December 30, 2009

Alcohol and Your Body

Tips and facts on drinking smart this New Year's Eve.

As you prepare to ring in a new decade, consider how your body processes alcohol and plan accordingly. The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority would like everyone to have a safe, healthy New Year's Eve - without a visit to our hospitals or facilities as a result of alcohol-related injuries.

What's alcohol?

If you've ever left grape juice in your fridge too long, you know the affects of fermentation. That's what happens when certain micro-organisms metabolize and create alcohol (or ethyl alcohol).

Beer, wine and other liquor contain alcohol in varying amounts. A glance at the bottle for the percentage (referred to as proof) will tell you the amount of alcohol in distilled liquor.

The body processes alcohol extremely quickly. Food takes time for the body to digest but the body immediately absorbs alcohol.

Did you know?

  • About 20% of alcohol is absorbed directly into the walls of an empty stomach.

  • Alcohol can reach the brain within one minute.

  • Women's bodies make less of an enzyme that reduces how alcohol enters the bloodstream than men's bodies do.

  • The average liver is able to metabolize about one drink per hour; if more alcohol arrives in the liver than it can process, excess alcohol travels to all part of the body and circulates until the liver enzymes are able to process it.

  • Alcohol may cause euphoria, which decreases appetite (so remember to eat!) but it's actually a depressant. In fact, chemically, alcohol has the opposite chemical make-up of a prescribed anti-depressant.

  • Alcohol has lots of calories, largely due to high sugar content.

Complications of Alcohol Use

Alcohol's impact varies dramatically based on a number of factors, including your body and how often you drink. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Alcohol reduces hormones like serotonin and dopamine (feel good hormones), while increasing the levels of others. As far as your body is concerned, alcohol is a depressant.

  • In high doses, alcohol can be toxic. Symptoms like vomiting, stupor, dehydration, behavioural changes, headache and impaired central nervous system are possible.

  • If you haven't eaten in awhile and drink on an empty stomach, you can have a hypoglycaemic attack. This means your blood sugar is low so you may behave abornomally in mild cases or convulse or go into a coma in extreme cases.

Related Links

What happens when you have a drink?

How your body processes alcohol

Short-term effects of alcohol on your body

Long-term effects of alcohol on your body

How alcohol affects young women

Adopt a no tolerance approach to pregnancy and alcohol

Alcohol and your brain

Drinking guidelines

Alcohol: Facts vs. Myth

Myths about alcohol busted

Spot alcohol poisoning

Your body and a hangover

And if you do overindulge, here are things to consider when nursing a hangover:

Possible remedies

Myth: Hair of the Dog

Hangovers: Fact or Fiction?

Hangover remedies

Hosting this holiday season?

It's your responsibility to make sure everyone has a safe, fun time. Plan ahead with healthy snacks and appetizers. Offer alcohol-free beverages. And adopt a no-tolerance policy for drinking and driving - call people cabs, arrange for a designated driver or invite them to sleep it off on your couch.

Manitoba Liquor Control Commission's publication on Responsible Hosting

Manitoba Liquor Control Commission's mocktail recipes

Recipes from the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Manitoba

5-10 a day recipes - Appetizers

5-10 a day recipes - Snacks

Egg appetizers, snacks & beverages

Healthy recipes

Kraft recipes

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