What happens when I drink alcohol?
When you drink, alcohol is quickly absorbed from your gastrointestinal tract and spread through the blood to different parts of the body. If you haven't eaten, the body will absorb the alcohol even faster. Alcohol affects your brain, which releases the neurotransmitter dopamine and increases the production of endorphins - hormones that, in short, make you feel good and that make you feel relaxed and happy.
At the same time, alcohol has a strong negative impact on several different functions of your brain. Among other things, judgment and inhibition are affected, which can lead to you acting in a way that you would not otherwise do. It can also affect the memory and disrupt the ability to think and react, even after a relatively small amount of alcohol. Excessive consumption of alcohol over a long period of time can be toxic to several organs, for example the brain, pancreas, heart and not least your liver.
Alcohol can also change and intensify emotions. Some people may find that they become more aggressive or emotional when they drink alcohol. Sleep is also negatively affected, and although alcohol can make it easier to fall asleep, it can lead to poorer sleep quality and disrupt the natural sleep rhythm.
How does alcohol affect my body?
Alcohol affects the central nervous system and can cause relaxation and reduced inhibition, while impairing concentration and reaction ability. About 90% of alcohol is broken down by your liver. The liver metabolizes alcohol and can be damaged by the toxic substance acetaldehyde. Alcohol can irritate the gastrointestinal tract and interfere with nutrient absorption. Short-term alcohol consumption can affect heart rate and blood vessels, while long-term consumption can damage the heart and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Alcohol can also affect fluid balance and your hormone production.
Organs affected by alcohol consumption and symptoms
- Brain: Decreased concentration, memory problems, impaired coordination, altered behavior and mood swings.
- Liver: Liver inflammation, fatty liver, liver cirrhosis, jaundice, and liver dysfunction.
- Gastrointestinal tract: Irritated gastric mucosa, increased stomach acid production, nausea, vomiting, ulcers and reduced nutrient absorption.
- Heart and vascular system: Increased heart rate, dilated blood vessels, high blood pressure, heart disease and risk of stroke.
- Pancreas: Inflammation of the pancreas, abdominal pain, digestive problems and risk of diabetes.
- Kidneys: Increased urine production, risk of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
- Immune system: Impaired immune system and increased vulnerability to infections.
- Reproductive system: Impotence, menstrual disorders, fertility problems and increased risk of complications during pregnancy.
- Skeletal muscles: Decreased muscle coordination and risk of muscle damage.
- Sleep quality: Poorer sleep quality and sleep disorders.
However, remember that the effects and symptoms of alcohol can vary from person to person based on your resistance, consumption patterns and your general state of health.
The health tests that give you insight into your alcohol consumption
Is my body negatively affected by my alcohol consumption - am I drinking too much? A question that many people are interested in getting an answer to. Yes, there are biomarkers that are affected by alcohol consumption, but it is also important to note that no single biomarker can be used as a definitive diagnosis of alcoholism.
When assessing harmful alcohol intake, you can gain more insight by analyzing and interpreting the results from the following biomarkers:
- PEth- a direct product of alcohol metabolism formed when ethanol interacts with phospholipids in red blood cells. It can be detected in blood samples for a long time after alcohol consumption and can provide information about both acute and chronic alcohol consumption.
- Bilirubin- a natural substance that is formed during the breakdown of hemoglobin in the liver and is usually present in the blood in small amounts. High levels of bilirubin can indicate liver problems, including liver diseases caused by long-term and excessive alcohol intake, such as alcoholic liver disease.
- Gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT) - an enzyme found in the liver that can increase in the blood in liver damage, including that caused by alcohol. Elevated levels of GGT can be an indicator of chronic alcohol consumption.