Is Alcohol Safe for Your Digestive System?
Ethanol (ethyl alcohol), commonly known as alcohol, is typically referenced when discussing beer, wine, and hard liquor. Alcohol is an intoxicating agent created through the use of micro-organisms. Through the process of fermentation, alcohol is derived from the metabolism of carbohydrates when oxygen is absent.
The "proof" is determined by the amount of alcohol distilled. 100 proof liquor contains 50% alcohol, 40 proof alcohol will contain 20% alcohol, etc. Typically, the average beer contains a range from 4-6% alcohol, while wines contain 8-14%.
What Is a Serving of Alcohol?
Moderate use is generally considered to be 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. However, in order to create a proper standard for comparison, a drink must be classified into ounces of consumption. A standard drink is dependent upon the percentage of alcohol contained within the type of beverage. Typically a drink can be defined as:
- Wine Cooler: 10 ounces
- Beer: 12 ounces
- Liquor: 1-1.25 ounces
- Wine: 4-5 ounces
The metabolism of alcohol is accomplished rather quickly, as it requires no digestion and is readily absorbed by the stomach and the small intestine. Once absorbed, the alcohol can travel through the blood system, affecting every organ. The liver is the organ most affected by alcohol consumption, as it is responsible for the removal of toxins from the blood. When alcohol is present, the liver acts to remove alcohol from the bloodstream. This prevents the liver from its normal activities of fatty acid metabolism, causing an accumulation.
Health Issues Related to Alcohol
Alcohol has been associated with several negative health issues, all dependent upon individual factors and the frequency and amounts of alcohol consumed. Some of these include:
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
- Psychological Disturbances
- Certain Cancers
- Hyperglycemia and Hypoglycemia
- Liver Disease
- Kidney Disease
- Nervous System Disorders
- Heart Disease
Alcohol and the Digestive System
The digestive system is severely affected by the consumption of alcohol - particularly the accessory organ, the liver. The liver is responsible for the detoxification of the blood, including alcohol and drugs. Alcohol also provides no nourishment to the body while providing many calories and is readily absorbed by the digestive system. This can interfere with proper nutrition absorption.
The most prominent effect of long-term alcohol use is cirrhosis of the liver. This disease typically takes years to develop, but occurs due to the replacement of damaged liver cells with scar tissue. In the United States, the most prominent cause of liver cirrhosis is long-term alcohol abuse.
Moderation Is Key
The use of alcohol in moderation is actually linked to many health benefits and can be a safe and enjoyable experience, but moderation is key. When indulging, it typically helps to consume food while drinking alcohol and to have water in between drinks. Drink slowly, and attempt to consume less than one drink per hour, and NEVER drive while intoxicated.