Part - 1 : What happens when you ingest alcohol
In this blog we will take a deeper look at how alcohol affects our body - the chemistry behind how it affects our cells and tissues.
Let us now look at the basic chemistry and biology of alcohol. Because of the structure of alcohol, it is both water soluble and fat soluble. What does this mean ? So when you consume alcohol, it can pass through all the cells and tissues of your body. It has problem at all. There are no hurdles posed by your body cells and tissues. The fact that it can pass through so many organs and cells is what causes the real damage.
There are 3 main types of alcohol
- Ethyl alcohol / ethanol
Only the ethyl alcohol is fit for human consumption, however it is still toxic. It produces substantial stress and damage to the cells. It does that because, when you ingest ethanol, it has to be converted to something else because it is toxic to the body. There is a molecule inside all of us call NAD. This NAD is present in all of us from birth to death and this NAD tends to go down as we age. The study of NAD is still under research. So when you ingest ethanol the NAD plays a role in converting the ethanol into acetylaldehyde. Acetylaldehyde is equally poisonous in that it damages and kills cells and it is very indiscriminate. So now the body tries to fight this and our body converts this acetylaldehyde into acetate. This acetate is used as a fuel by our body. The consequence of converting ethanol to acetylaldehyde to acetate results in a production of a toxic molecule. The above conversion process need to be done very quickly else the acetylaldehyde will build up. This entire process of conversion takes place in the liver.
This conversion process within the liver puts a lot of stress on the cells of the liver. It really takes a beating. So when you ingest alcohol, you are ingesting poison and then one form of poison is converted into another type of poison. Then the 2nd poison is converted into calorie, which can be used to burn up. This is called empty calorie as there is no nutritive value. This calorie needs to be used up immediately as this calorie cannot be stored in any meaningful way. It doesn’t provide any vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids. It is truly empty calorie.
When you ingest alcohol, some percentage is being shuttled into poison and some into fuel. It is important to understand that the poisonous matter - acetylaldehyde is responsible for inebriated condition. Many of the circuits in the brain that are involved in the mood and feeling of well being and also sort of self image in how we see ourselves employ the neuromodulator - serotonin. So when you ingest alcohol, the brain circuitry is disrupted thus making a person hyperactive - that is why people become talkative, people start feeling really good after few sips of alcohol. So when this effect wears down, the serotonin level drops sharply and that is why people tend to go and have more drink.
In the next part let us look at the side effects of ingesting alcohol. Please keep up your reading.
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