What Exactly Does Alcohol Do To Your Body?

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There’s nothing wrong with having a few (or more) drinks, especially during the appropriate celebratory occasions or catching up with old friends. But have you ever wondered just exactly how alcohol affects your body? Sure, there are certainly some pleasurable effects of alcohol, but let’s go over the what’s really going on in your body after that fourth margarita.

Absorption in the Body

The moment alcohol is consumed, about 20% of it is absorbed in the stomach, while 80% is absorbed through the small intestine. How fast this process happens depends on upon several factors, including the concentration of alcohol in your drink, whether your drink is carbonated, and whether your stomach is full or empty. After it enters your bloodstream, the alcohol is dissolved in the water of your blood, directly influencing the infamous Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), which determines your overall intoxication.

Your Liver Goes To Work

Once this liquid courage has been dissolved throughout your bloodstream, now comes the process of oxidation, or the breaking down of alcohol. This majority of this occurs in your liver, which is tasked with the process of painstakingly removing what is essentially poison to the body. The process of oxidation is relatively slow, taking about an hour for your body to remove each drink you consume.

Your Kidneys and Lungs do the Rest

A remainder of 10% or so of the alcohol you’ve consumed is eliminated through your kidney and lungs, the latter of which is why a breathalyzer is able to determine your BAC.

That “Drunk” Feeling

The feeling of being drunk is brought upon by nerve cells within the brain by suppressing the activity of excitatory nerve pathways and increasing the activity of inhibitory nerve pathways. These inhibitory nerve pathways are responsible for all the signature characteristics of being drunk, including sluggishness, euphoria, loss of judgment, and increased self-confidence. In all, five parts of your brain are affected by alcohol.

Your Cerebral Cortex is Affected

Your cerebral cortex is the part of your brain that lowers your inhibition, allowing for you to feel more comfortable in social situations. The limbic system, which controls your memory, is affected, with higher intoxication levels leading it to make your body experience exaggerated states of emotion. Stumbling everywhere when you’re drunk? You can thank your cerebellum for the loss of coordination.

Other Parts of the Brain are Affected

Finally, your hypothalamus and pituitary gland are those lovely parts of your brain that increase sexual arousal and urinary excretion, especially since alcohol is a diuretic, which is the reason why you’re taking your fifth bathroom break before 12:00 am.

Hangovers, Your Stomach & Your Outer Appearance

Alcohol doesn’t only affect your brain, liver, and kidneys, it has a huge impact on the skin and muscles. Drunk people look sweaty and flushed due to the increased blood flow to the skin. This sweating can even lead to your overall body temperature falling below normal, which can lead to a variety of complications. This increased blood flow is also present in the stomach and intestines, which causes stomach acid secretions, which can be an underlying culprit of a nasty hangover. Your muscles don’t get enough blood flow, which leads to muscle aches, another loathsome characteristic of a hangover.

So there you have it, alcohol is quite the substance when it comes to how it affects our bodies. Always remember: stay hydrated when consuming alcohol, drink responsibly, and never drive or get in the car with someone who has had too much to drink. 

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