Sunday, July 19, 2015

Everyone has heard that drinking alcohol on an empty stomach is a bad thing, but few people understand why. To begin with, drinking any liquid on an empty stomach causes gastric emptying, which means that the liquid spends less time in the stomach. In the case of alcohol, the time it spends in the stomach is when 15% of the alcohol is broken down before entering the bloodstream. Removing this step leads to high levels of intoxication as the other 85% of the alcohol is broken down within the liver. Essentially, a small amount of alcohol is always immediately absorbed into the bloodstream and sent to the brain, but this amount is amplified when the stomach is empty.

When one consumes alcohol on an empty stomach, blood vessels widen more rapidly than when the calories are available to slow the process of absorption. This causes feelings of warmth as well as a decrease in both blood pressure and pulse rate. Drinking on an empty stomach also leads to temporary dehydration because of excessive urination and lack of feelings of thirst. These are some of the more immediate effects, but longer term effects can include liver and kidney damage, depression, anxiety, and even addiction. While all of these side effects are present with regular consumption of alcohol, the process is sped up when consuming alcohol without any food in the stomach.

A Swedish study had participants consume alcohol after eating breakfast versus not eating breakfast on two separate days. The blood alcohol content on days that they did not eat was 30% higher than on days that they did eat despite consuming the exact same alcohol. This is significant because blood alcohol content of .06 consists of slightly exaggerated emotions and an impairment of judgment. Increasing that by just 30% shows characteristics vision and speech impairment. This continue to grow exponentially and may lead to loss of self-control, inability to use motor skills, and even loss of consciousness at a more rapid rate than if food was in the stomach.

In short, drinking alcohol on an empty stomach leads to higher levels of blood alcohol concentration and more visible signs of intoxication. It is a good idea to consume foods high in fat, protein, and dense carbohydrates to slow the absorption of alcohol. Since fat takes the longest to digest, it is recommended that foods high in fat are consumed before drinking alcohol. Unfortunately, drinking alcohol often suppresses appetite due to gastric juice flow so it is vitally important to eat a meal before drinking in order to reduce the risk of the aforementioned side effects from alcohol consumption. Source

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