Recently, I came across some interesting information while studying regarding the metabolism of alcohol. Did you know that alcohol, when interacting with the body, is like an annoying, obnoxious person, pushing and elbowing their way through your digestive system saying “me first!” (Kind of sounds like some experiences riding the NYC subway during rush hour, right?) The reality is that when alcohol is ingested, it takes precedence over digestion and is absorbed nearly instantly because alcohol is potentially toxic and cannot be stored in the body. It all makes sense, doesn’t it? When I read this I thought “oh that’s why I feel the effects of alcohol almost right away…” Duh. There are many other reasons why alcohol isn’t the greatest beverage to drink, but if drank in moderation (1 glass per day for women and two per day for men) it can be beneficial to the health of adults beginning at the age of 35. Once at an older age, organs change and become more sensitive to potentially toxic substances so drinking may have to be given up at a point. This isn’t saying that once you reach the age of 70 you shouldn’t drink. Every body is different. Consulting with your doctor and deciding on what is best for your body is probably the best idea at that point.
The text book lists some facts that everyone who drinks should know. Here are some of them:
- The damage caused by alcohol to the body depends on the amount consumed (beer and wine have less alcohol than hard liquor but therefore can possibly be consumed in greater quantities).
- A moderate alcohol intake can help prevent heart disease. A high alcohol intake raises the risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, some cancers, accidents, violence, suicide, birth defects and death. It damages the liver, pancreas, brain and heart.
- Wine may increase the body’s ability to absorb minerals such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc but the alcohol in wine also promotes the excretion of these minerals so the benefit is voided.
- Alcohol diverts the flow of blood to the skin which gives the false feeling of warmth. It actually cools the body.
- Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is not a stimulant because it seems to relieve inhibitions. Alcohol is a depressant because it depresses the activity in the brain.
- Alcohol is a diuretic which means that the body will lose more fluid than is provided by beer or any other alcoholic beverage.
A few more helpful hints to keep from getting too intoxicated are: eat and drink water while drinking alcohol. Drinking water will help prevent dehydration. To avoid a hangover, drink two glasses of water before bed. Food will help absorb the alcohol and keep it from absorbing into the body too quickly. To keep the spins at bay while lying down, place one foot on the floor to keep you “grounded” (trust me, it works). Always drink sensibly and in moderation.
Source: Understanding Nutrition; Whitney|Rolfes; 2011