Alcohol and the human body

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Alcohol is eliminated differently


Why is there alcohol in the breath you exhale and in breast milk?

Some alcohol (about 10%) is eliminated as is, through urine or perspiration. It can also be eliminated through the breath, since the bloodstream carries it to the lungs. This is why a breathalyzer can effectively measure your blood alcohol level (breath alcohol testing device).

Nursing mothers should be aware that the concentration of alcohol in breast milk is about 10% higher than in the blood, because of the high water content of the milk.

How is alcohol metabolized by the liver?

Most of the alcohol (about 90%) is eliminated by the body’s metabolism. While the kidneys and gastro-intestinal tract play a role in this process, the liver is the organ primarily responsible for transforming the alcohol absorbed by the blood. In the first stage of metabolism in the liver, an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase transforms the alcohol into acetaldehyde, a highly toxic substance that affects the entire body. This activates another enzyme – acetaldehyde dehydrogenase – which transforms the toxic acetaldehyde into inert, harmless molecules of acetate, or acetic acid.

Why do different people eliminate alcohol differently?

No matter how much or how little you drink, your liver can only metabolize 15 17 mg of alcohol every hour. The speed at which it does so depends primarily on the number of metabolic enzymes in the liver, which varies from one individual to the next and is thought to be genetically determined. Other factors also influence the process.

Consequences and immediate effects of alcohol absorption.

Why does alcohol have such an impact on the brain?

Before it reaches the liver, the alcohol in the blood affects other vital organs that contain a lot of water and require a significant volume of blood in order to function. The most immediately observable effects can be seen in the brain.

Alcohol restricts a number of brain functions by stimulating the brain’s pleasure centres. At first, the effects are pleasurable: there is a reduction in stress and inhibitions, and a sensation of either calm or excitement.

How you feel depends on your mood at the time. If you are sad or angry before you drink, the alcohol may initially put you in a better mood. But then the opposite occurs, and you may well end up even sadder or angrier than you were before you started drinking.

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