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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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.

The Urinary System – Concentration and Dilution

Last time, we talked about how the urinary system allows for our bodies to selectively reabsorbs things that were filtered out of our circulatory system. One of the molecules that can be reabsorbed is water, which is an important molecule for several reasons. In terms of the urinary system, water is important for the concentration and dilution of our urine.

The concentration and the dilution of urine is regulated by 2 hormones: Anti-diuretic hormone and Aldosterone.

The anti-diuretic hormone is released if you’re dehydrated, and literally translates to “against the passing of urine”. In situations where you are dehydrated, your blood volume will be low due to the lack of a sufficient amount of water, resulting in a lower blood pressure. To counteract this, the anti-diuretic acts to reduce the amount of water lost by the body and minimizes how much urine you make and release. This will result in a more concentrated urine that has a less water than usual and is a deeper yellow due to the higher concentration of urea.

Aldosterone is also released when you’re dehydrated. This hormone is responsible for the increase in thirst while also helping your body retain water by increasing the amount of sodium in your body. The more solute there is in your body, the more likely water is to stay with the solute (rules of osmosis, hurray!).

These hormones exert their effects primarily on the distal tubule of the nephron (after the loop of Henle), so that is where the water is reabsorbed!

So when these hormones are released, your urine will be more concentrated because water is retained by your body! Amazing, right?

Next week: We will finally get to talking about the effect of Alcohol on Urine!

Is there something you’d like to learn about? Tell me about it here and I may just do a post about it 🙂

Electrolytes

Whenever you’re dehydrated, or experiencing the stomach flu or diarrhea, you hear people telling you the importance of restoring your body’s electrolytes. But what are electrolytes and where can you obtain them from?

What are electrolytes?

Electrolytes, also known as minerals, are ions that occur in your body.

Okay… what’s an ion?

Chemistry time, folks!

Each chemical atom or molecule has a specific number of negatively charged particles, electrons, associated with it. When the number of electrons of the atom/molecule deviates from  its usual number, it becomes charged. It can either be charged positively by losing electrons, or negatively by gaining electrons. Any charged atom or molecule is known as an ion.

Examples of minerals that occur in our bodies are:

  • sodium (Na+)
  • potassium (K+)
  • chloride (Cl)
  • calcium (Ca2+)
  • magnesium (Mg2+)
  • bicarbonate (HCO3)
  • phosphate (PO42-)
  • sulfate (SO42-)**

Why do we need electrolytes?

Electrolytes are essential for our motor skills as well as other nerve impulses and muscle contractions (including the beating of your heart!). They also affect how much water is in your body, and the acidity of your blood. They are important because they carry electric charges.

Replenishing electrolytes

Dehydration, which can result from the stomach flu, diarrhea and even profuse sweating, represents a state where a lot water has been lost. Electrolytes accompany this mass of water that leaves our systems, which is why we are told to replenish them. Without electrolytes, we are slower and weaker because they are so important to our biological processes.

People usually recommend drinking sports drinks to raise the level of electrolytes (and fluids) in your system when you are dehydrated, but this really does depend on why you are dehydrated! If you are dehydrated as a result of exercising, then a sports drink is fine. For cases where you are dehydrated as a result of the stomach flu or diarrhea, it’s suggested that you drink an oral electrolyte solution such as Pedialyte® in place of a sports drink.

Sports drinks have a high concentration of sugars, which will irritate you when you have a stomach flu and worsen diarrhea as it will draw more water into your bowels. Pedialyte doesn’t use sucrose, which is the sugar found in all Gatorade® products and most Powerade® products. Gatorade is strictly a sports drink because of its sucrose levels, but I’m going to hand it to Powerade because they’ve introduced Powerade Zero which has no sugar whatsoever, which makes it a great candidate for an electrolyte replenisher.

All of these drinks typically focus on sodium and potassium as electrolytes. Why are these two electrolytes so important? That’s a story for another day.

Lactose Intolerance and Diarrhea

I know, I know. Oy with the poo already! But I swear, this is the last one (for now). Since I’ve talked about diarrhea due to gastrointestinal infections, I should probably explain why some people get diarrhea as a symptom to lactose intolerance.

Difference between diarrhea caused by GI infections and Lactose Intolerance

Last week, we learned that our bodies don’t absorb the water we ingest when there is a GI infection, which means we don’t gain any water in our systems. In contrast to diarrhea as a result of an infection, water is actually taken from the body and enters the intestinal tract; that means we actually lose water we already had. But why?

Diarrhea as a symptom of Lactose Intolerance

When you have lactose intolerance, you have a decreased efficiency in the digestion of lactose. While there are bacteria in your intestinal tract that are capable of digesting the lactose, they may not be able to digest all of the lactose you’ve consumed. This means that there is a concentration of lactose in your intestines that has not been taken up by your body. This is where the water loss comes in.

Remember that pesky biology lesson about Osmosis? Well, it’s actually applicable here (thank you, high school!). So, you have a high concentration of sugar (lactose) in your intestines and a lower concentration in the external environment of the intestine. Water likes to do this thing where it moves from areas of low concentrations of solutes, like sugars, to higher concentrations of solutes. Basically, water is a gold-digger and the more solutes an area has, the richer it is. So the water flows into your intestinal tract until the concentration of the sugars in your intestine is roughly the same as the concentration of the sugars outside of the intestine (this is called an equilibrium). This increased volume of water in your intestines causes a watery stool (aka diarrhea!).

Always remember that it’s important to stay hydrated anytime you have diarrhea.

Lesson here is: don’t ingest crazy amounts of lactose, especially if you’re lactose intolerant… unless you’re taking lactase pills. If you’re taking lactase pills, you can eat all the poutine that your heart allows! (That reminds me, happy belated Canada day!)

Diarrhea

Aw, poo! Is diarrhea getting you down? Well, seeing as I’ve mentioned diarrhea a few times, I thought it was about time that I explored the topic. So let’s find out what diarrhea is and why we get it. You may be surprised to find out just how great diarrhea can be, even though it’s definitely not pleasant in the moment.

What is diarrhea?

Diarrhea is runny or watery bowel movements (poo), where there is the characteristic loss in the form of the stool.

What causes diarrhea?

Diarrhea is usually an immune response indicating that you are suffering a gastrointestinal infection that has been caused by an endoparasite. In other words, diarrhea is the symptom of an infection in your gastrointestinal tract.

These infections are usually highly contagious as it can be spread via dirty hands contaminating food or water. These hands could have been changing a diaper or a pet’s fecal matter or simply cleaning the toilet but not washed properly (c’mon guys, just wash your hands!).  Kids usually get diarrhea frequently due to their tendency of putting their fingers into their mouths.

When we suffer from gastrointestinal infections, our bodies want to excrete the ingested endoparasite that is causing the infection out as quickly as possible. In order to do this, the muscles in your digestive tract contract at a faster rate than usual. This can cause a sharp pain in your abdomen.

These fast contractions also prevents your intestines from absorbing water from your waste; this means that the water in your intestinal tract leaves the body with your fecal matter instead of being retained in your body. This is why you get dehydrated when you have diarrhea, which is why you need to drink a lot of water and electrolyte-containing drinks (as you lose electrolytes and nutrients with your stool too).

Final thoughts

Okay, so basically diarrhea is great in that it helps us recover from an infection faster by excreting the endoparasites once it’s been detected by our immune system.

So while it’s a pain to deal with, it really teaches us the importance of hygiene. If we wash our hands properly and sanitize our hands and other items, there will be less of a risk of getting an infection. However, there are some endoparasites that won’t be phased by this, so diarrhea will be inevitable. The best thing you can do to recover from this infection is to stay hydrated. Your immune system is taking care of you, don’t you fret.

Without diarrhea, your body could become the new home to awful endoparasites. So just remember, it’s for the greater good.