** Originally posted by DottieD **
I have often wondered why many people with psoriasis get worse when they drink alcoholic beverages.
I just read an article in “Vitamin Research News” that may shed light on this question. Although this publication is put out by a company that sells supplements, the article seems to be scientifically accurate and it lists references so anyone can check out the points made. Here’s what it says:
When we drink alcohol, it is metabolized in the body in 3 steps:
1. The alcohol (ethanol) is converted to a compound called acetaldehyde.
2. Acetaldehyde is converted to acetic acid.
3. The acetic acid is converted to Acetyl Coenzyme A - the main molecule our cells use as a source of energy.
Each of these steps requires certain enzymes and nutrients to react.
According to the article, ideally all the alcohol we drink would be quickly and efficiently converted to acetyl-Co A. However, in real life these chemical steps are sometimes slow and may not be very efficient. This could be due to genetic differences, a shortage of some nutrients required for the chemical reactions, or just that we give our bodies too big of a load of alcohol to deal with, as with heavy drinking.
The first step – the formation of acetaldehyde - is a particular problem. Acetaldehyde is a toxic compound in the same family of chemicals as formaldehyde. In addition to being a breakdown product of alcohol, it is also found in cigarette smoke, car exhaust, many plastics, insulating foam, new carpets, and some adhesives. It is also produced by that infamous yeast found in the gut, Candida albicans, which (if not kept in check) seems to make p worse in some people. We can’t help being exposed to some amount of this chemical, but people who drink alcohol are exposed to a lot more of it.
Acetaldehyde is classified as a probable carcinogen and it is partly responsible for chemical dependency to alcohol and cigarettes. It is thought to be what causes a hangover. It damages red cell membranes, making them less flexible when passing through tiny blood vessels. It damages a protein (tubulin) that our brain cells need to connect to each other, and thus can cause brain damage in chronic heavy drinkers. It can cause birth defects in a fetus (neurological, respiratory, and immune), which is why pregnant women are told to avoid alcohol.
For people with inflammatory disorders, another problem occurs that I was not aware of:
Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is a fatty acid – an omega-6 which behaves like the good omega-3’s. It is a potent anti-inflammatory. Small amounts are present in a few foods, but the body makes most of its own GLA.
(My note: The reason this is important is that the white cells that reside in our skin manufacture chemicals that cause our skin cells to multiply too fast. GLA has been found to inhibit the production of some these chemicals. That is why supplements like borage oil, black currant oil, or evening primrose oil, which contain GLA, help some people with psoriasis.)
Acetaldehyde inhibits our bodies’ ability to make its own GLA. It does this by deactivating an enzyme that is needed for the manufacture of GLA. (The enzyme is called Delta-6-Desaturase, for those who want to check it out.) With less of this enzyme we can’t make as much of our own GLA, and so the level of inflammation in our bodies will be higher. Thus, a person who drinks or smokes a lot - and who therefore carries around more acetaldehyde - may find their psoriasis getting worse.
The article goes on to say that certain nutrients have been found to help metabolize acetaldehyde in the body: vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin C, and a sulfur-containing amino acid called cysteine. I can only assume that the effects of drinking alcohol on psoriasis might be lessened if the person took a supplement with GLA to make up for the deficiency caused by drinking. The oils listed above are good sources of GLA, or it is possible to purchase the pure compound.