How Alcohol Affects Your Body – Another one buddy


Many people like to enjoy a few drinks now and then — especially around holidays and special occasions. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s good to know how this can affect your body.


No amount of alcohol is good for you per se, but many people enjoy a few drinks while socializing. Not only will an occasional few drinks not destroy your health, but socializing — with or without the drinks — is a great boost for your well-being!


Having said that, it’s good to be aware of the effects alcohol can have on your body.


So, read on for a play-by-play of exactly what happens when that first drink gets into your system…


Did you know you don’t have to digest alcohol?  

Your body must digest food before any nutrients it holds can get absorbed into your cells. But alcohol bypasses this by flowing through the stomach lining and into the bloodstream. The bloodstream then carries the alcohol to every organ in your body. Most of the alcohol flows to a part of your small intestine called the duodenum, and into your liver.


Your background and gender play a role…

Ethnicity and gender can determine how you react to alcohol running through your veins. This is because of an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH). This enzyme breaks down alcohol and converts it into energy. It also helps stop the damaging effects of alcohol on your nervous system.


Some ethnicities store less ADH enzymes than others. And women, regardless of ethnicity, generally store less than men. Older men produce less of the enzyme as they age. So, more unmetabolized alcohol spreads from their stomachs and into their bloodstreams. This can make them feel tipsy from less alcohol than their counterparts.


From there, this is where it goes…

A healthy liver can process half an ounce of pure alcohol per hour. To put that another way, that’s the same as a 6 – 12 oz beer, a 5 oz glass of wine, or a 1 oz shot of spirits in an hour. What hasn’t processed returns to your heart, where it lowers your blood pressure for as long as 30 minutes.


From the heart, the alcohol flows into your lungs. Now each time you exhale, you expel small amounts of alcohol, and your breath smells of booze. As you inhale, the alcohol expands your blood vessels, and warm blood flows to the skin surface. You start to feel warm and may flush. After ten minutes, alcohol moves through your body up to your brain. Once there, its sedative effect impairs movement and slows down your ability to think.


Alcohol is a diuretic. It dehydrates you and makes you thirsty. As a result, your kidneys work harder as they produce more urine, which makes you thirsty again. This cycle repeats until your liver produces enough ADH to metabolize the alcohol. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours, depending on the individual. By spreading the number of drinks over time, you help your body process the alcohol and limit the damage.


Try to apply the following tips if you plan to indulge in more than one alcoholic drink:

Pace yourself. Avoid sweet drinks that are easy to consume quickly. Try a tea, coffee, or juice between drinks. And be sure to drink water between both caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. Choose an alcoholic drink with a tart or strong flavor and sip it rather than guzzle it.


Stick to the clear stuff. It’s better to drink clear alcohol, including gin, vodka, and white wine. Avoid darker alcohol like red wine and whiskey. These contain chemicals called congeners, produced during fermentation and aging. Congeners have more of an effect on the body and brain. As an example, bourbon has 40 times the quantity of congeners than vodka. Fewer congeners may decrease intoxication effects, and more may worsen your hangover.


Hydrate. Drink a glass of water between every alcoholic drink and before bed. It will go a long way towards how you feel in the morning.


Eat. Food prevents alcohol from passing into your small intestine. Alcohol is most rapidly absorbed by the small intestine. The longer it stays in the stomach, the slower the absorption, and the slower it affects the body.


Don’t drink and drive. Drinking and driving is extremely dangerous. Alcohol always impairs driving performance, even in small amounts. There is never an improvement in the required skills, except (and often) in the mind of the driver.


Exercise. This is for the morning after. And we get it, the last thing you want to do when you feel hungover is exercise. Do it anyway! Exercise removes alcohol from the body through sweating. But, don’t forget to drink lots of water to hydrate while exercising.


And speaking of the morning after…


Hangover tips

Hydrate. Especially if you weren’t drinking water between drinks and didn’t have a glass before bed. You NEED to replace the water in your system, and this will help relieve your headache and the other nasty symptoms of a hangover.


Take time to rest. You’ve put some stress on your body, and if you’re feeling tired, it’s because your body needs some time to recover.


Get some carbs into you. Try some toast or crackers. Your blood sugar levels will drop when you drink alcohol, especially if you forget to eat while you’re drinking. Eating some simple carbs will help balance out your levels.


Manage inflammation. People with hangovers have shown to have higher levels of cytokines in the blood. These are cells sent out by the immune system that promote inflammation. Though inflammation is an important, healthy, and natural part of the immune system, sometimes it can get out of hand. Research suggests that alcohol can increase inflammation and lower the body’s ability to control it.


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References and Resources

How your body processes alcohol, For Dummies,

The effects of alcohol on your body,  by Ann Pietrangelo and Kimberly Holland,

HAMS: Harm Reduction for Alcohol, Harm Reduction Network, Inc., 2015,

What happens when you drink on an empty stomach by 2018 by Erica Cirino, causes hangovers?

Glutathione – The Hangover Remedy We’ve All Been Waiting For! by Abundance and health, 2016,

Congeners in Alcoholic Beverages, HealthEngine, 2011,