Can alcohol weigh on our minds

How alcohol affects the body

This is how the body absorbs alcohol

Beer, wine and sparkling wine - for many people, alcoholic beverages are a luxury item and one of the few permitted addictive substances. For medical professionals, however, alcohol or ethanol is primarily a harmful cell poison. Even a few grams per day can be a permanent pain in the body.

Already in the mouth, the alcohol enters the body through the mucous membranes. The gastric mucosa, however, takes up the majority. The alcohol then enters the bloodstream and thus also reaches other organs.

On average, after one hour, the highest alcohol concentration is in the blood, which then slowly decreases again. The alcohol reaches the liver via the so-called portal vein, which from now on slowly breaks it down - for an average adult about 0.1 per thousand per hour. During this time, the alcohol unfolds its effects in the body and especially in the brain.

Alcohol changes perception and behavior

Alcohol affects the messenger metabolism in the brain and inhibits signal processing. Small amounts of the intoxicant have a relaxing and encouraging effect on the body, but the higher the amount of alcohol consumed, the more the alcohol limits perception and also influences behavior.

Under the influence of alcohol it is then more difficult to correctly estimate distances. The concentration decreases, as does the ability to react. Since alcohol removes water from the body, it often leads to fatigue. Even higher amounts then cause confusion and disorientation.

At two to three per thousand, the body is already numb. From three per thousand upwards, unconsciousness sets in, which can be life-threatening. Body temperature also drops.

When the body can no longer handle large amounts of alcohol, it is called alcohol intoxication. Vomiting, breathing problems and a possible coma are dangerous consequences.

What alcohol destroys in the body

From a biochemical point of view, ethanol is a cell poison. Because of this, the body tries to defuse it as quickly as possible afterwards. The liver, which detoxifies the body with special enzymes around the clock, breaks down the ethanol into its components.

But while carbon dioxide and acetic acid are obtained from alcohol, the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase forms an extremely toxic intermediate product on the way there: acetaldehyde. This molecule damages the mucous membrane cells and is even carcinogenic according to the World Health Organization.

The breakdown of alcohol in the liver also promotes the production of fatty acids that build up in the liver over time. The liver is fatty. Often this liver change, albeit reversible, later leads to chronic liver damage such as liver cirrhosis. In the process, nodules form in the liver tissue, the liver hardens and the cells lose their function. This state can only be stopped, but not reversed.

Although the human liver is very resilient, it is not sensitive to pain. What is happening to the liver cells in the meantime is something that humans do not notice - or only when they are already experiencing severe symptoms. Once the liver is damaged, other organs are also affected. In the long term, a destroyed liver can lead to inflammation of the pancreas.

In the brain, long-term alcohol consumption causes both brain mass and volume to decrease. Every alcohol consumption destroys brain cells. This is often only noticeable in alcohol addicts, who subsequently suffer from memory problems and who find movement and coordination more difficult. They are also more likely to suffer from mental disorders such as depression.

Many experts assume that quantities of around 24 grams of alcohol per day can cause greater health damage in adults in the long term - that's the equivalent of just two glasses of beer.

Does alcohol protect against disease?

Hardly any scientific news gets through the media as quickly as that that researchers have found that alcohol can protect against common and serious diseases such as heart attacks.

Some studies indicate that people who have been drinking alcohol regularly have suffered less heart disease or are older than those who have been abstinent. However, the studies only establish correlations. Ultimately, it cannot be proven whether alcohol is the real cause of better health or longer life.

In many studies, aspects such as lifestyle or genetic predisposition are not fully taken into account or excluded.

For example, there are contradicting results regarding the influence and effect of alcohol on blood coagulation. So far it can only be said that a protective aspect of alcohol consumption cannot be ruled out. Even so, no doctor will ever advise an abstinent person to drink alcohol for health. Because the risk of a possible addiction disorder would always be added.

In contrast to the supposedly positive properties, there are in any case the proven harmful effects on the body. In addition to cell damage in many organs, this also includes weight gain through reduced fatty acid burning. The colloquial beer belly has been scientifically proven, because alcohol promotes the formation of belly fat, which is particularly critical for health.

Hangover as a short-term consequence

The bitter lesson of the evening doesn't actually come until the next morning. Bad sleep and physical strain often come together in a serious hangover. The alcohol causes the sleep rhythm to change. The important REM phases (dream phases) are shortened, while the deep sleep phases are longer. Regardless of how long you sleep, you can still feel tired and exhausted the next day.

Since alcohol constantly draws water from the body, a lot of water should actually be drunk while consuming alcohol, but at the latest afterwards.

The body also needs sufficient minerals. The alcohol flushed these substances out of the body through an increased urge to urinate. The breakdown of alcohol in the body also consumes a lot of oxygen. With a hearty breakfast and - in the best case - exercise in the fresh air, your circulation can slowly revive.

But sleep is still the most restful without any residual alcohol.