FAQ’s On Alcohol and Your Health

With all weight loss and fitness programs, I recommend steering clear of alcoholic beverages, because they add on extra calories and the effects essentially counter-out your efforts.

So while I don’t advocate alcohol, I know it’s part of life.  Many of us enjoy a nice glass of wine with dinner, a cocktail at after-work ‘happy hours’, or a beer during barbeques.  But many of us don’t actually know what alcohol does to our body and mind.  And when it comes to your health, it’s best to know the facts.

Why do we get dehydrated from alcohol?

The body starts breaking down alcohol as soon as you take your first sip, in order to safely excrete it.  To properly dispose of it, your liver needs water to dilute the toxins, so it pulls water reserves from other parts of the body.  But since alcohol is a diuretic (it stimulates urination), water leaves your body at a higher rate, so your liver must obtain water from other organs, including your brain, which essentially leaves you high and dry.

What effect does alcohol have on the liver?

Your liver is your body’s detox centre, and it works full-time to rid your body of the poisons you ingest.  Alcohol is one of the liver’s biggest foes, constantly attacking its cells.  If you drink moderately, your liver has enough time to repair itself.  However, persistently high alcohol levels in the blood will cause your liver cells to die, forming scar tissue.  This is called cirrhosis, and it can be lethal.

How long does alcohol remain in the body?

There’s no single answer for all people since the rate of alcohol metabolism varies and you also have to factor in the rate of absorption.  On average, healthy people eliminate alcohol at a rate of 14 grams per hour.  This can change according to how much you had to eat before, your body mass, etc.

Why does alcohol lower inhibitions?

Alcohol acts as a sedative on the central nervous system, which explains the impaired speech, vision, coordination, and concentration.  But the part of the brain it affects the most is the part responsible for behaviour and emotion.  Your sense of judgment is weakened, and suddenly speaking your mind doesn’t seem so bad.  You feel braver since your socially conditioned safety stops or filters are circumvented.

Can we develop a higher tolerance to alcohol?

Prolonged alcohol use does increase your tolerance levels.  The body becomes more efficient at metabolising the alcohol—the process is up to 72% faster in alcoholics– so it takes more booze to achieve the same drunken state.  But beyond that, your organs simply become less sensitive to alcohol, so you don’t feel it as much.  Be careful!  This is a precursor to permanent tissue damage.

Why do we sometimes get sick when drinking?

At one point after drinking, you probably have had an upset stomach or thrown up.  A bi-product of alcohol breakdown by the liver is acetaldehyde, a toxic substance.  It is, in fact, this molecule that cause impairment, not the ethanol in your drink.  In high concentrations, acetaldehyde attacks the liver, the brain, and the lining of the stomach.  This is what causes the familiar upset stomach and heartburn.  If it’s too much for the body to handle, it forces the stuff out.  Acetaldehyde poisoning is compounded when different alcohols are mixed.

Can we die from drinking alcohol?

Yes, and in more ways than one.  Conservative U.S. government estimates put the annual toll of alcohol-related deaths at over 75,000 in 2001.  We’re talking about a variety of conditions, including liver and heart disease caused by alcoholism, suicide, drunk driving, and over consumption.  A blood alcohol level above 0.45 grams/100 milliliters of blood can kill you either from brain malfunction or respiratory arrest.  Not only that, but alcohol consumption can also take years off your life span.

Now that you know some of the effects that alcohol has on your body, use this information for your own benefit.