What happens when you take a drink?

Alcohol absorption, distribution and elimination are processes that begin shortly after you take a drink. When you have a drink, it passes down the esophagus into the stomach and into the small intestine, where the alcohol is absorbed into the blood and distributed throughout the body.

Although a small amount of alcohol is absorbed through the linings of the mouth and esophagus, alcohol is mainly absorbed into the blood through the walls of the stomach (about 20%) and intestines (about 80%), primarily the small intestine. The absorption process happens more slowly if you have food in the stomach or intestines.

As it is absorbed, the alcohol is rapidly distributed throughout the water-containing components of the body through the bloodstream. The body’s blood alcohol content (BAC) increases until it reaches a peak concentration, then gradually tapers off. Major organs, such as the liver, kidneys, lungs and brain, absorb more alcohol. Some organs, such as the brain, have special sensitivity to alcohol and its related compounds and therefore can be adversely affected.

The absorption and distribution of alcohol throughout the body happens quickly – within a few minutes of taking a drink, alcohol reaches the body’s organs. Alcohol is eliminated from the body by evaporation, excretion and metabolism. On average, a healthy person eliminates about 14 grams (about 0.5 ounces) of alcohol per hour.

The liver gets rid of about 90% of the alcohol in the body.

The liver is the body’s major organ for handling substances that get into the body. The body can’t store alcohol – it’s the liver’s job to break it down (‘metabolize’ it).

The chemical name for alcohol is ethanol. First, an enzyme in the liver breaks down the ethanol into acetaldehyde, which the body recognizes as toxic. That is why another enzyme and a substance called glutathione break down the acetaldehyde into non-toxic acetic acid. This can then be broken down further into carbon dioxide and water and expelled from the body.

The liver can only metabolize a limited amount of alcohol at a time. If too much alcohol is taken into the body, the liver’s store of glutathione runs out, leaving the toxic acetaldehyde to build up in the body. When this happens, the additional alcohol remains in your body tissues and bloodstream until your liver can process it. It can take three hours or more to remove the alcohol from just one drink from your system – the rate depending on factors such as your size and gender.

The more you drink, the longer it will take. There’s nothing you can do to speed up the rate of metabolism.

Read the full article here: http://www.talkingalcohol.com/index.asp?pageid=68