Alcohol Experiment #1

I did my first alcohol experiment on May 3rd and it didn’t go according to plan.  I wasn’t going to post it until I had a chance to repeat it, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I feel like I should.  One of my issues with medical and pharmaceutical research is that negative experiments are often discarded, so positive data can sometimes become skewed without that balance.  I don’t want to be that person on my n=1 studies.

I posted my Sugar Experiment #1 where I tried to separate sugar from alcohol to see if it was responsible for my tachycardia, blood glucose spikes, and hot flashes after eating and drinking certain foods.  That phenomenon was first explained in What Leading By Example Is Not…, but has been replicated many times.  It is best described in Houston, We Have a Problem.  The sugar experiment wasn’t a well controlled test, but rather just a simple “let’s see what happens if I do this”.  My goal is to separate everything into its components.  I ordered some glucose to do an “at-home” glucose tolerance test, but I may not have to do that, as I am having an “official” one done today, as part of a research study I am participating in.  More about that later 🙂

My plan for this experiment was to have a modest amount of “pure” alcohol with no additives (i.e. lime juice, olive juice, etc) on an empty stomach to see if my heart rate and temperature would increase.  I wanted to take measurements every 15 minutes for at least 2 hours, longer if I was seeing an effect.  I assumed that if I didn’t see a change in my heart rate after two hours, there wouldn’t be one.  I felt like I thought this out well, but it didn’t go according to plan.

The first thing that went wrong with the experiment is that it took me 2:45 to get home from work.  My community has gone through a rough patch with thunderstorms and flooding and this particular Friday was the first day we had torrential downpours.  I left work at 4pm right as the storms were passing through my home area.  By the time I got to my exit, all of the roads entering my community were flooded, trees were down, and traffic was a nightmare.  I almost postponed the experiment in lieu of a “real” drink at a restaurant, but everything was closed due to the weather, so I went home and followed my plan.

The problem was that after 2:45 minutes of traffic, my blood pressure was crazy high!  It started at 149/102 mmHg, not exactly the stellar place of “baseline” I was hoping for.  But, I went for it anyway.

I started the experiment at 700pm.  My baseline was taken after sitting still for 15 minutes, prior to ingesting alcohol.  I then drank 3 fluid ounces of Enchanted Rock Peach Vodka with an alcohol content of 35%.  I drank it from 720pm-725pm (t=0).  I sat still in bed with legs extended during course of experiment (at least 5 minutes prior to each measurement, but generally the entire time).  I took measurements every 15 minutes.  I measured my blood pressure, pulse, FitBit heart rate, AliveCor EKG, AliveCor heart rate, skin temperature, and glucose.  My last food for the day prior to the experiment was finished at 1222pm and was low carb.

Time (min) Clock Sys Dys Pul FHR EKG EHR SkinT Glu
baseline 7:15 149 102 73 76 normal 75 97.7 90
0 7:25 171 121 75 80 normal 79 97.9 91
15 7:40 155 109 83 83 normal 85 98.8 110
30 7:55 152 104 76 76 normal 73 98.2 116
45 8:10 140 99 73 74 normal 74 97.9 100
60 8:25 141 99 71 77 normal 75 97.9 93
75 8:40 135 94 79 80 normal 78 98.1 81
90 8:55 137 92 75 79 normal 79 98.1 94
105 9:10 138 98 75 75 normal 77 98.1 86
120 9:25 131 90 76 75 normal 75 98.1 88

The second problem is that none of my pulse measurement techniques (blood pressure monitor, FitBit, or AliveCor EKG) showed a change in heart rate that was significantly different from my baseline.  My EKG never showed tachycardia, which means a heart rate over 100 beats/minute.  Maybe there was a small change in my heart rate data from baseline to t=15 minutes, but it was not even close to the magnitude I generally see, and it dropped immediately.  There was a secondary slight spike at the end of the experiment, so that complicated things also.  It is possible that I didn’t drink enough alcohol to have the “desired” affect, but I was trying to be as close to realistic.  I figured three ounces was two drinks and that’s really all it takes to cause the issue socially.

HeartRate

What I did see, and did not expect to see, is that my blood pressure skyrocketed after drinking the alcohol.  I have never experienced a blood pressure of 171/121 mmHg in my life!  I know this because my blood pressure meter called it “hypertensive crises” and that’s something I would have remembered seeing before.  The question that remains is would this have happened had my blood pressure not already been insanely high at the start?  Is that leftover from the traffic, or was that caused by the alcohol?  Thankfully, my blood pressure returned to pre-baseline levels by the end of the experiment.

Another unexpected result is that my blood glucose spiked after drinking the alcohol.  It increased from a baseline of 90mg/dL to a max of 116mg/dL after 30 minutes.  It showed an actual trend of rising and falling back to baseline and even below, so that seems legit.  I verified the ingredients of the flavored vodka to ensure there was no sugar and there was none.

Glucose

My skin temperature did increase a little and I felt symptoms that were consistent with that.  I felt chills during the measurements when it increased, but I also got cold towards the end of the experiment.  I also found myself getting sleepy towards the end of the experiment, but due to the traffic, I started later than I had wanted, so it could just be the clock.

This is an experiment I would like to repeat under non-stress conditions.  As I previously mentioned, I am doing a glucose tolerance test today and I am also going to have better technology for measuring my blood glucose for a couple of weeks.  I will use that as an opportunity to try this again!

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