Did you know that alcohol is absorbed by many parts of your body? But it cannot be stored and it’s eventually left up to certain organs to deal with. So, are you causing damage and if so, how much damage exactly? Well, prepare to swallow this information.
After each sip…
Alcohol is absorbed by the oesophagus, stomach and small intestine, which then enters your bloodstream. The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) in your system reaches its peak and then your major organs, specifically: the liver, kidneys and brain absorb the alcohol – absorption happens very quickly, within a few minutes
How alcohol is broken down in your body
Did you know that the chemical name for alcohol is ethanol and it’s actually a toxin that is harmful to your body? This is completely TRUE!
Your liver absorbs about 90% of the alcohol content and is then broken down (metabolised), by enzymes in the liver, into non-toxic substances – BUT it can only breakdown a certain amount – the excess builds up in your body.
The ethanol remains in your body until your liver is ready to break more down and your kidneys are then responsible for removing approximately 5% of the ethanol in your system – this is passed through your urine.
What is a hangover?
Drank too much last night? When you wake up feeling like a drummer is playing a solo in your head – that’s a hangover! Why do we get them?
Your kidneys keep the volume of water in your body at the right levels for health. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it removes water from your body and that’s why you pee when you drink!
This means that your kidneys are losing more water than your body can absorb, so you become dehydrated, causing dizziness and a headache – this is known as a hangover.
TIP: Drink a glass – or 2 glasses – of water between each alcoholic drink. This will keep you hydrated, allowing your kidneys to absorb more water – BUT remember to limit your alcoholic drinks: water cannot solve the problem completely!
Does gender and/or size make a difference?
The short answer is YES. Studies show that larger/heavier people may not be affected in the same way as smaller/thinner people. This is because they have more body fluids that help to dilute alcohol.
In other words, their BAC may be lower than a smaller person even though they have both had the same amount of alcohol.
Women have a lower concentration of water in their body and so cannot dilute the alcohol as much as men. There is also evidence that the absorption and break down of alcohol is different in women.
Know your blood alcohol level!
Do you know what the legal Blood Alcohol Level limit is? According to the Automobile Association (AA):
- In South Africa, the legal limit is a breath alcohol content of 0.24mg per 1,000ml, or a blood alcohol limit of 0.05g per 100ml,
What does one unit represent in layman’s terms?
- It is equal to two thirds of a beer or spirit cooler with 5% alcohol content.
- For those who drink wine, 75ml of red or white wine per hour with an alcohol content of 12% to 14% is acceptable.
- Whisky and brandy connoisseurs can drink up to one 25ml tot of alcohol per hour.
TIP: Buy yourself a personal breathalyser so that you know your Blood Alcohol Level before you even think of getting behind the wheel.
So, next time you think about having that extra drink, remember what it’s doing to your body.