What Does Alcohol Do?
What does alcohol do?
Here’s a“play by play” of the process in which alcohol goes through once you take a drink.
• Look out intestine, here I come: The unprocessed alcohol makes its way down the throat, stomach, and small intestine (duodenum), where some is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, then continues through a large blood vessel, before finally settling in the liver.
According to Dr. Carolyn Dean, MD: Alcohol depletes a broad range of vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids, enzymes, proteins and minerals from your body. The kingpin to this depletion is magnesium which is the anti-stress mineral that most people are deficient in. This mineral regulates 600-700 enzyme actions in the body.
• I’m a liver, not a fighter: The liver is where an enzyme similar to gastric ADH is secreted, metabolizing the alcohol. The energy is then converted through coenzymes named nicotinamideadeninedinucleotide, or NAD. When this occurs, all production of glucose conversion comes to a standstill.In about an hour’s time, the liver will filter approximately a 1/2 ounce of pure alcohol (6 – 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ounce of a spirit). Now, on to the heart we go.
• It beats for you: In the heart, oxygen from alcohol makes it difficult for it to contract. In turn, it pumps out less blood, resulting in low blood pressure. Contractions return to normal over time, though blood pressure can remain low for a ½ hour, or a bit longer. Blood from the heart then carries alcohol through the pulmonary vein, and into the lungs. Blood containing traces of left over alcohol becomes oxygenated, travels through the pulmonary artery connected to the heart, and finally up and out of the aorta.
• Rising to the occasion: Alcohol elevates levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs in the blood), and not the good ones which help carry cholesterol out of the body. Blood is not as likely to clot, and risk of stroke and heart attack temporarily decline. Blood vessels expand sending more blood up to the surface of the skin. For this reason, you become much warmer, and people with fair skin usually develop pink or red blotches. It is at this point the alcohol begins to escape through the pours of the skin, giving off a strong odor of alcohol.
• Sleep in your bed, not your car: Alcohol, a sedative, delays reactions between nerve cells that control cognitive function of the brain. Hence, the reason for blackouts, impaired judgment, slurred speech, and impaired hand/eye coordination. Antidiuretic hormones produced by the brain is slowed, which keeps the body from overproducing urine. Loss of large quantities of liquids, vitamins, and minerals is likely to occur. Thirst seems unquenchable, and urine (even this far through the process) can hold the aroma of alcohol. Alcohol circulating in the blood will continue this cycle until the liver can secrete enough ADH to eliminate every ounce. Those with alcohol dependencies can have alcohol circulating for 3 hours after they’ve finished their last beverage.
Curtis is a nurse educator who enjoy’s helping people understand more about alcohol safety and alcohol awareness.