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Why Alcohol and Sickle Cell Don’t Mix

Posted Aug 10 2010 1:49am
Written by Sickle Cell Warrior on 10 August 2010

Have you ever wondered why you have pain or a crises after a night of drinking? Well let me break it down for you.

Alcohol is a diuretic. This means that it triggers your body to start peeing–alot. Not only are you losing water and fluids out that way, alcohol suppresses the secretion of Anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), which means that your body is unable to regulate how much water you are losing through pee. Usually when you are getting dehydrated, ADH kicks in and stops your kidneys from making more urine, but with the suppression of ADH by alcohol, there is no checks and balances. So you start peeing out a storm.

In addition to this, the liver is the main organ that gets rid of alcohol by breaking it down. It metabolises about 90% of the alcohol in our body while only about 10% is excreted through either our urine or breath. The liver metabolises alcohol at the rate of one to two units per ounces, sometimes less than that in women. The liver needs water to get rid of toxins from the body but, as alcohol acts as a diuretic, there will not be sufficient amounts in the body, so the liver is forced to divert water from other organs including the brain, which causes the throbbing headaches. In addition, your blood is thickened by this sever dehydration, leading to clumping, which then leads to a crises.

The liver also produces more toxins in the body as a by-product during the breakdown of alcohol. When the liver is metabolising alcohol it produces acetaldehyde, a substance which has toxic effects on our liver, brain and stomach lining, resulting in severe headache, nausea, vomiting and heartburn (aka hangover).

So, before you take that shot of whiskey (which is 1.5 ounces), realize that you are dehydrating your body at an alarming rate, doing damage to your kidneys and liver, as well as setting yourself up for a crises.Personally, on the 21st birthday, I overindulged, learned my lesson, and pretty much realized at that point that a hangover with a crises is a recipe for disaster! 

Remember, with sickle cell, water is your friend…alcohol, not so much.

Stay safe and healthy.

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