What physical effect does alcohol have on you? When you take a drink of alcohol, the alcohol is absorbed by the stomach, enters the bloodstream, and goes to all the tissues. The effects of alcohol depend on a variety of factors, including your size, weight, age and sex, as well as the amount of food and alcohol you have already had before drinking this particular drink.
First into the Blood
Let us begin with how alcohol is absorbed in the body. The first effect of drinking is felt in the mouth. Some alcohols can cause a burning taste on the back of your throat. This burn is caused by the pain receptors in your taste buds. Essentially, the body is warning you against consuming alcohol because it sees it as a toxic substance.
To the Stomach
Next, the stomach wall absorbs 20% of the alcohol as it enters the blood stream. Depending on the time of day and when you last ate, the alcohol may be readily absorbed or slowly absorbed. If your stomach is empty, the alcohol is quickly absorbed.
Essentially, only a few minutes after you have started drinking, there will be alcohol all across your body. The remaining 80% of the alcohol is absorbed in the small intestine.
We all have an enzyme in our stomachs designed to process ethanol into a safer substance. The enzyme in use is alcohol dehydrogenase. Alcohol dehydrogenase in men is 70-80% more effective than the same enzyme in women.
There are also age differences – young women and men over 50 years of age have the most difficulty coping with alcohol. However, note that heavy drinkers and people with alcohol problems have severely reduced levels of this important enzyme.
Into the Small Intestine
The longer the stomach has to work on the ethanol, the less harm it can do to your body. When you eat a meal, the exit valve of the stomach closes in order to digest the food. When food and alcohol are consumed at the same time, this prevents the alcohol from passing quickly into the small intestine from where it would be rapidly absorbed giving the enzyme more time to work.
The bigger you are the more blood you have in your bloodstream. Added to this, the average adult male is 66% fluid, compared to 55% for women. Therefore, if a man and woman of the same weight drink the same amount in one occasion, the woman will end up with a blood-alcohol level a third higher than the man’s will. It will take a third longer for the woman’s body to eliminate the alcohol from the blood.
The small intestine absorbs the alcohol that passes through the stomach. The small intestine allows 80% of the alcohol to be absorbed more quickly than from the stomach. Once in the blood stream, the alcohol spreads throughout the body.
And Then the Brain
Finally, alcohol enters the nerve cells and begins to have an effect on the brain. Alcohol circulates in the bloodstream until processed by the liver. The body cannot store alcohol so it has to deal with it. Problems occur when there is too much alcohol in the system and the liver becomes overworked.