Monday, August 22, 2011

Liver care while you drink alcohol

When you drink alcohol, it is absorbed into the bloodstream from the stomach and intestines. All blood from the stomach and intestines first goes through the liver before circulating around the whole body. So, the highest concentration of alcohol is in the blood flowing through the liver.

Liver cells contain enzymes (chemicals) which process (metabolise) alcohol. The enzymes break down alcohol into other chemicals which in turn are then broken down into water and carbon dioxide. These are then passed out in the urine and from the lungs. The liver cells can process only a certain amount of alcohol per hour. So, if you drink alcohol faster than your liver can deal with it, the level of alcohol in your bloodstream rises.
Your liver needs water to do its job. As alcohol acts as a diuretic (makes you pass urine), it dehydrates you and forces the liver to divert water from elsewhere. When the liver is processing alcohol it produces a substance called acetaldehyde. This has a toxic effect on the liver itself, as well as the brain and stomach lining. This is what causes your hangover. Acetaldehyde is subsequently broken down into chemical called acetate, which is broken down further into carbon dioxide and water outside the liver. Regular and heavy drinking over time can strain or disrupt this process, leading to alcoholic liver disease.
You are very unlikely to develop liver problems caused by alcohol if you drink within the recommended safe limits. That is:
  • Men should drink no more than 21 units of alcohol per week (and no more than four units in any one day).
  • Women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week (and no more than three units in any one day).
  • Pregnant women. The exact amount that is safe is not known. Therefore, advice from experts is that pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant should not drink at all. If you do chose to drink when you are pregnant then limit it to one or two units, once or twice a week. And never binge drink or get drunk.
In general, the more you drink above the safe limits, the more harmful alcohol is likely to be. And remember, binge drinking can be harmful even though the weekly total may not seem too high. For example, if you only drink alcohol once or twice a week, but when you do you drink 4-5 pints of beer each time, or a bottle of wine each time, then this is a risk to your health.
Keep these pointers in mind;
Set limits. One way to make sure you do not drink to excess is to decide how many drinks your body can safely handle and do not exceed this limit during the course of the night. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to keep track, especially when playing drinking games. Such games may provide entertainment and a chance to feel included in a social group, but they contribute to excessive drinking. The atmosphere created by drinking games is dangerous because it causes you to drink more than you would usually through peer pressure and rapid rate of consumption. Chugging alcohol will delay awareness of how much alcohol is in your body because of the time it takes to raise your BAC.
Eat a meal before you drink. Food in the stomach will slow the entrance of alcohol into your bloodstream by preventing it from entering your small intestine which absorbs alcohol faster than the stomach. High protein foods, like cheese, are best at slowing down the effects of alcohol, and thus help prevent a hangover.
Steer clear of carbonation and shots. The carbon dioxide of carbonated drinks, like beer and soda, increases the pressure in your stomach, forcing alcohol out through the lining of your stomach into the bloodstream. The high concentration of alcohol in shots also means that your BAC will increase rapidly.
Alternate with non-alcoholic beverages. Not only will this slow your consumption of alcohol, but it will also counter the dehydrating effects of alcohol.
Don’t combine alcohol with other drugs. Alcohol’s effects are heightened by medicines that depress the central nervous system, such as sleeping pills, antihistamines, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and some painkillers. Other drugs have harmful interactions with alcohol as well, so it is best to consult a physician before drinking while on medication. The combination of illegal drugs and alcohol can also have adverse effects.
Don’t drink if you’re suffering fatigue. Exhaustion magnifies the effect of alcohol on the body. Unfortunately, alcohol is often used as a reward after periods of high stress that have overworked the body to fatigue.

No comments:

Post a Comment