The alcohol breakdown chain reaction in the body (I'm not a chemist) is ethanol -> acetaldehyde -> acetic acid. The ethanol causes your to be "drunk", but the acetaldehyde has some arguably worse effects (headache, tiredness, flush). Asians typically process ethanol -> acetaldehyde way faster than others, but the acetaldehyde -> acetic acid can be really slow. If the yeast is mimicking ADH and not ALDH, you're just going to suffer even more.
Again, I'm not a chemist or a doctor, but from my preliminary internet research and anecdotal testing (though I have quite a few different data points), Famotadine (OTC), and higher levels of APO-Ranitidine (can be prescription) seems to slow the rate of ethanol -> acetaldehyde, balancing out the drunkness effect more, and giving you more time to process the acetaldehyde -> acetic acid. I typically go from maxing out at 2 drinks / 3 hour period, to about 11 drinks / 3 hour period on Ranitidine, given favorable conditions. I've had lower levels of success with Famotadine.
NAC is a precursor to the antioxidant glutathione, which the liver uses during step 2 of the alcohol metabolization process (acetaldehyde > acetic acid). It helps by ensuring the stores of glutathione in your liver are less likely to become depleted when you've had a few drinks or more, thus reducing the buildup of acetaldehyde in your system.
Incidentally, it may also have some efficacy in terms of hangover reduction, even among those unaffected by alcohol-related flushing, due to the same mechanism.
I'm a doc. I believe it works but the side effects are too much for me.
It's likely that what you are taking may contain both, is this the case?
For all the bio-hackers looking to experiment tonight, it seems to make sense to:
1) take dry yeast to help the alcohol dehydrogenase break the alcohol down into acetaldehyde to stop you from feeling drunk
2) take both thiamine (optional) and cysteine to help the acetaldehyde dehydrogenase break acetaldehyde down into acetic acid to stop you from feeling hungover.
Assuming you just take a bunch of dry yeast, and that it has any effect at all you'll probably still have a bad hangover. Then again, chaining all these things together without a solid understanding about what's going on probably isn't too smart either.
I would note NAC does have a sulfhydryl group (as indicated by the -SH in the molecular diagram), so it does contain sulfur at some level.
And if hangover reduction is your goal, there are a number of other things that contribute to hangover symptoms that you also need to manage in order to reduce their effects:
- dehydration (drink a bunch of fluids before bed)
- depletion of electrolytes (generally speaking, make sure to eat/drink something salty)
- depletion of B vitamins (thiamine/B1 in particular tends to be depleted among alcoholics - supplement with a B complex high in thiamine; some studies show reduction of hangover symptoms with very high B6 intake(very high levels-1200mg) source: Khan MA, Jensen K, Krogh HJ. Alcohol-induced hangover. A double-blind comparison of pyritinol and placebo in preventing hangover symptoms)