Many of us choose to drink alcohol to relax and socialise. Whether we’ve had a stressful day at work, or we’re celebrating a special occasion, alcohol is often not far away.
If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know I haven’t really drank alcohol in over 5+ years. However, the past year I have started to enjoy the occasional drink now and again. It’s all about balance. Alcohol can be part of a healthy lifestyle if you drink in moderation, alongside regularly exercising and having a good diet.
So, what happens to alcohol in your body?
As soon as you take a sip of alcohol, it is rapidly absorbed into the blood through the walls of the stomach and small intestine, and begins to move to all parts of the body. Almost 90% is absorbed within an hour.
It only takes a few minutes for alcohol to reach the brain and begin to slow it down, affecting the way you think, feel and behave.
Once alcohol is in the bloodstream, it begins to be broken down by the liver at the rate of around one standard drink an hour. If you drink more than your body can process, you begin to feel intoxicated.
As you drink, the level of alcohol in your blood rises. The level of alcohol in your blood is called blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and a BAC reading of 0.01 means there is 0.01g of alcohol in 100ml of your blood. Drinking more than one standard drink per hour will increase this and the faster you drink, the higher your BAC.
Even when you stop drinking, your BAC will continue to rise as the alcohol in your stomach goes into your blood.
The only way to lower your BAC? Time.
The more drinks you have, the more time you need. Alcohol can’t be removed from your blood by vomiting, having a cold shower or drinking coffee.
It affects everyone, however the effects may differ depending on your age, gender, weight and the type of alcohol. Because women’s bodies are generally smaller than men’s and contain less fluid, a given amount of alcohol produces a higher blood alcohol level in females. If you drink on an empty stomach, don’t usually drink, or have a lower percentage of muscle on your body, alcohol can also affect you more quickly.
Drinking too much can lead to harmful short-term and long-term effects:
- Short-term effects may include dizziness, vomiting, memory loss, headache, loss of coordination, disrupted sleep, and in some cases, injury to yourself or others.
- Long-term effects can result in a slower immune system, inhibited bone production, heart issues, fertility issues, brain-related conditions, increased risk of diabetes and weight gain, as well as disease and even cancer.
If you’re concerned with how much alcohol you’re drinking, or would like further advice and guidance with alcohol consumption, it’s recommended to talk to your medical practitioner. You can also find more support via the National Alcoholic and Other Drugs Hotline.