Alcohol consumption and the keto diet is a hot topic. Many people who want to lose weight turn to eating ketogenic food and are delighted that, unlike almost all diets, alcohol is not strictly forbidden in the ketogenic lifestyle. The problem is many people on the keto diet report that their alcohol tolerance is much lower, and their hangovers much worse on a low-carb, high protein diet. You may need to be mindful about your eating habits on this low-carb ketogenic diet, and it may also be essential to consider the types of alcohol you are consuming. But it’s not all bad news: a natural extract called Dihydromyricetin (or DHM) may help ease alcohol intolerance.
As you may know already, consuming alcohol and getting tipsy after half a glass of wine is nothing unusual when you're on a keto diet. While there is not a lot of scientific research yet to explain why tolerance is lowered, the theory goes that alcohol tolerance plummets on a keto diet mainly because your glycogen stores are low in ketosis, so alcoholic drinks gets absorbed at a quicker rate.
A quick search online will show many users reporting how being on keto lowered their alcohol tolerance. If your standard hangover prevention regimen is no longer as effective as it used to be, do like some of them and try the Japanese raisin tree extract (Hovenia Dulcis), commonly called Dihydromyricetin (or DHM).
So, can DHM increase a keto alcohol tolerance for those on the diet?
What is DHM?
Dihydromyricetin is a natural extract that has been used for centuries as an anti-alcohol herb and hangover cure in Korean and Chinese traditional medicine. Recent studies suggest that DHM could lower your blood alcohol level and protect your liver from damage and disease. 1,2
More specifically, Dihydromyricetin (DHM) increases the ability of two key enzymes to function.3,4 These enzymes are alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). The enzyme ADH is responsible for breaking down alcohol into acetaldehyde and the enzyme ALDH breaks down acetaldehyde into acetic acid.
By enhancing these enzymes DHM allows you to flush both alcohol and, more importantly, acetaldehyde out of your system at a quicker rate. This leads to increased tolerance and fewer hangover symptoms the following morning. 5
Alcohol Metabolism & The Keto Diet
When you consume alcohol, the liver prioritizes ethanol metabolism over gluconeogenesis and the brain gets even less glucose and more acetone – fast-tracking the impact of alcohol and intoxication. While a stomach full of carbs will slow down alcohol absorption, this is not exactly the case for people who eat much less on the keto diet.
So, the message is clear: be careful, you will become intoxicated at much lower levels of alcohol consumption. This diet can give you a reduced alcohol tolerance, so being mindful of how much you drink can help to prevent severe intoxication. More importantly, don’t perform an activity like drinking and driving.
Keto Hangovers and the Keto Diet
Alcohol is known to lower blood glucose because the liver is busy metabolizing the ethanol and not making more glucose through gluconeogenesis. More severe hangovers are likely the result of dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and hypoglycemia. Carbs hold onto water whereas the ketogenic diet increases urination and fluid loss. There are some steps you can take to avoid a hangover when you are on a keto diet. Eat a keto friendly, high-protein meal before drinking. Alternate water between any alcoholic drinks and consider adding some salt and taking magnesium, potassium or anti-hangover supplements.
What is the Best Alcoholic Drink for a Low-Carb Diet?
Since alcohol isn’t forbidden in the keto lifestyle, but your alcohol tolerance is much lower, consider drinking low-carb alcoholic drinks. Distilled liquor is your best option for keto cocktails.
Some distilled hard liquor options are:
Of course, wine, champagne, and low-carb light beers are acceptable as well. Drinking in moderation on this diet is doable and manageable! The trick here is to avoid sugary mixed drinks.
How DHM Reduces Alcohol’s Effect on the Brain
One way in which DHM increases alcohol tolerance is through nullifying alcohol’s effect on your GABA receptors.6 GABA is one of your brain’s many neurotransmitters, which are chemicals your brain cells use to communicate with one another.
So, what does DHM have to do with the effects of alcohol on the brain? In a controlled study conducted with animals, researchers found that dihydromyricetin (DHM) increased alcohol tolerance and prevented signs of withdrawal when taken during alcohol consumption.
How’d they come to this conclusion? Researchers gave mice alcohol along with either placebo or DHM. After, they measured various behaviors and brain functions related to intoxication. More specifically, mice were placed on their backs in a V-shaped cradle and researchers measured the time it took the rats to turn over or the loss of righting reflex. On average, they took about 70 minutes to right themselves. However, when an injection of the same amount of booze included a milligram of DHM per kilogram of rat body weight, the animals recovered their composure within just 5 minutes.
DHM also stopped rats in a maze from behaving in ways resembling anxiety and hangovers. Bottom line Eating a carb-heavy meal before drinking can keep you from getting drunk too quickly. By the same token, following a strict keto diet meal plan can lead to becoming intoxicated more quickly and suffering a worse hangover. The key takeaway is: be careful. Alcohol on the keto diet is much more potent. Moderation is key.
By taking supplements with DHM you may affect alcohol’s effect on your GABA receptors and reduce some of the unwanted effects associated with alcohol consumption.