What are the effects of alcohol on the body?

 You will find in this video and in this health, wellness blog post:

- The definition of alcohol

- The different stages of alcohol absorption

- What is the degree or percentage of alcohol in an alcoholic drink?

- What is a standard glass of alcohol?

- The definition of blood alcohol level

- How alcohol is eliminated by our body?

- How do breathalysers work ?

- The threshold of alcohol level tolerated in France

- Why alcohol is toxic for our health?

- The effects of alcohol on the brain and the liver

- The cumulative effects of alcohol and tobacco on our health

- Drunkenness and its various complications

- Alcohol consumption in case of depression or anxiety

- Alcohol consumption during pregnancy and the consequences for the newborn

- Recommendations on alcohol consumption

I would like to remind you about alcohol and its different uses.

Alcohol is the ethanol molecule, it is also called ethyl alcohol.

Alcohol is produced from the process of fermentation (transformation of substances under the influence of different enzymes, which are activators of chemical reactions present in the breasts of microorganisms, bacteria or fungi).

Fermentation transforms the carbohydrates of different plants into alcohol. Each type of plant produces a different alcohol. For example, grapes are used to produce wine, apples are used to produce cider, wheat grains are used to produce vodka, barley grains are used to produce whisky, ...

Distillation is a chemical technique that allows the capture of pure alcohol.

The degree or percentage of alcohol is the amount of pure alcohol contained in 100 ml of the product in question, the higher the percentage or degree, the more concentrated the product is in alcohol, ie it contains more.

The alcohols used in drinks range from 5° for beer to 45° for pastis.

A drink is said to be alcoholic when it contains more than 1% of alcohol.

When alcohol enters our body, it passes through the esophagus and then the stomach and is rapidly absorbed by the small intestine, where it passes through the blood to be distributed to the different organs, notably the brain and the liver.

The majority of alcohol is eliminated by the liver (95%) where it is metabolized (transformed) into acetaldehyde (a highly toxic molecule) and then into acetate.

The rest of the alcohol (5%) is eliminated by the kidneys through urine, the skin through sweat, the lungs by exhaling air and saliva.

It is by using the capacity of alcohol to be eliminated in the exhaled air that the breathalyzer works, it measures the volume of alcohol present in the exhaled air. This makes it possible to detect the blood alcohol level (quantity of alcohol present in the blood of the person), the authorized threshold in France is of 0,5g/l blood (2-3 standardized glasses).

The blood alcohol level varies according to different factors such as gender (women tend to have a higher blood alcohol level than men for the same amount of alcohol consumed), build (the smaller the person, the higher the blood alcohol level), the amount of alcohol consumed, the speed of consumption, whether or not it is accompanied by food, and genetic factors (some people have a really hard time eliminating alcohol, their face turns red, and they may also have headaches and nausea after consuming alcohol).

The emptier the stomach and the shorter the drinking period, the faster the blood alcohol level increases.
It is important to know that the quantity of alcohol distributed in bars and restaurants is standardized in France.

A standard glass of alcohol increases the blood alcohol level by 0.20 to 0.25g/l after 1 hour, whatever the type of alcohol consumed. The higher the alcohol content of the drink ordered, the less alcohol will be in the glass served.

If the person has not eaten for 2 hours, this level is reached after 30 minutes. Then this rate decreases gradually, after 1 hour 30 minutes the glass of alcohol drunk can be considered as eliminated from the body.

Roughly speaking, it takes about 2 to 3 hours to eliminate 1 standard glass of alcohol which contains 10 g of pure alcohol.

When it reaches the brain, alcohol causes a change in the person's state of consciousness. It causes a feeling of relaxation, euphoria, excitement, it disinhibits and removes shyness, frees speech, but also reduces reflexes.

These symptoms occur due to the action of ethanol, which interferes with many processes of brain transmission of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers of the brain) such as dopamine.

The intake of alcohol results in an increase in the level of dopamine, opioids, serotonin, gaba, leading to the positive effects of alcohol, the reward circuit.

On the contrary, the lack of alcohol leads to a decrease of these chemical messengers and therefore their lack, but also to an increase in the level of CRF and NPY which favors the state of stress and anxiety, hence the relapse.

It is important to know that alcohol has the ability to enter nerve cells (neurons) and change the expression of genes.

It favors the mutation of genes within the cells of the body, hence its carcinogenic effect.

Ethanol is transformed into acetaldehyde, which is recognized as a real carcinogen. This causes mutations in the DNA that escape the safety system and the multiplication of abnormal cells that carry the mutation.

Moreover, alcohol makes the aerodigestive tract permeable to the entry of toxic substances, especially those produced by tobacco.

This phenomenon increases the risk of cancer, hence the increase in the number of cancers of the mouth and throat in people who consume these two toxic products for our body.

In the long run, alcohol intake leads to a reduction in vitamin B9.

It is important to know that ethanol promotes the secretion of female hormones, which can interact with hormone receptors and increase the risk of breast cancer.

Alcohol also causes the production of free radicals (toxic molecules) that are responsible for the deterioration of liver, stomach and brain cells.

When the dose of alcohol becomes more important, it causes drunkenness, the person becomes intoxicated, he/she can no longer coordinate his/her movements, speak correctly, a drowsiness appears, it can lead to a coma called ethyl coma which is a real emergency and can seriously put the person's life in danger.

At this stage, the reflexes decrease more and more, the person does not feel cold anymore, the blood vessels dilate and the heat rises to the surface of the body then it diminishes as soon as the body is in contact with cold. The inside of the body cools down rapidly and since the person is less sensitive to the warning signs given by his or her body, this leads to hypothermia which can be fatal if the person is not taken care of quickly.

Significant memory loss can also occur.

Consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time can cause a major heart rhythm disorder and sudden death.

If consumed regularly, alcohol has long-term harmful effects, even in small quantities.

It is a risk factor for many serious diseases such as cancer (mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, breast), cardiovascular diseases (high blood pressure, increased risk of cerebral hemorrhage, disturbance of heart rhythm), diseases affecting the digestive and nervous systems as well as mental illness.

It also causes memory problems, concentration, inability to make decisions, insomnia, fatigue, headaches, ...

Alcohol consumption also increases the risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver. This is a chronic and irreversible disease, it results in the progressive destruction of liver cells, it deteriorates and can no longer function properly.
Cirrhosis can progressively develop into liver cancer. The only treatment becomes transplantation or grafting. It is possible to stabilize the disease when it has not progressed too far with treatment, but especially with the cessation of alcohol consumption.

Excessive alcohol consumption is often accompanied by a loss of appetite and thus multiple nutritional deficiencies that further deteriorate the person's body.

The younger the drinking, the faster the complications, especially in the brain.

Many people suffering from depression or anxiety consume alcohol to remedy these psychological diseases. It is important to know that alcohol can promote depression or anxiety and make it even more severe in the long run. The occasional state of improvement can quickly lead to a state of dependence that is not favourable to the organism because of its numerous damages within the different organs, but also on the family and socio-professional relationships of the person because of mood and behavioural disorders, ... 

It is therefore really not the right solution to effectively treat these psychological disorders.

As far as pregnant women are concerned, it is important to know that alcohol passes directly into the bloodstream of the fetus at the same dose as the mother's blood, with the difference that the mother will eliminate it more quickly. The liver of the fetus is not yet fully developed and it is therefore more difficult for it to eliminate this toxic substance for its body.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to growth retardation, central nervous system disorders, brain development disorders, intellectual retardation, memory and learning disorders, behavioral problems, as well as irreversible malformations especially in the first months of pregnancy, named non-genetic mental handicap. It is therefore strictly forbidden to drink alcohol during pregnancy.

Dr. Noura Marashi (doctor of pharmacy, health youtuber, creator of the health and well-being application Pharmaquiz),

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