Many of us enjoy a drink, whether it be to unwind at the end of a stressful day or help get in the party mood.
The aim of this post is not to say you should stop drinking, but to be educational and arm you with knowledge of the processes alcohol goes through in the body, and even explain how it might do you some good!
How Does Alcohol Get Used by the Body?
After swallowing, alcohol goes into the stomach and then into the small intestine.
Roughly 20% is absorbed by the stomach with the remaining 80% absorbed through the small intestine.
Within the small intestine it then enters the bloodstream. Next, enzymes break down the alcohol to be metabolised by the liver.
Around 90% of alcohol in the blood is broken down into water and carbon dioxide by the liver. This process is called oxidation. The remaining 10% passes through the lungs and kidneys.
What Effect Does the Amount I Drink Have on the Body?
As a general rule, the liver can break down one unit of alcohol per hour. The more you drink in any given period, the less the liver can absorb per hour.
It can take around 11 hours for 3 pints of beer or 3 large glasses of wine to completely leave your system. We need to be mindful of this, as there’s clearly a possibility of being over the limit on a breathalyser test the following day.
Even when you stop drinking it’s possible to become more intoxicated over the following few hours, due to the time it takes for all of the alcohol to be processed. This explains why you may start feeling more drunk after stopping drinking if you have been drinking heavily!
Food slows down the release of alcohol into the bloodstream, so it’s often a good idea not to drink on an empty stomach.
What are the Effects of Alcohol on the Body?
Moderate to heavy drinking can:-
- damage the liver, central nervous system and cardiovascular system
- harm a developing foetus
- restrict beneficial nutrients being absorbed and/or utilised from food
- increase hormone levels i.e. insulin, oestrogen, testosterone
- hamper the manufacture of some essential nutrients and enzymes within the body
- add unwanted body fat
- increase risk of death from heart disease, stroke, cancer and liver damage
- cause blood sugar issues leading to low energy, ‘brain fog’ and type 2 diabetes
- make you dehydrated
There are various studies that link LIGHT to MODERATE alcohol use with health benefits:
- improving the ratio of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol to ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol
- helping reduce blood pressure
- may reduce the risk of thrombosis
- resveratol, found in red wine, is in antioxidant
- low to moderate drinking may help lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases
It is important to realise that, although there are some claimed benefits of low to moderate alcohol consumption, that the known risks of drinking even moderate amounts far outweigh any benefits.
Avoiding a Hangover
Depending on the amount you drink, how quickly you drink it, and your body’s own tolerance to alcohol, a hangover may result!
Although it’s very difficult to avoid a hangover if drinking too much too quickly, my tips for reducing the likely severity of a hangover are:-
- Eat a good meal before and maybe have a snack during drinks
- Pace yourself
- Drink water between alcoholic drinks to help rehydrate