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 🙂

The Urinary System – Selective Reabsorption

Last week, we learned about the general filtration process that occurs in our kidneys. This week, we’ll learn just how our kidneys modify the filtrate to produce urine.

The filtrate that is in the renal tubule consists of water as well as other small molecules, like sugars and urea. Some of these molecules, like sugars, can return to the bloodstream in a ‘process’ known as selective reabsorption. It’s called ‘selective’ reabsorption because the bloodstream is picky as to what it absorbs from the tubule. The molecules that leave the tubule enter tiny blood vessels next to the tubule, which are called peritubular capillaries. The molecules can then be carried through the rest of the circulatory system, to provide our body cells with nutrients (if they’re sugars).

Parts of the Kidney

Selective reabsorption mainly occurs in the proximal tubule, which is the beginning of the tubule. The proximal tubule is just after the Bowman’s capsule. Whenever a molecule leaves, it is accompanies by water, which means a lot of water is reabsorbed by the bloodstream in this process.

By returning the molecules to the bloodstream, the remaining filtrate’s composition changes. As water leaves, the concentration of particles in the tubule increases.

Hormones can affect what is reabsorbed in the distal tubule. These hormones are the anitidiuretic hormone (ADH), which is also known as vasopressin, and aldosterone. They’ll be discussed next week when we talk about Concentration and Dilution!

Goosebumps

You get these little bumps on your skin when you’re cold or when you feel any strong emotion, such as fear. But how does our body produce these bumps and why? And why are they called goosebumps?

What are Goosebumps?

Goosebumps, also called cutis ancerina (which is the Latin translation of ‘the skin of the goose’), are the bumps that result from the erection of the hairs in our skin. It is an involuntary, or uncontrollable, response to cold temperatures or strong emotions.

How do we get them?

Last week, we talked about the four components of hair: the follicle, the shaft and the inner and outer sheaths. Each of  your hairs’ outer sheaths, which encompass the follicle and the inner sheath, are surrounded by fibrous layers that attach to smooth muscles known as erector pili. These muscle are stimulated by the autonomic nervous system, which is the division of our nervous system that works with our conscious effort. The involuntary muscle reflex that causes goosebumps is referred to as the pilomotor reflex.

When we’re in cold environments, our thermoreceptors signal to our brain that our body temperature is decreasing. This triggers the release of the hormone epinephrine (aka adrenaline), which targets these erector pili and causes them to contract. The contraction of these muscles causes our hairs to stand erect, which is also the cause of the bumps. In fact, erector pili literally translates to ‘a thing that erects hair’. See, scientific names aren’t that random at all!

If you recall from that first post I did about anxiety, epinephrine is also released when one feels anxious. When this feeling is so strong that it promotes the release of a large amount of epinephrine, it can trigger the contraction of the erector pili in our skin, causing goosebumps. The same can be said for when you’re frightened, since the body mechanisms for anxiety and fear are similar.

Okay… but why do we get goosebumps?

Goosebumps are more helpful to animals than they are for us. That being said, goosebumps aren’t a total waste of energy for our bodies.

It’s believed that the formation of goosebumps is a phenomenon that we inherited from our primal ancestors (for those who don’t believe in Evolution, their theory is still applicable to humans, don’t worry!).

You see, we’re hairy mammals and our hair allows us to retain some heat, somewhat like a natural blanket. There is also a layer of air that surrounds our bodies that can serve as an insulator for heat. Now, in the case of the evolutionist theory, our primal ancestors had a lot more hair than we do; thus, they had a better blanket and more warmth. So, when they were in cold environments, their hairs would stand up (much like ours). These raised hairs causes the insulating air layer to expand, allowing your body to retain more heat. In other words, the expansion of this layer of air due to your raised hairs decreases the amount of heat that you lose to the cold environment.

This theory can also be applied to us; however, we don’t have as much hair as the primal ancestors in the evolutionist theory. This means our ability to retain heat isn’t as efficient since the layer of insulating air wouldn’t be consistent due to the visible gaps between our hairs. But it can still be argued that goosebumps do try to help us stay warm!

A reason for animals to have goosebumps can also be related to their predator-prey relationships. If a prey were to experience goosebumps upon seeing their predator (due to fear usually), their fur would make them seem bigger than they actually are since the hairs would be standing out. This would give them a better chance at intimidating the predator, which in turn means that they have a slightly better chance at surviving the encounter.

Why are they called ‘Goosebumps’?

Have you ever plucked a goose? Or a duck? Or seen a frozen chicken in the grocery store with its skin still on? They all have bumps on their skin after having been plucked which look like the bumps we get! So that partially explains the name…

But why not call it ‘Duck-bumps’ or ‘Chicken-bumps’ (which would make sense in terms of fear)? It really all has to do with which bird has been domesticated at the time the term was coined. For the English, Germans, Polish, Russians and others, geese had been domesticated. For the Spanish, they coined the term ‘piel de gallina’ which translates to ‘the skin of the hen’. The Japanese term is torihada, which literally means ‘bird skin’. So really, the term varies for different languages and cultures.

So now you know what goosebumps are, how we get them, why we get them and why we call them goosebumps! And now you know that you can start calling them ‘duck-bumps’ without being wrong… That being said, I can’t promise you won’t get any strange looks.

Bubenik, G.A. 2003. Why do humans get “goosebumps” when they are cold, or under other circumstances? ScientificAmerican.com. <http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-do-humans-get-goosebu>. August 15th, 2013.

Parker, A. 2010. Five things you probably didn’t know about your body. TorontoSun.com. <http://blogs.canoe.ca/parker/general/five-things-you-probably-don%E2%80%99t-know-about-your-body/>. August 15th, 2013.

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