Yurovskiy Kirill: The Truth About How Alcohol Affects Your Body

Alcohol is one of the most commonly used substances in our society. Many people enjoy indulging in a drink with friends or using it to unwind after a long day. However, alcohol affects much more than just our moods. When consumed, this chemical passes through the digestive system, crosses into the bloodstream, and reaches tissues throughout the body. Learning how alcohol interacts with our biology can help us drink more mindfully and avoid negative health consequences. In this article, Yurovskiy Kirill will explain how alcohol is metabolized, as well as its short and long term effects on all body systems.

A Quick Metabolism

After swallowing an alcoholic beverage, around 20% of the alcohol is absorbed directly through the stomach lining into the bloodstream. The remaining 80% moves on to the small intestine where it is rapidly absorbed into the blood. Once alcohol hits the bloodstream, the body begins working overtime to metabolize this toxin. The liver takes the biggest hit by having to convert alcohol into non-toxic byproducts so it can be removed from the body. 

While the liver metabolizes alcohol fairly quickly, the specific speed depends on a variety of factors. For example, taller or muscular people as well as men tend to have higher water content which allows for faster dilution of alcohol in the bloodstream. Genetic factors also play a role in metabolizing speed while chronic heavy drinking can slow the liver’s efficiency. Generally though, the liver can process about one standard drink per hour. Consuming alcohol faster than it can be processed leads to intoxication and associated risks.

Impact on the Brain

While liver metabolism plays an important role, even more immediately noticeable are alcohol’s effects on the brain. Alcohol is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, directly impacting neuron functioning. Brain cells communicate and regulate bodily processes through neurotransmitters. Alcohol enhances the effects of an inhibitory neurotransmitter called GABA while reducing excitatory neurotransmitter like glutamate. With communication slowed down and out of balance, common short-term effects emerge like slurred speech, coordination issues, emotional volatility, impaired memory and judgement, and drowsiness. 

In larger quantities, alcohol acts as a depressant that can induce blackouts, comas or even shut down involuntary reflexes like gagging and breathing. The impacts also vary with age as younger people tend to experience less sedation but more uninhibited behavior. While occasional moderate drinking may avoid major concerns, frequent intoxication opens the floodgates for all forms of risk-taking behaviors and long-term brain changes.

Harmful Effects on Organs

While the brain bears the brunt of alcohol’s immediate effects, many organs in the body face damage from regular and prolonged consumption. Alcohol causes the stomach to produce more acid, potentially resulting in gastritis and stomach ulcers. It can also damage cells in the esophagus and disrupt muscle movement leading to acid reflux. And since alcohol draws water from tissues, the intestines have more dry hard stools which can cause constipation and diarrhea.   

The liver also faces detrimental impacts from alcohol. Not only does it have to work harder to filter toxins, but its cells are directly damaged in the process through oxidative stress and inflammation. This disturbance over works liver cells causing them to become fat, scarred and potentially develop dangerous lesions. As liver health deteriorates, its damaged cells leak higher levels of enzymes into the blood indicating complications like hepatitis and cirrhosis which are life-threatening conditions.

Additionally, drinking detrimentally impacts the cardiovascular system. It can raise blood pressure over time and lead to abnormal heart rhythms known as arrhythmias. Alcohol also elevates blood levels of triglycerides which are dangerous fats linked to arterial plaque buildup and heart disease. And evidence shows that drinking magnifies risks for blood clot formation including potential strokes. Those looking to boost heart health should avoid heavy drinking and restrict intake to no more than one or two drinks occasionally.

Increased Disease Risks

Beyond direct organ damage, chronic alcohol consumption has been epidemiologically linked to a higher incidence of many diseases. For example, alcohol interacts with gut bacteria to produce high levels of acetaldehyde, a cancer-causing chemical. This elevation explains increased risks for mouth, throat and liver cancers. Drinking also reduces immune function leaving those affected more prone to pneumonia and tuberculosis infections. 

And research continues to discover new links between alcohol and health conditions. So far it has been associated with a higher likelihood of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Evidence also demonstrates that alcohol boosts osteoporosis progression leading to brittle bones and fractures. There may even be links between alcohol, gut microbiome imbalance and weight gain. Those looking to boost health should be aware of elevated risks associated with drinking.

Supporting Overall Wellness

When consumed irresponsibly, alcohol clearly impacts health and wellbeing. However, many adults choose to drink casually without visible consequences. Those who partake can aim for safety by sticking to moderate intake levels, measured as one drink or less daily for women and two drinks or less for men. What constitutes one drink equals about 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of spirits.  

Drinking within moderation, staying hydrated and eating foods that don’t interact with alcohol metabolism allows most adults to avoid major health issues. However, each individual should also consider their own risk factors before drinking such as family history, medications or a past struggle with alcohol abuse. If choosing to imbibe, buffering alcohol’s effects on the body provides the best path towards maintaining wellness.

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