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What Happens Inside Your Body When you Drink Alcohol

What Happens Inside Your Body When you Drink Alcohol

Alcohol Journey Through the Body

Alcohol Journey Through the Body

No matter your reason for drinking, whether it’s a college party or a business gathering, alcohol does something to the body. Most of the effects aren’t pretty. But that doesn’t mean we should divert our gaze from the facts. This infographic from Best Colleges Online shows us what happens inside, outside, and to our body when we drink alcohol. Let’s first take a quick look at the journey alcohol takes:

  1. You begin drinking.
  2. The drink (alcohol included) travels to the stomach, then the small intestine via the esophagus.
  3. Alcohol begins entering the bloodstream, mostly through the small intestine’s walls.
  4. The alcohol also affects the kidneys and liver on its journey. The liver works hard to detoxify and get rid of the alcohol; the kidneys push the alcohol right into the bladder.
  5. The bladder is also in a hurry to rid itself of the toxins, leading to excessive urination and subsequent dehydration.

Alcohol Journey Through the Body

Alcohol and the Brain Effects

Most of the effects on the brain are noticeable in your physical displays of drunkenness. But what’s really happening inside the brain and central nervous system that causes these physical responses? Let’s take it region by region:

Cerebral Cortex

Alcohol slows down this area of the brain. This depression will lead to lowered inhibitions and slow, foggy thinking. You will also notice it in your visual and auditory senses, as those areas are slowed as well.

Hypothalamus and Pituitary

This region of the brain is responsible for keeping brain functions and hormonal distribution in check and coordinated. Your hypothalamus’s nerve centers will be slowed down by the alcohol. This means the very nerve centers of sexual performance will be too. You may feel more urges, but your performance will not increase accordingly.

Cerebellum

The cerebellum is our balance and movement headquarters. Too much alcohol affects this region, then your body by making you wobbly and lose your balance.

Medulla

The medulla makes the stereotypical sleepy drunk. Along with making you sleepy, the alcohol-affected medulla will also slow down your breathing and lower your body temperature, sometimes dangerously so.

What Happens When You Drink Alcohol Too Fast

If you drink alcohol faster than your body can break it down, alcohol collects in your blood leading to a higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The higher this gets, the more symptoms of drunkenness you’ll notice and the more dangerous the situation gets (Drinking & You). One should practice slow and mindful drinking, if you must drink. Be aware of your body and give it time to let you know when you’ve had enough. If you don’t think you’re a very good listener, take a close look at the BAC chart, according to your weight and gender.

Why Can’t You Drink Alcohol When Taking Antibiotics?

While you certainly shouldn’t be drinking too much alcohol when you already aren’t feeling well to allow yourself hydration and rest to heal, there are more reasons than this to avoid alcohol when you are taking antibiotics. Here’s why:

  • Antibiotics have side effects and alcohol increases the intensity of these side effects.
  • Some antibiotics, when combined with alcohol, can cause rapid heart rates and nausea.
  • Alcohol may lower your chances of a speedy recover from whatever illness you are taking the antibiotics for (Mayo Clinic).

What Happens When You Drink Alcohol While Pregnant

If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, there’s no doubt you have already been swamped with information and opinions on how to feed yourself and what to avoid. When it comes to drinking, it may be more straightforward than other parts of your diet, but there is still some room for debate.

Officially, the Department of Health (UK) recommends that pregnant women do not drink at all. But some expectant mothers make the choice to drink in extreme moderation, which should be limited to no more than one or two drinks only one or two times a week (Drink Aware).

Drinking on an Empty Stomach Effects

Drinking alcohol without eating enough or on an empty stomach can have additional negative effects on the body. When you do not have enough food in your body, your body doesn’t metabolize the alcohol fast enough. Your BAC will be higher, quicker, bringing you closer to dangerous stages of drunkenness more quickly.

What Happens When You Drink Alcohol Everyday

There are differing opinions about whether drinking daily is altogether negative. Also under debate is exactly how much is too much daily and weekly. Regular drinking above the recommended amount is said to result in:

  • liver problems
  • high blood pressure
  • heart attack
  • cancers
  • fertility problems

As with all aspects of your health and diet, it is best to consult your physician for a personalized look and opinion on your drinking habits, lifestyle changes, and unique health circumstances (National Health Service).

Resources:

  1. Best Colleges Online, The Science of Getting Drunk.
  2. Drinking & You, What Happens to Alcohol in My Body, website.
  3. Mayo Clinic, What are the Effects of Drinking Alcohol While Taking Antibiotics, website.
  4. Drink Aware, Alcohol and Pregnancy, website.
  5. National Health Service (NHS), The Risks of Drinking Too Much, website, 2013.
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An enthusiast for living healthy. Not dramatic life changes, but simple configurations to make you feel that much better. The benefit to effort ratio has to be extremely high, i.e. a little effort goes a long way.