Fainting and Blood Pressure

A while ago, my friend asked me if blood pressure had anything to do with fainting. I said, “Yup”, and she said, “Explain it to me later”. So welcome to Later, everyone!

What is fainting?

For the people who don’t know, fainting is the loss of consciousness due to a lack of oxygen reaching the brain. Fainting also has a medical name, Syncope. It’s pronounced sing-co-pee (English is a strange language).

Why do people faint?

Biologically, people faint because they experience low blood pressure (though, there can be other cardiovascular problems). This isn’t necessarily of medical concern; you can have low blood pressure for several reasons. For example, if you are dehydrated, you have less fluid in your blood stream. This means that you have a lower blood volume in your blood vessels, which results in a lower blood pressure.

When you have low blood pressure, your blood vessels lose their tone and are unable to deliver blood cells to your brain as efficiently as it would if you had normal blood pressure. This results in your brain receiving less oxygen. The lack of oxygen is what makes you lose consciousness, since oxygen is required for the sustenance of your brain cells, not to mention your other cells!

So what can I do?

Stay hydrated folks! That’s one of the simplest ways to maintain a normal blood pressure 🙂

And that’s how blood pressure is related to fainting!

 

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Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, low blood pressure, what are you saying, doctors? What is blood pressure and why should we care?

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure that your blood exerts on the blood vessels. I know…. that’s a bit redundant.

Let me explain blood pressure a bit more, so you can visualize this. From what we’ve learned in school, the molecules in fluids interact closely with one another, meaning that they will not fill the entirety of a container unless you’ve placed enough of that fluid into the container to fill it completely. Each molecule exerts its own amount of force on each other and on the portion of the surface of the container that it interacts with.

Pressure is defined as a force exerted on a particular area. So the amount of force that the molecules exert on a particular portion of a container’s surface is equivalent to the pressure exerted by the molecule onto the container.

Now, if you replace the fluid with blood serum,the molecules with blood cells and the container with blood vessels, you’ll have the same situation; the blood cells each exert its own amount of force on portions of the blood vessel, which is the blood pressure.

Blood pressure naturally increases when your heart contracts to push blood into the blood vessels, and decreases when your heart relaxes.

Why is blood pressure important?

Blood pressure determines how hard your heart has to work to continuously feed your circulatory system with blood. The harder your heart works, the more strain there is in your circulatory system. This can lead to higher risk for health problems.

It’s also important to note that there are a variety of factors that affect blood pressure including how active you are, how much rest you get, your body temperature, diet, posture, medications and even your emotional state. So it’s important to try and stay healthy and active, for your heart and your health!

Caffeine

I am just coming down from that finals rush that us university students are all so accustomed to. Those long nights of studying and early mornings to keep studying – it gets tiring. A lot of students have a particular molecule to thank for getting them through those long days: caffeine. Whether it’s coffee, or energy drinks, students can be seen anywhere on campus chugging down these caffeinated substances. But how does this particular substance work to keep the students active and awake?

What is Caffeine?

Caffeine is a purine alkaloid, which is a particular type of chemical compound. It is found organically in Coffea arabica and Camellia sinsensis.

Coffea arabicaCamellia sinsensis

Coffea arabica is the source of coffee, while Camellia sinsensis is the source of tea.

How does caffeine affect our systems?

Caffeine can be completely absorbed by the stomach and small intestine within 45 minutes, and it takes around 3 to 4 hours just to remove half of the consumed caffeine from your system.

Caffeine stimulates our central nervous system (CNS), which is composed of our brain and spinal cord. By stimulating the CNS, the caffeine molecules fight against drowsiness and helps keep you alert. It does all of this by preventing a nucleoside, named adenosine (which is found in our DNA!), from binding to its receptors in the brain.

Adenosine usually suppresses the CNS when it binds to its receptors; this leads to general drowsiness. When caffeine binds these receptors, adenosine can no longer interact with the brain receptors which leads to a decrease in drowsiness (or increase in alertness!). Another result of caffeine binding these receptors is the stimulation of other neurotransmitters that also lead to an increase in your ability to concentrate and stay awake. These neurotransmitters include: norepinephrine, dopamine, acetylcholine and serotonin (which will be explored later).

An interesting fact about caffeine is that its half life,which is the time it takes to remove half of the consumed substance from your system, can be shortened by one’s smoking. So if you’re smoking, you’re going to need more caffeine than the average person to get relatively the same jolt of energy.

And that’s a brief summary of caffeine and its effects! Now you know how exactly caffeine works to become your savior through those long nights. Thanks caffeine, on behalf of all of us sleep-deprived students.

Hangover Remedies – Vitamins

Guys, I’m giving you all the tricks of the trade here. First it was some food tips, and now it’s time to listen to your mothers and take your vitamins because they actually play a good role in preventing you from suffering a hangover the morning after a wild night (or a wine night, for you more sophisticated, yet equally as classy, folks).

Why Vitamins?

Like I’ve explained in earlier posts, alcohol is a diuretic. This means it is a substance that causes you to lose water – fast. It does this by inhibiting a hormone that’s important for your body’s water retention, which means all the water you would usually retain is lost in your urine.

Water isn’t the only thing that is lost in your urine. You also lose electrolytes, which are important to replenish and were discussed a bit in an older post, in addition to (…drum roll please…) Vitamins!

That’s right! Unfortunately, your kidneys aren’t the greatest filtration systems when you’re drinking, so they let anything that enters the nephron stay there and be converted into urine. This unfortunately means we lose nutrients and minerals, including some of the vitamins we may have circulating in our bloodstream.

Which Vitamins should we be focusing on?

The most important one, in terms of preventing hangovers, is probably B1 (also known as thiamine). B1 helps prevent the accumulation of a particular molecule, glutarate, in the brain. So after you drink, B1 is released in your urine and glutarate accumulates in your head. This has been linked to headaches. So if you take a supplement for B1 earlier before drinking and then the morning after drinking, your head should feel a little happier with whatever decisions you made. B1 also plays an important role in the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins as well as the function of your nerves and muscles (which are a lot weaker after you have a couple drinks).

Hospitals also have these things called “banana bags” or “rally packs” that help patients with chemical imbalances or nutritional deficiencies. Yes, I’m comparing someone who experiences a hangover with a patient – take this comparison with a grain of salt. These banana bags have all of the things that can help restore a person who has lost a lot of their vitamins, fluids, and other important molecules. While you probably can’t, and shouldn’t, walk into the hospital to ask for a banana bag after going out all night, it is good to know which vitamins they would supply to you!

So here’s the list:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin B9 (Folic acid)
  • Vitamin B1 (Our bff a.k.a. thiamine)
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium Sulfate

I’m not saying to go out and buy supplements for all of these things, but make sure that you are eating foods that have these vitamins in it, regardless of whether you’re planning to paint the town red or not. And if you really want to have these vitamin supplements, look into multivitamins (after asking your physician for his/her opinion).

I’m giving you a lot of information about Hangovers and Alcohol in general, but please keep in mind that everything is great in moderation. Just because you have these tools under your belt doesn’t mean it’s time to re-enact every scene from the Hangover movies. Play safe! 🙂

Hangover Remedies: Food

It’s Friday, and that means a lot of you are planning to spend a night on the town. Drinking with your buddies can be a good time, but don’t start your Saturday hating your past self for drinking too much. Take some precautions to make sure you can have a good time and still feel great the next day!

In general, eat food

When alcohol enters your stomach, it stimulates the release of more acid, which can lead to nausea. To prevent nausea and damage to your stomach lining, having food in your stomach will lessen the impact of the acid; the food would act sort of like a buffer! Just don’t eat too much, otherwise you may end up feeling sicker even faster just because you have a full stomach.

Carbs, Carbs, Carbs –before and after drinking

Carbs, otherwise known as carbohydrates, can be your best friend. Eating some pasta or bread before drinking can help your body slow down how fast it absorbs alcohol. With carbohydrates in your system, they will act as a buffer for the acids that are released, reducing their impact.

Fatty foods –before drinking
Fatty foods are especially great at protecting your stomach from the effects of alcohol, as they stick to your stomach lining really well. This will help prevent any excessive damage by the acid secretion and slow down the absorption of alcohol, so that you don’t quickly feel as inebriated as you ought to be.
Fatty foods –after drinking
A lot of people swear by this “remedy”, but fatty foods aren’t actually the best remedy the day after drinking. They will make you feel more nauseous than you already are. Though this isn’t true for everyone, it holds true for most. 
Eggs –after drinking
Eggs are the saviours for most hangovers. They are a great source of energy and biologically help you out when you’re suffering from a hangover. You see, eggs contain a large amount of cysteine, which is an amino acid. This amino acid helps breakdown acetaldehyde (remember last week’s post? This is one of those congeners!). So it’s pretty great at removing the effects of a hangover.
Bananas-after drinking
Bananas are a great source of potassium, which is an important electrolyte in helping our bodies retain water. So eating a banana after a night of drinking will help your body regain its original electrolyte levels.
Water, water, water!
As always, I will emphasize that drinking water is incredibly important. You lose a lot of fluids when you drink, so drinking water will help you recover and feel less of a headache the next day.

Hangover – Congeners

So we’ve talked about a couple of things that create the after-effects of a drunken night out, but we haven’t talked about the alcohol itself.

Different alcohols have different effects on our bodies, and that is partially due to the presence of congeners.

What are congeners?

In terms of alcohol, congeners are the byproducts of fermentation other than ethanol that our bodies find difficult to process. They are toxic chemical compounds, such as acetone, acetaldehyde, aldehydes, esters, tannins, and other chemical structures. They contribute the taste and aroma of the alcoholic beverages.

How do congeners play a role in hangovers?

Scientists have found a direct correlation between higher concentrations of congeners and the severity of hangovers. So the more acetone, acetaldehyde, aldehyde, ester and tannin molecules you have in your drink, the worse your hangover will be the next day.

Drinks and their relative congener concentrations

A rule of thumb for figuring out if your drink has a lot of congeners in it is to look at how dark it is. Dark liquors like scotch, whiskey, tequila, in addition to wine, have far more congeners in them, meaning they will give you quite a headache the next day if you don’t take the necessary pre- and post-cautions (rehydration, for example). Clearer alcohols, like vodka, gin, white wine, and rum have less congeners in them, which means they won’t be as hard on you the next day (as long as you don’t drink too much!).

Also, cheaper alcohols tend to have more congeners than their more expensive counterparts. This is most likely because they are of a lesser quality substrate, meaning there is more non-ethanol byproducts produced, whereas the expensive alcohol will have been produced from a higher quality substrate.

And there is your easy guide to alcohol. There’ll be more to come later!

Hangovers – Electrolytes

Last week, we talked about what a hangover is, what its symptoms are and why hangovers cause headaches. This week, we’ll take a brief look at the importance of electrolytes in relation to hangovers.

A little recap

A little while ago, we talked about how alcohol inhibits a hormone called the antidiuretic hormone, which is the hormone that allows the body to reabsorb water from our kidneys before the kidneys send the final solution to our bladders for release. With this inhibition, not only is there not enough water reabsorbed but, because this hormone is inhibited, we urinate frequently under the influence of alcohol.

Now where do electrolytes fit in?

As a result of this frequent urination, we lose more than just water from our bodies. In addition to water, we lost electrolytes like sodium and potassium.

These electrolytes are important for several processes in our bodies, including nerve and muscle functions. When you lose a lot of electrolytes, your nerve and muscle functions are weaker as they require the electrolytes to help propagate signals. This is why you feel tired the morning after a rowdy night.

The absence of electrolytes also leaves you feeling nauseous and with an awful headache because of how dehydrated you are.

Help me, what can I do?

There was a post I did a million years ago (it was last July) where I talked a bit about electrolytes. Here’s the deal with them: where electrolytes go, water goes. So it’s time to power up with some electrolytes because the more electrolytes there are in your body, the better your body will retain water and the easier it will be to rehydrate! So grab some sports drinks, make sure it has some potassium in it, and rehydrate! You’ll feel like a normal being soon enough 🙂

Hangovers – Headaches

Hello Children, it’s time to learn about one of the many upsetting effects of alcohol. Okay, I know most of you are probably people actually going through a hangover and you want to know why this is happening to you… I mean, you’re a good person (probably). So why oh why is last night hurting you today?

What is a hangover?

Unlike the movie ‘The Hangover’, where the characters pretty much go on an adventure the day after a rowdy night with seemingly no physical repercussions other than a couple tattoos, a hangover would probably make you want to sleep for a whole day.

A hangover, formally called a veisalgia, is basically the umbrella term for the after effects of drinking. It includes headaches, body aches, tiredness, weakness, thirst, nausea (sometimes vomiting), general stomach pain, diarrhea, and a slew of other symptoms like depression, vertigo and decreased attention.

Of course, you won’t likely experience all of these symptoms at once! There are different hangovers and they depend on how much you drink and how well your body is at detoxifying the alcohol. If you drink a lot and your body detoxifies alcohol at a very slow rate, then you will likely have an extremely bad hangover (unless you take some precautions – which will be explored in a later post!).

Why do we get hangovers?

If you recall last week’s post, where we discussed the effects of alcohol on the body, alcohol inhibits a hormone. This hormone, the antidiuretic hormone, is responsible for the reabsorption of water by your body’s kidneys. Without the activity of this hormone, the water that would have been retained by your body goes straight to your bladder and is then excreted. This loss of water results in your body becoming dehydrated, which leads to you getting a hangover.

Headaches and Hangovers, oh my!

Even though you are consuming a form of liquid, the amount of alcohol consumed is not as much as the amount of water lost during urination. This dehydrated state is what causes your headache, as the organs in your body are trying to their best to retain as much water as possible – even if that means stealing water from your brain. This results in your brain shrinking in size, making the membranes that connect your brain to your skull stretch – thus your headache. Crazy, huh?

Next week, we’ll talk about the relationship between Electrolytes and Hangovers.

Alcohol and Urine

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve talked to you about pee… a lot. But now that we’ve got all of that good stuff down pat, it’s time to get to the point of this whole thing: the effects of alcohol on urine!

Whenever you drink alcohol, you eventually feel the need to urinate frequently. But why?!

Well, last week we learned about the two hormones that are involved in regulating the production of urine: the antidiuretic hormone and aldosterone.

Interestingly enough, alcohol has an inhibitory effect on the antidiuretic hormone. This hormone is responsible for helping the body retain water by preventing the loss of water through excretory pathways, like the urine system.

The inhibition of the antidiuretic hormone results in the loss of regulating how much water is reabsorbed in the kidneys, which means that there is an uncontrollable loss of water in your urine, which is why you feel the need to urinate a lot. Your bladder is always filled because there is no reabsorption of water in the nephron of your kidneys.

So basically, alcohol reduces the amount of water reabsorbed in the kidneys, which leads to the water ending up in your bladder and putting pressure on your urinary sphincters. And then you feel the need to urinate, even if you already went to the bathroom 10 minutes ago.

One of many life’s mysteries have been solved. The inhibition of the antidiuretic hormone by alcohol is another reason why rehydration is so important for post-drinking. You lost all of the water your body would have reabsorbed when you peed, so you need to drink even more water to save your body from being in a state of dehydration.

And that’s how alcohol affects your body’s urinary system! Next week, we’ll look into hangovers.

Alcohol – Effects on the Body

I’m a university student and you can bet that I’ve seen a lot of people under the influence of alcohol. They can be loud, giggly, emotional, and sometimes really tired.

I wanted to see just what effects alcohol has on our bodies, so posts about the different effects of alcohol will be popping up every now and then. For now, I thought it would be cool to see the list of effects alcohol has been found to have on our bodies.

Some of these effects are real extremes, so take them lightly. 🙂

List of the effects of alcohol on our body

Short-term effects

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Makes you urinate more frequently (stay tuned, we’ll be talking about this one shortly!)
  • Flushed appearance
  • Reduced cognitive and motor skills(which is why you shouldn’t drink and drive!)
  • Loss of inhibitions and more confidence
  • Blurred vision (aka beer goggles) and slurred speech
  • Intense moods, e.g. aggression, elation, depression
  • Headache
  • Blackouts
  • Alcohol poisoning, which is really lethal

Diseases/conditions (in extreme cases!!!)

  • Can lead to the development of heart disease after long-term excessive use.
  • Potential cancer developing effects
  • May cause pancreatitis, which can lead to the development of diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Weakened immune system
  • Anemia

Effects on our reproductive systems?!

  • Linked to damaging fertility (extreme case)
  • Small amounts of alcohol can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle
  • Alcohol can reduce the amount of testosterone a man produces
  • May affect the quality of a man’s sperm

And this is just a sampling of all of the effects of alcohol. In a couple of weeks, we’ll be talking about urination so that we can get to explore the effects of alcohol on it the week after :).

So, take it easy with eggnog for now, ladies and gents. No need to binge drink, it may just lead to some unhealthy effects!

I will be on hiatus until the first week of January, due to the holidays but Happy holidays and Happy New Year 🙂 Stay safe!