives exclusively information on the amount of alcohol at the time of the test. There is therefore no way of deducing any drinking pattern. Chronic drink abuse can, however, be determined by means of a liver test, again without yielding any details concerning the drinking pattern.



Medication for alcohol addiction


Question:There is medication (antabuse, campral) to reduce the craving for alcohol. It is taken orally. There are also medicines for ‘implanting’. Can you explain how they work and tell me how long an implant will usually last? Can someone with an implant still enjoy alcohol without becoming ill? Can an implant be removed by the patient himself?

Answer: Disulfiram, which goes by the trade name of antabuse, blocks the degradation of alcohol in the body in the acetaldehyde stage. After ingestion of antabuse the concentration of toxic acetaldehyde in the blood may be five to ten times higher than for the normal metabolism of an equal amount of alcohol. The effects can be dramatic: from breathing problems, general discomfort, nausea, perspiration, chest pain, hyperventilation, tachycardia, high blood pressure and impaired vision, to a heart attack, loss of consciousness, convulsions and death.

Antabuse, that is now given almost exclusively in the form of pills for oral administration, is particularly useful for addicts who genuinely intend to kick their habit. The fear of the effects keeps them off the drink. So it is first and foremost a deterrent, and by no means a remedy, besides which the long-term effects have not yet been systematically researched. Less-motivated alcoholics often ‘forget’ to take their pills so that they can drink again.

Hence the idea of implanting antabuse. A preparation is implanted that, in principle, will release a sufficient quantity of disulfiram into the body with sufficient regularity over a number of months. In practice, however, things tend not to go quite so easily. There is also often infection at the place of the implant. This is why less use is being made of this technique, which is in fact applied only extremely rarely.

However, if an addict manages to persuade a doctor to proceed to an antabuse implant, the effect is to all intents and purposes the same as when the pill is taken orally: drink alcohol and you feel sick. The patient should never attempt to remove the implant: that is a job for the doctor. If he/she does, the risk of infection is naturally much greater.



Allergy, alcohol and heredity


Question:I am allergic and I take syrtec. As soon as I drink alcohol I have a violent reaction. My eyes go all swollen and red, blotches all over my body, face red as a lobster, feverish. My father and my brother suffer the same way. Is this kind of thing a matter of genetics? Is it in the blood? Where can I find information about it? My doctor just says “You should be happy, because you’ll never become an alcoholic”. But it’s not pleasant either when you can’t join your friends in a drink.

Answer: the fact that three of you in one family have a similar reaction does indeed appear to indicate a genetic effect, one which, furthermore, involves the immune system, given the allergic fever. I’m afraid your doctor is right. Ever tried an “alcohol-free” beer? That might be the (partial) solution.



Loss of memory through alcohol?


Question:I have been drinking large amounts of alcohol with my friends for years now. Recently I have been suffering from memory loss in the evening. It happens very quickly, without warning: no sooner do I begin to feel the first effects of the alcohol than my memory is suddenly gone. My friends tell me that I still look quite normal, remain calm and speak clearly. But a minute later, my pupils disappear, and I become ‘different’, no longer able to talk or to do anything at all. I even have problems with it until the morning after, while others who drink more than I do are quite clear-headed afterwards. I now try to slow my drinking a bit, but am always surprised by how fast the black-out hits. I wonder whether this is the result of the deterioration of my liver functions or my brain, and whether you have an explanation that could help me to understand what is going on.

Answer: The description of your experiences after drinking alcohol indicates serious damage to both brain and liver. Alcohol kills off the brain cells and damages the connections between the neurones. In moderate consumption this is not serious, since we have thousands of millions of brain cells. In heavy and persistent drinking that changes: the brain, which is the centre of your memory, degenerates and is damaged to the point where it can no longer function normally when you drink alcohol. If you then continue to drink, the brain will finally no longer be able to function normally.

The protracted nature of your hangover indicates some already extensive damage to the liver: after 20 beers a liver will require a space of twenty-four hours to clear the alcohol. This applies for a healthy liver. In cases of excessive alcohol consumption, the liver cells die off and are replaced by fat. The liver becomes ‘hard’, making it harder for it to eliminate the alcohol, which means that the toxins stay longer in the body and that the hangover lasts longer. Then comes cirrhosis of the liver, a fatal disease.

The only answer that can help you in this condition is: stop drinking, seek help from your family doctor or from specialized support organizations.



How long does beer remain in the body?


Question:My question concerns the dwell of alcohol in the body. Suppose a man in his mid-forties, weight 95 kg (210 lbs), height 178 cm (5’10’’) drinks eight glasses of beer on Monday evening and stops at around eleven o’clock. Will the alcohol still be present in his body when he goes to work the next day?

Answer: We know that the alcohol of one pint of beer (approximately 5% alcohol) is completely eliminated within an hour to one-and-a-half hours. Much depends on the individual person, any food he may have eaten while drinking, and the speed with which he drank one pint then the next. Precise predictions are therefore not possible. In your case, we can calculate that, in the most favourable scenario, there will be no more alcohol in his blood the next morning. In the worst case it will still be detected until around midday. Either way, drinking eight beers in one evening is not good for your health.



Why does your body get used to alcohol?


Question:I recently read that the tolerance effect in persistent and excessive alcohol consumption plays an important part in the development of alcohol addiction. What is this tolerance effect all about and how do you explain it? The literature says that this has to do with the adaptation of certain enzymes or degradation products, and/or the adaptation of the body fibres to alcohol. I am not exactly clear about the adaptation as such.

Answer: Tolerance or habituation happens when you have to drink more alcohol to obtain the same effect. Since excessive and long-term alcohol consumption can produce all kinds of different effects, both physical and mental, habituation can be different for each of

these effects.

Tolerance can start when the brain functions undergo adaptation as compensation for the disturbance caused by the alcohol in terms of behaviour patterns and bodily functions. Tolerance can also come about as a result of the influence of certain liver enzymes that control the alcohol metabolism and that become more active on chronic drinking. This leads to more rapid degradation of alcohol and thus shorter intoxication, which means that you have to drink more in order to have the same effect as before.


It all becomes more complicated once you realize that there is also a genetic predisposition for tolerance, and that finally even the surroundings in which you tend to drink can make a difference. Tolerance can in fact lead to greater dependency on alcohol and, thus, to addiction.



Alcohol and cirrhosis of the liver


Question:I read that 80 g of pure alcohol per day is sufficient to cause cirrhosis of the liver. But what does the indication of the alcohol content of beer on the label actually mean? Take Duvel, which contains 8.5% by volume. Three Duvels at 33 cl, or one litre of beer, would thus contain 60 g pure alcohol. The slogan “A duvel a day keeps the doctor away” appears to hold good, then, but surely not three a day?

Answer: Your calculation is quite correct, it being understood that any harmful effect for the liver may occur, not after three glasses, but over a long period of three such glasses of fairly high alcohol-content beer per day, or after the long-term use of equivalent amounts of other alcoholic beverages. This is just one of the reasons why it is recommended not to drink more than three beers a day. (Another reason being that moderate beer consumption has a beneficial effect on the health.)