How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?
Alcohol is the intoxicating ingredient found in wine, liquor and beer that is produced when sugars, starches and yeast ferment. A standard drink, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, equals 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. Whether you drink 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, 8 ounces of malt liquor or a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor, you’re getting about the same amount of pure alcohol with the same effects on your body.
How Is Alcohol Absorbed?
Alcohol travels quickly through your body. Since it does not require time in the intestinal tract for digestion to occur, it is quickly absorbed into your bloodstream. Between the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme in the stomach and the amount expelled in urine and through breathing, the amount of alcohol remaining to enter your bloodstream is about 70 percent. As the alcohol is absorbed in the small intestine, it travels to the liver where the greatest amount of damage occurs. The liver can only metabolize about a half of one ounce of alcohol per hour, which is roughly one drink. The excess alcohol circulates throughout the body until the enzymes in the liver can process it.
Conditions Associated With Alcoholism
Alcohol consumption affects many parts of the body and disease processes, such as:
- Fetal alcohol syndrome. Drinking during pregnancy puts your unborn baby at high risk for developing physical and behavioral abnormalities.
- Blood glucose effects. Alcohol consumption can raise blood glucose levels in your blood. If you have diabetes, you are increasing your risk for hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels).
- Joints. The gout-type arthritis risk increases in people who drink alcohol.
- Cardiac disease. Heavy drinkers carry an increased risk for elevated blood pressure and blood lipids. This causes an increase in the risk of stroke.
- Kidney disease. Alcohol damage to the kidneys includes enlarged kidneys, hormone function changes and an increase in the potential for kidney failure.
- Liver disease. Damage to the liver includes alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis and fatty liver disease.
- Digestive. Alcoholism can lead to malnutrition through lack of intake or impaired absorption.
- Psychological and central nervous system. Alcohol causes anxiety, insomnia, depression, neuropathy, balance impairment and dementia.
What Affects Alcohol Consumption?
The way your body reacts to alcohol differs, depending on many factors. Your age, race and gender play a role in how alcohol is processed. In addition, your fitness level, weight and general physical condition have an affect on how you respond to drinking. If you have a family history of alcoholism, if you use other drugs or take prescription medications, or consume the alcohol quickly, you are at high risk for alcoholism. Your body processes alcohol differently according to the amount of food you ate before you began drinking.
Is Any Amount of Alcohol Safe for Your Body?
The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans states if you are going to drink, do so in moderation – no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks for men. If you cannot manage alcohol with restrictions, you may need to consider the possibility that you are addicted. Reach out for help before you destroy your body. Our staff is available to answer any questions you have regarding treatment.