Have you ever heard that alcohol should not be drunk during a course of medication? Particular care should be taken when using antibiotics and alcohol at the same time. The reason why mixing alcohol with antibiotics is bad for your health is related to your liver metabolism. However, in order to explain the process, it is important to clarify some concepts first. We will also explain in more detail what hepatic metabolism is.
What is an antibiotic?
Antibiotics have saved millions of lives since penicillin was first used.
An antibiotic is a chemical produced by a living organism or produced synthetically that kills or stops the growth of certain sensitive microorganisms. Thus, antibiotics are drugs used to treat bacterial infections and are therefore also known as antibacterial agents.
Antibiotics usually help a person’s resistance until the local response is enough to control the infection. An antibiotic is bacteriostatic if it stops the growth of bacteria, and bactericidal if it kills them. Sometimes antibiotics can produce both effects, depending on the case.
What is alcohol?
Alcohol is a substance that paralyzes the central nervous system and gradually inhibits brain function. This causes the symptoms of intoxication, which affect brain function and cause coordination problems as well as changes in behavior.
Repeated and prolonged alcohol consumption causes inflammation and destruction of liver cells. This leads to cirrhosis of the liver.
What does the liver do? Liver metabolism
The liver is a very important organ with numerous functions in the body.
The liver is one of the most important organs in our body, which is mainly because it has so many important functions that it performs throughout the day.
The liver plays an important role in metabolism; it regulates the proteins in the blood and the distribution of some nutrients such as iron. In addition, it regulates cholesterol and triglycerides and removes toxins.
One of the main functions of the liver is to filter out toxic substances from the body. The liver therefore metabolizes both antibiotics and alcohol because they are toxic substances.
Toxic hepatitis develops as toxins accumulate. The state of hepatic metabolism can be determined by experiments measuring liver function. These tests are used to assess liver function.
Tests measuring liver function
Liver tests measure certain proteins, enzymes, and substances to determine liver function, including:
- Bilirubin: This is a yellow substance that belongs to the bile. When red blood cells break down, they are converted to bilirubin. In some experiments, bilirubin can be detected in urine and blood. If there is too much bilirubin in the blood, it can cause jaundice.
- Aminotransferases: enzymes that tell the status of hepatocytes. They multiply in liver necrosis, that is, when liver cells die.
- Alkaline phosphatase: the most sensitive marker of cholestasis, although it is not specific for just one disease.
Liver metabolism and toxic hepatitis
Toxic hepatitis is a term used to refer to hepatitis. This inflammation has many different causes, the most common of which are infections. It can also be caused by an abnormal reaction to a drug and exposure to toxic substances.
In addition to the reasons mentioned earlier, the concomitant use of antibiotics and alcohol can also cause toxic hepatitis because they are toxic substances and interact. When this happens, we can distinguish two different mechanisms.
- Direct or congenital toxicity: Both alcohol and antibiotics are toxic substances that are metabolized by the liver. If the liver metabolism is loaded, it will not be able to handle this workload, leading to hepatitis.
- Idiosyncratic toxicity: The interaction of some antibiotics with alcohol causes them to become inactive. This means that they stop working and do not kill bacteria. The biggest problem in this situation is that the bacteria that were supposed to be killed become resistant to antibiotics, making them much harder to destroy.
To describe idiosyncratic toxic hepatitis, we use amoxicillin-clavulanic acid (antibiotic) as an example. Currently, this drug is the most common cause of idiosyncratic toxic hepatitis in Western countries. Concomitant use of these antibiotics and alcohol makes them inactive and makes the bacteria resistant. This means that amoxicillin-clavulanic acid will no longer be effective against these bacteria in the future.
Risk of resistance
Bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, which is a serious public health problem for the world’s population. To avoid this, we should follow drug guidelines, not self-medicate, and not eat antibiotics for viral diseases such as influenza and flu, and avoid the concomitant use of antibiotics with other substances such as alcohol.