Most of the alcohol we drink is absorbed in the small intestine. When we drink alcohol on an empty stomach, the small intestine quickly absorbs alcohol into the blood. The presence of food slows down the rate of alcohol absorption, which leads to slower intoxication and fewer consequences.
To all teenagers who are looking forward to the age when they can drink, this article is for you!
Most of you have probably already heard this advice: “Don’t drink on an empty stomach,” but have you ever wondered why? What is the science behind this classic proverb? Let’s talk about it!
Alcohol assimilation by the digestive system
Alcohol, the liquid we drink, is the same ethanol or ethyl alcohol that we study in chemistry. It is a polar molecule, easily soluble in polar solvents such as water, acetone and blood.
A small amount of alcohol absorption begins in the mouth, where tiny blood vessels absorb alcohol. The stomach also absorbs a small percentage of alcohol, but most of it is absorbed in the small intestine.
The level of alcohol concentration in most organs of the body becomes the same as in the bloodstream. The exception is the liver. The liver is the main organ in which alcohol is metabolized. In addition, she receives an “additional” proportion of alcohol directly from the intestine through the portal vein system. In addition, organs with a rich blood supply, such as the brain and lungs, absorb alcohol faster.
About 10% of the total amount of alcohol consumed is excreted through sweat, urine and human respiration. That is why after drinking alcohol, you may smell unpleasant: your body gets rid of it. This is also why after drinking alcohol you feel warm all over your body and may even start sweating.
For the remaining 90% of alcohol consumed, the liver is your savior. The enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, present in the liver, breaks down alcohol into other chemicals. As a result of further splitting, carbon dioxide and water are formed, which are excreted from the body.
Interestingly, alcohol is a diuretic, which also makes the kidneys work more intensively. The kidneys will have to filter out more urine to remove the byproducts of alcohol metabolism from the body.
Absorption of alcohol on an empty stomach
The rate of alcohol absorption depends on many factors. These include gender, age, alcohol tolerance, etc.
However, alcohol is absorbed most quickly when it is drunk on an empty stomach. The blood alcohol level peaks about an hour after consumption on an empty stomach, especially if the alcohol content is 20-30%. Carbonated drinks, such as champagne or whiskey and soda, increase the rate of alcohol absorption in the body.
However, the rate of alcohol absorption is delayed by food, especially carbohydrates. The level of alcohol in the blood rises by less than a quarter of what is observed with an empty stomach. Since the body has carbohydrates or any food that needs to be digested, the rate of absorption of alcohol into the blood decreases. In fact, the attention of the body’s suction system is, as it were, divided between alcohol and food. In addition, carbohydrates are easier (i.e. faster) to digest, compared, for example, with fats.
How does it affect the body
As mentioned above, food slows down the absorption of alcohol in the body, especially in the small intestine. Therefore, in the absence of food, alcohol is absorbed into the body very quickly, which exacerbates its consequences. The ability to think and coordinate body movements correctly begins to weaken early and quickly.
Drinking in large quantities on an empty stomach can be a cause for concern. This can lead to vomiting, severe nausea and unpleasant headaches. Such a “hangover” can last longer than usual if it is caused by drinking alcohol on an empty stomach. It disrupts sleep, can cause sensitivity to light and sound, intense thirst and inability to think clearly.
What to do when you have a glass of alcohol in your hands and your stomach is empty?
It’s all about the absorption game. The game is to give the body time to assimilate, metabolize and eliminate the alcohol taken while it supports other normal body functions.
Your first goal is to eat something (preferably carbohydrates, e.g. rice, pasta) before drinking from the glass you are holding in your hand. Or at least eat and drink at the same time!
If you can’t find anything to eat, dilute the alcoholic drink with either water or something non-alcoholic, such as juice. Slow and gradual drinking also helps. This will give your body time to digest alcohol in small quantities, so its effects will not be as strong.
In conclusion, I would like to say that fill your stomach partially or completely at least an hour before drinking. Have fun, but give your body enough time to do what it needs.