I was going to post this article before Christmas but that seemed a bit too much like ‘being a kill joy’ so having over consumed during the festive period you can now read all about what it did to your body.
Drinking is something most people do during the Festive period. Scientists argue as to why we drink – there is even the suggestion that it is the foundation stone of human civilisation. To have pubs you have to have agriculture and cooperative working between several group of people and some form of economy. There is some talk of reward centres in the brain but given the often bad effects of excessive drink, we do not seem to learn as a society and we regularly go out and over indulge.
We should all know that alcohol comes in units, but what is a unit? In the UK it is 8g (about 10ml) of pure alcohol. This is the amount of alcohol that your liver can detoxify in 1 hour (yep, alcohol is a toxin and your liver is your own detox unit – you do not need to live on blueberry smoothies for a month). This equates to one 25ml measure of spirit, a third of a pint of beer and around half of a glass of wine. If you drink any more than this then you are going to start to feel the effects of alcohol.
Alcohol can be absorbed through any of your mucus membranes (which has led to some very strange fraternity rituals in USA) so its absorption starts as soon as it enters your mouth. Fizzy things gets absorbed quicker which explains why Champagne and Prosecco can go straight to your head. It continues to be absorbed through your stomach but most will be absorbed in your small intestine. Once in your blood stream you can start to feel the effects.
What are those effects?
The first one is you begin to feel relaxed.
This is because alcohol binds to GABA receptors. GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid) is a neurotransmitter in your brain. Its exact role is complicated but it increases the amount of dopamine and serotonin in your system. By binding to the same receptors, alcohol has the same effect; you feel relaxed and maybe sleepy.
Once in your brain, alcohol can also start to effect the feedback with your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that deals with analysing future consequences. Your inhibitions disappear and you are more likely to partake in activities that you wouldn’t consider if you were sober. Continue to drink and it can start to effect your cerebellum. This ‘little brain’ at the back of your head is responsible for coordination. You start to stumble around and you have to adopt a shuffling wide legged stance to enable you to walk.
The second effect is your need to pee.
Often put down to the volume that you are drinking, this is not the case. How much you need to pee is controlled by a chemical called vasopressin. This is an antidiuretic and works with your kidneys (another detox organ) to regulate the production of urine. Alcohol switches off the production of vasopressin and therefore you need to pee all the time.
The last effect is the hangover.
No one is 100% sure what causes the hangover. There was some belief that it was an imbalance of electrolytes but studies have shown similar levels in those with and without hangovers. There is some belief that it is some residue in the drink and the higher quality the drink you consume the better you will feel afterwards. There is some belief that certain combinations of drink can produce more of a hangover than others i.e.’don’t mix grain and vine’. Its probably due to dehydration. you just need to rehydrate. You can’t sweat it out by going for a run, raw eggs have no effect, although, as a resident of Scotland I do have to say I have seen Irn Bru perform wonders.
The fact is that alcohol is a toxin and you need to be aware of that when you introduce it into your body. 1 in 3 men, and 1 in 6 women will develop a health issue that is related to drink.
You need to decide if you want to drink it or not. Cheers.