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Almost all of us have tried some form of alcohol at some point. Studies show that more than 85% of adults in the US consume alcohol, yet very few of us pause to think about what exactly goes on in our body while drinking. Even though we are complex organisms, you might be surprised to find out how various parts of our bodies instantly react to consuming alcohol. Here’s a quick rundown that will help you better understand the after effects of drinking, and why alcohol makes you feel the way it does.
The stomach is where alcohol is first broken down. Breaking down alcohol takes up a significant amount of energy, making it a hard substance to digest. The enzymes in the stomach convert alcohol into a substance called acetaldehyde, a known carcinogen which is toxic for our bodies. Acetaldehyde is also a known carcinogen.
You’re probably well aware that alcohol takes a toll on the liver. Well, that’s because acetaldehyde is a harmful substance, and the liver is what immediately converts it into something that is less dangerous for our bodies. The liver has enzymes that convert acetaldehyde to acetate, which is similar to vinegar. There’s a catch though - the liver can only metabolize a certain amount of acetaldehyde at a time. If acetaldehyde starts to accumulate in the liver, our bodies start to adversely react, especially in response to heavy drinking. That’s why chugging drinks, or doing many shots one after another can quickly lead to excessive sweating, nausea, vomiting and other short-term effects.
On a normal basis, our hearts maintain a fairly steady pulse rate. Consuming alcohol puts the body in conditions of stress, and so the heart rates tend to increase. Frequent consumption of copious amounts of alcohol can cause the heart to become very stressed, and lead to many heart problems later in life.
You might have noticed the urge to frequently urinate while drinking. Since alcohol has diuretic properties, drinking alcohol causes the kidneys to send water to the bladder. However, the kidneys start to expel more water than usual, and so you might also start to feel dehydrated when drinking. It’s most important to keep drinking water alongside alcohol so as to replenish lost fluids.
Alcohol and Your Immune System
Alcohol greatly reduces the efficiency of our immune systems, for as long as 24 hours after consumption. This means that the body is vulnerable to all sorts of illnesses for a whole day after drinking! It’s critical to keep this in mind, especially if you are already suffering from illnesses such as a common cold, since your immune system might not be at peak efficiency, thus prolonging your healing time.
Now that you know what alcohol does to your body, do keep these facts in mind before you decide to go out. Remember, always drink responsibly and stay safe!
Infographic courtesy of Lakeview Health