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How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System? [Understanding the Path of Alcohol through the Body]

Drinking is a common way to celebrate something and generally, it’s a staple at parties and social events. Have you ever wondered what happens to alcohol after you’ve emptied your glass? Alcohol has a path that it follows once you start consuming it. We are going to begin by exploring this path. After that, we will examine the relationship between alcohol, the blood system, and even your urine. Finally, we will begin to explore hangovers, specifically why they happen and how to safely recover from them.

Once you have consumed alcohol, it flows to your membranes and will eventually reach and affect all of your organs. Alcohol enters the body through the mouth. This is the beginning of alcohol hitting the system and it will continue to move through the body. After it enters the mouth it moves to the stomach. During this stage, some of the alcohol enters the blood stream. It’s able to do this through the lining of your stomach and at this stage it’s un-metabolized. Following the entrance of alcohol into the stomach, it then flows into the small intestines. A significantly larger amount of alcohol enters the bloodstream through the walls of the small intestines.

Not surprisingly, because at this stage so much alcohol has entered the bloodstream the next affected organ is the heart. As your heart pumps, it tirelessly works to spread the consumed alcohol throughout your system. After this, alcohol reaches your brain and begins to have significant irreversible side effects.

It’s common knowledge that alcohol consumption has negative effects on the liver.What you may not realize is that most often these side effects are severely detrimental and difficult to detect. Later in the article, we will discuss alcohol breaking down and the rate that happens. The kidneys then get to work and begin to eliminate the alcohol. As the kidneys are working the lungs begin to exhale and it can be detected.

Now that you are more familiar with how alcohol gets into the bloodstream, it’s important to know how long it stays there. You need to know before you are able to drive, handle machinery or make too many phone calls. People get intoxicated from drinking many different types of alcohol. Depending on height, weight, and gender the same drink can have different effects on a person. Many people assume that the liver function also changes depending on these factors, but interestingly enough this isn’t true. Anyone who has a healthy liver will metabolize at the same rate no matter his or her height or weight.

On average, every hour the liver is able to metabolize 1 ounce of alcohol. Many people are concerned about their blood alcohol level once they have a few drinks. On average, after beginning to drink most people will find that their blood alcohol level will go from 0 to 0.015 after just one ounce. So, usually, in an hour the amount that can be processed will be passed. This process begins to change when the amount of alcohol consumed surpasses the body’s ability to metabolize it.

This process particularly changes at the point where the blood alcohol content exceeds 0.055. Your body’s tissue and blood begin to try and manage the excess alcohol and they do so by absorbing it. This can cause a number of terrible side effects, including but not limited to vomiting, depression, and irritability.

It’s completely understandable why so many people are concerned about alcohol in the bloodstream, but it’s important not to forget about alcohol in urine. It’s important to know how long alcohol can stay in your urine for medical exams and drug tests. Many people are surprised when they hear how long alcohol can remain in their urine. In general, it lingers in the urine anywhere from 12 to 36 hours after drinking. However, as technology becomes more advanced some tests are able to detect it anywhere from 48 to 80 hours after having a drink.

Of course, no one wants to be out and about with a strong smell of alcohol on his or her breath. It’s easy to forget after you’ve had a few drinks and eaten a snack, but alcohol can stay on the breath up to 24 hours after the last beverage. What most people forget is that alcohol can be detected from the hair as well. In general, up to 90 days after having a drink, someone would be able to detect it in someone’s hair. Lastly, 10-24 hours after drinking alcohol can be detected by using a saliva swab.

Referring back to the path that alcohol takes once it enters the body, we are going to take a look at how the alcohol affects those aforementioned parts. As discussed, the mouth is the first part of the body affected by alcohol. It can cause a lack of appetite while dulling the taste and smell of food. On a more serious note, slurred speech can occur, tooth decay and even mouth cancer. An irritated mouth lining along with bleeding sores can be extremely painful, causing severe discomfort. People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol can experience chronic mouth infections on top of these other negative side effects.

Are these symptoms preventable? Absolutely. Research shows that the best ways to prevent these negative effects include monitoring alcohol consumption, rinsing out the mouth after drinking and cleaning teeth with consistent brushing. It’s important to avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol. You may feel minty fresh after using it, but it’s just as harmful to your teeth and gums.

We know that after entering the mouth, alcohol affects the stomach, but what does it do exactly? To begin with, after drinking, the acid in your stomach increases significantly. This commonly causes irritation to the stomach lining resulting in pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms are uncomfortable, but more serious ones can also occur. Often the digestive process is interfered with and your body can lose the ability to absorb vital nutrients. Chronic drinkers run the risk of malnutrition among other things. After many years of heavy drinking, ulcers become more common and this can often lead to gastritis. Gastritis is known to cause stomach pain, nausea and lack of appetite. Unfortunately, not all of these problems occur over years of drinking. Even just one night of drinking can cause the lining of your stomach to bleed or become inflamed. The gasses produced by your stomach will often cause cramping and bloating too. It’s important to pay attention to your body and to seek professional help if you begin to experience these side effects.

You may be wondering if it’s possible to protect your stomach from these painful and disturbing side effects. Many people assume that mixing different types of alcohol has more negative effects than if you only drink one type in an evening. This may be true for having a slightly less severe hangover the next day, but unfortunately, there is no proof that one is better or worse for your stomach lining. When a headache comes on or you are worried about getting one in the morning, you may be tempted to take some painkillers. This will help your head but will do significant harm to your belly. They compound the damage done to your gut by alcohol and should be avoided. An alternative more natural way to help ease pain and discomfort can be found by drinking mint tea. It is possible to slightly slow down the rate that your body absorbs alcohol in an evening. Consuming carbohydrate-rich foods before you begin drinking can do this. Also, the best way to protect your gut is by consuming less alcohol overall in an evening. Drinking water or soda periodically throughout the evening or event will help you do this, therefore reducing these unwanted side effects.

The small intestines are affected next. Many people don’t realize the important role their small intestines play when it comes to absorbing nutrients from consumed food and drink. Unfortunately, the intestines take a beating when it comes to the effect that alcohol has on them. The alcohol irritates the lining of the intestinal tract. This can lead to inflammation, ulcers and even different types of cancer. Because it is the connection between the large intestines and the stomach, the small intestines have a sizeable reaction when they are nutrient deprived. Initially, nutrient absorption deficiencies begin to occur. The lining of the intestines need folates and if they aren’t getting enough they change. This change results in losing the ability to appropriately absorb water, sodium, and glucose. Another response is losing the ability to break down lactose. Most people aren’t aware that alcohol consumption frequently leads to lactose intolerance. Regrettably, even a single evening of drinking can lead to bleeding in the upper quadrant of the duodenum. This may result in changes to the capillaries, which in turn leads to a higher rate of mucosal injuries.

Clearly, the effects of alcohol on the small intestines and the digestive tract, in general, are severe. It’s important to be aware of these risks and to monitor your intake of alcohol. Disappointingly, there are no miracle cures or tips for preventing these things from happening. The way to protect yourself is by closely tracking how much alcohol you consume and how often you drink it. The recommended amount is a maximum of 2 drinks a day for men and just 1 a day for women. The appropriate number of days to drink in a row varies depending on the researcher you ask but one suggested that someone should not drink more than 14 days in a row. Another had significantly different results, saying that someone should not drink even 2 consecutive nights in a row, always taking 2 to 3 days between drinking sessions.

You may have heard that a glass of red wine is good for your heart. Some people have a bad habit of taking this information to the extreme. Alcohol does have some positive effects on the heart, such as raising good cholesterol and lowering blood sugar. It’s also able to prevent blood from clotting. This may not sound like a good thing because you bleed more easily, but this can also prevent heart attacks from occurring. It’s important to remember that just because it is possible to experience some positive effects, there are also negative ones too. Binge drinking can be highly dangerous and can cause an irregular heartbeat. Regular drinking can also cause a strain on the heart muscles and lead to a disease called cardiomyopathy. Furthermore, episodes of heavy drinking can cause your blood pressure to rise, which increases your chance of having a heart attack and sudden death.

It’s common knowledge that a strong heart is essential for a pain-free, healthy and happy life. Some may feel that having a drink a day protects their heart, but this is only the case if you drink the suggested amount and are over the age of 45. It’s not recommended to choose to drink for the sole purpose of protecting your heart. The same benefits can be experienced from a healthy diet and exercise. When it comes to heart health, moderation is the key.

There are countless movies, songs, and jokes about bad decisions made after drinking. Once your heart has been affected, your brain begins to feel the effects too. After a night of drinking, one can experience difficulty walking, remembering things and find themselves with severely impaired speech. Some of these effects can be felt after only a couple drinks whereas others require a significantly larger amount. There are no clear-cut answers when it comes to exactly how our brains react to alcohol. Researchers continue to study long and short-term effects, but nothing concrete has been discovered. Blackouts and lapses in memory are common occurrences, even after a couple drinks. Experts have found that women are more susceptible to experiencing a blackout than men are, even if the men are drinking more. However, more information needs to be gathered. Serious changes can occur in the brain after many years of drinking. Thiamine deficiency is common among alcoholics. It’s an essential nutrient that is commonly found in meat and poultry. Furthermore, serious illnesses involving motor skills can be developed.

In addition to these scary physical effects, the brain can change the way it functions once you start drinking, like increasing the amount of dopamine that it releases into your system. By doing this, your brain is telling you that you are happy and feeling great. Wonderful right? Wrong. While you are beginning to experience these feel-good drugs, your brain is also producing other chemicals that increase feelings of depression. The more one drinks over time, the more one will experience the diminishing amount of dopamine being produced, until it’s non-existent. The short-term happy feeling is not worth the long-term depression.

When considering the damage that alcohol can do to your body, you most likely think about your liver. This is no surprise considering it’s our largest internal organ and has around 500 different roles to play. Sadly, many people do not realize that they have damaged their liver until it’s too late. Our livers play a vital role in breaking down food and converting it to energy. Drinking alcohol brutally affects this process. Sadly, approximately 1 out of every 10 deaths for people under the age of 40 is a result of liver disease. There are 4 major types of liver disease. Over consumption of alcohol negatively affects the liver in 2 ways. First, the chemical reaction caused by trying to break down alcohol damages cells. This will cause the liver to attempt to repair itself, which in turn will result in inflammation and scarring. Secondly, gut bacteria from the hurt intestines can infiltrate our livers. This also leads to scarring and inflammation.

Another side-effect is something called “fatty liver”. Persons who consume too much alcohol can change the way their livers turn glucose into fat. When it’s not functioning properly, it begins to hold on to the fat and eventually it stuffs itself. Luckily, this is not incurable. If you discover that you are suffering from a fatty liver then you need to stop drinking immediately. After approximately two weeks, the swelling will go down and your liver will most likely go back to functioning appropriately.

Most of the discomfort felt and damage done to one’s liver can be reversed if caught early enough. It’s recommended that alcohol is taken over the course of a week, possibly having 2 to 3-day breaks. Eating healthy will help your liver go back to fully functioning and keeping track of the amount you drink will prevent binge drinking and its terrible effects.

We’ve tracked the path that alcohol takes through the body and we’ve looked at how it affects each organ in depth. Now we will briefly take a look at what happens to your body the day after drinking. We will explore hangovers and discuss how to safely recover from one.

Throughout the years, people all over the world have tried to discover the perfect hangover cure. There’s nothing worse than having an amazing night, just to spend the entire next day feeling terrible. The headaches, dizziness, and feelings of nausea are not only uncomfortable; they make it dangerous to drive and to go about your normal business.

A hangover is your body’s reaction to over-consumption of alcohol. There are a wide variety of symptoms that include, but are not limited to nausea, fatigue, headaches, anxiety, muscle soreness and problems focusing. When out drinking, your body generally loses 4 times as much liquid than it gains. This dehydration causes a wide variety of the symptoms experienced that morning after. Your body loses high levels of salt, potassium, and magnesium. Losing these vital minerals can prevent your cells, muscles and nerves from functioning, as they should. Lethargy is caused in part by losing high levels glycogen, a natural source of energy. Metabolizing alcohol creates a toxin called acetaldehyde. This toxin builds up in our system because our body isn’t able to keep up and eventually causes feelings of nausea in addition to severe headaches.

Different cultures have come up with their own miracle hangover cures. In South Korea they have an energy drink they feel immediately helps them recover. In Peru, they eat a soup that contains different parts of a sheep head, including the brain and eyes. In England, many believe that another beer in the morning commonly called the hair of the dog ensures that no hangover will be felt.

While there truly is no medically supported hangover cure, there are some things you can do to prevent having a terrible one. It’s important to eat a meal before consuming alcohol. Crackers and bread are easy on the stomach and high-fiber foods are said to help break down alcohol and absorb it. Many believe that taking multivitamins or even just vitamin c will help reduce a hangover because you are adding extra vitamins to your system before you begin to lose them at a rapid pace. Alternating a glass of water and an alcoholic beverage will help you slow down and to rehydrate. Many medical professionals suggest doing your best not to vomit. They point out the fact that it’s dangerous and because the alcohol is already in your blood stream, it won’t help.


If you are already a drinker, you may feel that it’s impossible or impractical to never pick up a drink again and we can respect that. If you feel that you want to have a tasty adult beverage at that New Year’s Eve party or to celebrate your wedding anniversary, we get it. What’s important is that you remember the risks of over-consumption and you acknowledge that fact that drinking can take an enormous toll on your mental and physical health.


If you choose to consume, it is important to remember moderation. Do your best to follow the guidelines depending on your gender, height, and weight for how much you can safely drink. If you do this and do your best to live a healthy lifestyle by watching what you eat and exercising regularly, then you shouldn’t experience some of the severe side effects discussed in this article. Of course, before drinking it’s always best to consult your doctor to ensure that you aren’t at risk because of some other factor. Once you’ve done these things, all we have to say to you is, cheers!


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