What Alcohol Does to Your Body

St. Patrick's Day is upon us! And while the Irish holiday has a veryrich cultural and religious history that should be respected and at the forefrontof any celebration, it's also become a day for many to let loose and enjoy themselvesan alcoholic beverage or two — or more… In today's video we're going to take a look at the pathway alcohol takes asit travels through your body. We're going to see the various organs andtissues that it interacts with along that way, and we're even going to discuss that “ohso wonderful” feeling called a hangover. There's a lot to do, so let's do this! .

First and foremost I have to getthis out of the way — alcohol, or more properly known asethanol — is a legitimate toxin. While there are studies that have shown thatsmall amounts of daily alcohol consumption can actually be good for you, those studiesare pretty inconsistent with each other and you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody willingto say that alcohol is overall healthy for you. And this is not me judging you by theway. Personally, I am a bourbon man. It's one of my favorite ways to wind down. But there's never been a point as I'm sipping onthe bourbon that the cells in my body are like, “yes!! More toxic ethanol for us todetoxify and potentially get harmed from!!” .

But with that said if you arean adult of legal drinking age and you're partaking responsibly,all the power to you! I'm not gonna get in your way. Just know that it's not good for you. Okay? Okay! I'm glad we had this talk. To the cadavers! Obviously the very first place thealcohol is going to enter your body is going to be the mouth or the oral cavity. .

And we can see that very thing right here. But this is a bisected headin the mid-sagittal plane. So that means that we've cutit right down the center. And that allows us to see a ton of really coolanatomy such as this gigantic tongue, the mandible here, you can see the roof of the mouth, or thehard palate, and then the soft palate behind it. And then this little flappy thingis called the epiglottis and we'll see that, or more what it does in just a second. But the thing to really understand is that liningthe tongue, and lining the cheeks — in fact lining the entire inner surface ofyour oral cavity — is mucosal tissue. .

A mucosal lining that really just kindof helps keep things lubricated, and just humid inside of your mouth. But the thing to understand is thatit's capable of absorbing alcohol. In fact they did a studywith some wine tasters to see how much alcohol is getting absorbedwhen they're doing their wine tastings. Think about it — as they sip the winethey slosh it around, and spit it out, they may not be drinking it but it's spending aconsiderable amount of time in their mouth and it makes sense to figure out if some ofthat's been absorbed in the bloodstream. And it turns out, a very small amountis — and I mean a very small amount. .

So that means when you're casually drinking,a very extraordinarily small amount of that alcohol is being directly absorbedinto your bloodstream from your mouth. But the vast majority of it is going tocontinue on, and it's going to bypass the tongue and enter this next areacalled the pharynx or your throat. And that's where that epiglottis is goingto come down and block off the airway. This is the upper portion ofyour trachea, or your windpipe, and that makes this your voice box, or the larynx. And you obviously don't want the fluidgoing down into your airway, so the epiglottis diverts it and pushes it into theesophagus — that's what you're looking at here. .

And the esophagus is your food tube, or I guessin this instance it'd be a food and a drink tube. In fact, I have anotheresophagus for us to look at here. Now this is going to look a little weird and beprobably somewhat difficult to wrap your mind around, but this portion — this is the larynx, oryour voice box, and this is the “Adam's Apple”. So that means you're looking atan anterior view of the trachea. This is the thyroid gland and thatmakes this part of the tongue. But what we really want to focus on is — I'mgoing to slide the trachea, and that nerve with with it to the side — andwe see this is the esophagus. It's just a muscular tube that is connecting thatpharynx up here, all the way down to the stomach. .

So the stomach is actually going to bethe very first real place that alcohol is going to be absorbed into the body, and it'ssomewhere around 10 — maybe 15 or so percent. The vast majority of alcohol is goingto get absorbed in the small intestine, which we'll see in a second. But you can see on this stomach right here,this — if I can hold this up properly — is the end of the esophagus, andthen it turns into the stomach. And it's just kind of curving over to the right. But this at the bottom — I guessI should say here at the base of the stomach — we have this really importantstructure called the pyloric sphincter. .

So this section of the stomach from here untilthe small intestine starts is called the pylorus, and inside of there is a very strongsphincter called the pyloric sphincter. And the reason why this sphincter is so important is because it's literally a gatekeeper— that's what pylorus means. If you drink alcohol on an empty stomach, thepyloric sphincter is going to be more open and the alcohol is going to justenter into the small intestine, meaning that on an empty stomach alcohol isgoing to get into your bloodstream quicker. But if you have food or some other drink, what's going to happen is inside the stomach abunch of stomach acid is going to be secreted, .

And this pyloric sphincter is actuallygoing to pinch tight — pinch shut. And it'll slowly start opening it, kind of just casually opens just a little bit here andthere, and that's called gastric emptying. And it's at a very specific rate — wellmore or less specific — and that means if you have food with your alcohol, it's goingto get into your bloodstream, well — delayed. It's not going to happen right away. At least the majority of it. But like I said, some of the alcohol iscapable of being absorbed in the stomach. In fact, I have a different stomach for us to lookat — which would be right here if I can get this .

Organized for you — and thisstomach has actually been cut. We've removed the pylorus, and that allows usto do this — this is one of my favorite things, I love this — to reflect it like this. You can see the inside of the stomach. And you're looking at all these folds there, those are called gastric rugae, andthat literally means “stomach fold”. They're just really uniqueand interesting to look at. What I want you to picture is thatthis entire inside of the stomach is also lined with mucosal tissue. .

And that mucosal tissueserves a variety of functions. One of the most important beingto actually secrete mucus. And that mucus prevents the stomach acid, or that hydrochloric acid, fromconsuming the stomach itself. It's kind of an important job. But the thing to understand is that the alcoholcan be absorbed into that mucosal tissue, and then from there it can get intothe bloodstream and head to the liver. So you can't — this, this is the entire reason why if you take a drink, after just a coupleminutes you're gonna start to feel a rush. .

That's — even though the majority of the alcoholactually hasn't gotten into your bloodstream yet, some of it has because it was absorbed throughthe stomach here and then went to the liver. But the rest of it is actually — if I can pullthis back — gonna go into your intestines. And I'm going to kind of bringthem all over here… we're going to see this a little more clearly inanother cadaver section in a second. But this is where the vast majorityof your absorption is going to occur, but that is going to take just alittle bit more time to pull off. So let's go ahead and look at adifferent cadaver and finish our journey. Quick recap! .

When you first drink alcohol, it went into youroral cavity or your mouth, some of it got absorbed into the mucosal tissue and went directly intoyour bloodstream, but it was a very small amount. You then swallowed it and it wentdown your esophagus into your stomach. So the stomach on this cadaver here, is going to be located — hopefullyyou can see this — just like that. This is the stomach. And it's hiding behind this massive organ thatwe'll talk about in a second called the liver. But what's going to happen, remember asit sends it into the small intestine, the small intestine aregoing to do that absorbing. .

So the first place we can see the small intestine coming out on this cadaveris going to be right here. Now as I move these small intestinesyou're going to notice something's different about it compared to the onewe just saw in that other dissection. The intestines are attached to your body. This is called the mesentery, and it's — the way I always talk about it with my studentsis, I say — all those zombie movies? They're wrong. In the zombie movies you're getting like anabdominal wound, and the guts are just dragging. .

I mean it's possible — it's definitely possible. But that's a pretty serious cut. The intestines are attached and they need to bebecause what they do is they absorb the nutrients. But they have to absorb them tosomewhere — bring them to somewhere. And if you look closely you're goingto see all these little blue lines. Those are veins taking whatever they'veabsorbed — so this would be any food or drink — any nutrients that went into thestomach and got released in the intestines, is going to be absorbed into the mesentery,and is then going to travel to the liver. The same goes for anythingthat's absorbed by the stomach. .

And we did just see that alcohol, or ethanol, isabsorbed in some quantity by the stomach itself. So the stomach and the mesentery in the intestinesare going to send the alcohol to the liver. And look how big this thing is! On top of it is the diaphragmmuscle that I've scooted up so we could get a pretty goodview of this liver here. It's absolutely enormous! This is the second largest organ in thebody if you count the skin as an organ. And this thing is so amazing — ithas so many different functions. But one of the coolest properties, I guessyou could say of it, is that it regenerates. .

Most of your body does what's calledhealing, and healing isn't all that cool. Healing is a mixture of someregeneration but mostly scarring. Not the liver — the liver iscapable of true regeneration and that's because it takes so much abuse. It's not just ethanol — there's other toxinsthat get into your digestive tract that it has to try and detoxify throughsome really interesting chemistry. But throughout all that abuse it could take somedamage, so it needs to be able to regenerate. Such an amazing organ! But let's take a step back again. .

So the alcohol goes into the liver andthis is where it's going to be met with an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase. But I should also mention the stomachalso had alcohol dehydrogenase. What this enzyme does, is it interacts with the ethanol and convertsit into something called acetaldehyde. Here's the ironic thing — acetaldehyde isactually more toxic than the ethanol itself. And if that's where it was leftthen we'd have a serious problem. If — if — if we left just the acetaldehyde asit was — oh, you'd be in a world of trouble. But luckily the liver is also going to haveanother enzyme that can convert that acetaldehyde .

Into something known as acetate, and the bodycan easily take care of acetate no problem. Here's the thing — the amount of alcohol youconsume, and the time frame you consume it has a pretty strong influence on the liver'sability to convert it all the way into acetate. So what will happen is you drink it, itgets absorbed, it's permeating the tissues, but it isn't able to handle theentire workload all at once. So some of that ethanol is gonnamake its way into the bloodstream. Because the liver is then gonna send theblood directly to the heart — and that's what this gigantic thing is here, I'll kindof remove this — this is the pericardium. You can see the heart here, and what's goingto happen is the heart is then going to beat .

And send that blood directlyto the lungs right next door. And this is how alcohol can be on your breath. Because as the ethanol gets in —it's, remember it's in the blood, but it's going to go to the lung tissue, and inside of the lungs you have all these hollowair sacs that are surrounded in capillaries. And what will happen is the ethanol will evaporate into those little air sacs, and then as youbreathe out — so kind of picture if this could inflate — and then as you breathe out and itkind of gets squished what's going to happen is that ethanol is going to go up yourrespiratory tract and it's on your breath. .

This is the entire premise behinda breathalyzer and why it works. So — kind of interesting that way — that you canactually get rid of alcohol when you are drinking. You're getting rid of alcoholby simply breathing it out. But not all of the ethanol is going to do that. The rest of it's going to go back to the heart and then when that heart contractsit's going to send the blood all the way up straight to the brain, and thenstart distributing it throughout your entire body. And this is something that's so important to take note of — ethanol is going to interactwith pretty much everything in your body .

Except for bone tissue, becauseit's just so hard, and fatty tissue. Because you have to understandethanol is water soluble and fatty tissue is made of lipidsand oil and water do not mix. If you've ever done that experimentmaybe back in elementary school. So sure — some ethanol can get into yourfatty tissue, but it's a very small amount. But everything else in your body…so like I just said — your lungs… I don't know if you'll be able tosee this all that much — I'll kind of pull this tissue to the side — there'sthis organ down here called the spleen. Your gallbladder… everything in yourbody is going to interact with the ethanol. .

To what degree does theethanol have an effect on it? There's a lot of factors that go into it. It depends on how vascular that organand structure is in the first place. It depends on your genetics… itdepends on your overall health. So it's hard to give you areal solid answer on that. But a real interesting one iswhat it does to muscle tissue. Actually I should probably take a quick step back. We're going to see the brain here ina second, but you need to understand that ethanol actually stimulates what'sknown as your sympathetic nervous system. .

This is your “Fight or Flight”aspect of your nervous system. And what that means is it's goingto accelerate the heart rate. So the heart's going to just startbeating, and as it starts beating it's going to start pushing the blood evenmore forcefully to things like muscles. It's also going to cause you to sweat. This is why if you're drinkingyou'll start sweating because your sympathetic nervous system is “going off”. But think of all the ethanol that ishitting the skeletal muscle tissue. And that can actually have aneffect on protein synthesis. .

So let's say you went to the gym earlier thatday and you got a really great workout in, and then later that night youdecided to have a few drinks. Well those drinks could possibly negate maybe notentirely but a significant portion of your gains, because the alcohol prevents proteins frombeing built inside of the muscle tissue. Absolutely fascinating what's going on there! So all right — alcohol is now —if we kind of take a step back to kind of make this kind of a process…alcohol is now heading straight for the brain. So what we're going to do is we're going tojump on over to some brains and check it out. Okay! So blood is pumping straight tothe brain and that's what we have here. .

So this upper portion is called the cerebrum, it'shighly folded and such an amazing structure — in fact I did an entire video on just this onesection here called the prefrontal cortex, so you should definitely gocheck that out after this video. This lower portion is called the cerebellum. But what we really want to look at because it's socool, is if I flip it over, you can see that there — if you look closely that is — there's this grayouter portion and then this white inner portion. This is gray and white matter respectively. The gray matter is where the cells of the braincalled neurons are communicating with each other. So picture billions upon billionsof connections all happening in just .

This tiny little area I'm traversing with theprobe, and that's where they're just talking. And they talk with the use ofsomething called neurotransmitters. And I guarantee you've heardof neurotransmitters before. The two most famous areprobably dopamine and serotonin, but there's other ones like GABA and glutamate,that ethanol is also going to affect. And ethanol is also going toaffect the secretion of endorphins, which — let's put this all together. So without getting too granular ornitty-gritty, you're gonna have pleasure, you're gonna have euphoria, you'regonna have lowered inhibitions, .

And you're gonna have loweredcognitive ability and lowered reflexes. When you bundle it all together — sobasically think about it like this… When you lower inhibitions, that's whenthings you start start saying and doing things that you normally wouldn't do. When you're drinking alcohol also you get thisgreat idea — “what if I took off my pants, I jumped on the table, and i justscreamed, I'm King of the World!” Anybody who's not drinking,that is a terrible idea. But someone who's five shotsof tequila in, that's smart! Not only is it smart, it's necessary! .

That just goes to show your choice-makingability has gone out the window. But you're literally thinking slower. You're also euphoric. You're happy about it! It's a really strange combination. But that is only the effect that it has on the neurological tissue — it's alsogoing to affect your hormonal system. So what I want to do is look at anotherdissection, and it's that sagittal head that we've already seen, so we canfocus on these two structures here. .

So this first one that I'm traversingwith my probe is called the hypothalamus, and this is going to be just above anotherreally famous one known as the pituitary gland. Together they form what's known asthe hypothalamic-pituitary axis. And that's a big word that's reallynot all that necessary to remember. Just understand that these two structurescontrol your entire hormonal system. The hypothalamus is more or lessin charge of the pituitary gland. So it'll secrete hormones thatboss around the pituitary gland. But the hypothalamus isconstantly monitoring your body. So when you start drinking,the hypothalamus is aware of it .

And it's going to start adjustingbased off of the ethanol. In fact it's going to basically tell the pituitarygland to start bossing around your adrenal glands. And your adrenal glands are what secrete cortisol, which is your stress hormone and epinephrineand norepinephrine — also known as adrenaline. So think about this… when you drink — not onlydo you have diminished choice making ability, your inhibitions are gone, but now you're stressed andyou have adrenaline coursing through your system. If you remember just a moment ago we talked about the sympathetic nervous systemand the heart rate increasing and all that. So this is a pretty potent mixture. .

But not only that, the pituitary glandis also going to slow down its secretion of a hormone known as anti-diuretic hormone. So a diuretic is somethingthat causes you to urinate. So anti-diuretic hormone would meanthat you would hold on to water. But what instead happens, is ethanol influences the secretion of ADH, and that'sgoing to have a pretty big effect on your kidney. See the kidney is going to —this is a really cool dissection. So you can see a bunch of amazing structuresin here, and these are just renal pyramids. And this outer portion is called the cortexof the kidney and inside of here are all these .

Tiny little filtration unitsthat are filtering blood. You see, blood gets pumped — let's see if I can grab this — through this arteryhere called the renal artery. And that is then going to go to theoutside of the kidney and get filtered into urine, which will then be droppeddown this long tube called the ureter, and then the bladder, and then the outside world. That means your urine was once blood. Well — now, the ADH isn't beingsecreted, the blood vessel — so think about that — so another name for ADH,or anti-diuretic hormone, is vasopressin. .

And I like that name because it soundslike you're pressing on blood vessels. Because that's what it'll do. It'll actually constrict the bloodvessels inside of the kidney, meaning less blood volume is able to go andget filtered, meaning you make less urine. But if you're drinking alcohol what's gonna happeninstead is you are going to be peeing a lot. I remember I used to — beforeI knew any of this years ago, I used to be confused… like I'd have onebeer… like I'd try to do the math in my head. I'm like, “okay. I drank thatmuch… but I peed that much…” It never made any sense to me, butthat's because of the lowered ADH. .

But what that means is youare now dehydrating yourself. You're getting rid of all this fluid — and more fluid than you're bringing inthrough the alcoholic beverage. That also means the insideof here — without getting too nitty-gritty into it — in order tomake this whole process efficient, the kidney is going to start droppingelectrolytes into the urinary tract. And so that means as you urinate, you'regoing to start losing electrolytes. And this is going to be kind of important when we're talking about — or maybe important — with hangovers. .

But just think about it like this — not onlyare you dehydrated, you're also lowering your ability to rehydrate because electrolytesare what attract water back into your body. So I'm sure you're starting to seewhere this is all going… you're jacked out of your mind onadrenaline and stress hormone… you are making bad decisions, you're happyabout it, and you gotta pee all the time! I mean, if that does not sum up thealcohol experience, I don't know what does! At the same time though, alcohol doesn't affectevery single individual in the exact same way. There are certain things thataffect how it effects you. So for instance, sex is a large one. .

You see, females have ahigher body fat percentage. And so let's say, I had a male anda female who weighed the exact same and they drank the exact amountof same amount of alcohol. Well what would happen, sincethe female has a higher body fat percentage, that also means sheactually has less blood volume. So that same amount of alcohol is moreconcentrated in her lower blood volume than it would be for the male, meaning itcan actually affect her more intensely. But things like age are alsogoing to play a giant role. You have things like genetics. .

There's certain people that just aren't ableto produce the enzymes in enough quantity to properly break down alcohol. Like we mentioned earlier — do you have food inyour stomach? Do you have drink in your stomach? These things are all goingto play a pretty big role. But we haven't even talked about what happens after all of this… afterall the fun — the hangover. Hangovers are actually still pretty mysterious. We have general ideas, like I can tell you ahangover is essentially because you're dehydrated, lack of sleep, just maybe physically beatup because who knows what you're doing… .

Like jumping on tables sayingyou're the “King of the World”. We can say like generally there's all theselittle things that add up to create the hangover. But if you actually starttrying to break down specific pathophysiology — the real causes — it getskind of hard to figure out what's going on. One of the leading culprits — at least what we think — is that acetaldehydethat we mentioned earlier. So remember, acetaldehyde is moretoxic than the ethanol itself. And so the idea is that too much acetaldehydecan actually start to create that hangover, or at least some of the symptoms of that hangover. .

Which I should probably mention the symptoms! I mean they're going to be things like —and these are everybody's favorite, right? You've all been there. Diarrhea, nausea, possible vomiting,just fatigue — you're just exhausted. And you have an extreme loss ofappetite, which is interesting because if we're talking about how to overcomethe hangover, there's also not a lot of real understanding as to whatcan solve it other than time. I don't about know you, but I've heardprobably every single remedy under the sun. I used to be in the United States Marine Corps, .

And if any of you know about UnitedStates Marines — we like to drink. And so I remember hearing so many differentremedies after a weekend of just harsh inappropriate drinking. And my go-to was actually — please don't judgeme too harshly for this — my go-to was about as greasy of a breakfast sandwich fromMcDonald's as I could possibly get, and then some kind of sportsdrink like a Gatorade or Powerade. And I did that because someone told me that wouldfix it at some point, and I just kept on doing it. There's no evidence that thatactually helps all that much. Some people will say coffee. .

Some people say a shower. Sleep is obvious — that'sdefinitely going to help. But the only thing that's actuallybeen proven, is time itself. You have to wait it out. If you if you're just depending— there's no magic pill. Although, I am curious to see if you canleave it in the comments below what you may have heard, or what you do, or what youswear by, because don't get me wrong — like I still to this day, despite everything Iknow… if I do have a hangover, my first inkling is I gotta go get some really grossbreakfast sandwich, and that's gonna fix it. .

And what's funny is it neverdoes, but I keep doing it anyways. Again — please try not to judge me too harshly… Thanks for watching everyone! I had a blast filming this video,but I wanted to take a moment and just give my thanks to thosewho donate their body's to science. Because while I'm trying to make this lightheartedand fun so we can at least enjoy this, I also want to be respectful and understandthe amazing gift that they have given. Because without their generous gift, wewouldn't be able to show these types of things. What I often tell my studentsis — five minutes with a kidney, .

Or five minutes with any structure really, youlearn more than in five hours in the classroom. Or maybe you learn something different thatyou just couldn't learn in the classroom. And so as fun as we're having with this video,it's nice to be able to see these structures so you can better understand and hopefullymake better decisions with your drinking. Especially with St. Patrick's Day, or I don'tknow — maybe it's Wednesday — for any of you. But again, I just wanted to extend my thanks and gratitude to those whodonate their body's to science. But as always, please like, comment,subscribe if you haven't already. Which if you haven't — what are you doing? .

We try to make videos like once a week. Sometimes twice a week. And if the stars align, we would love topush it to three to four videos per week. But make sure you hit that notification bell so you'll be the first person tosee the videos as they come out. But if you're gonna go drinkingplease, do so responsibly. And try not to take your pants offand say you're King of the World… If you don't do that, as faras I'm concerned — it's a win.
What Alcohol Does to Your Body ____ In this video, Justin from the Institute of Human Anatomy discusses the various structures ethanol interacts with as it journey’s through the human body after consumption. ____ New digital coloring book designed using images of real cadavers is now available in our merch shelf!! ____ Affiliate Links: beacons.ai/instituteofhumananatomy Codex Anatomicus https://codexanatomy.com/?ref=IOHA Coupon Code for 20% OFF: IOHA20 ____ Connect with us on social! TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@instituteofhumananatomy Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/instituteofhumananatomy/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/InstituteOfHumanAnatomy LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/institute-of-human-anatomy/about/ Website: https://instituteofhumananatomy.com/ Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/instituteofhumananatomy ____ Audio Credit: www.bensounds.com St. Patrick Photo Credit: Andreas F. Borchert ____ Resources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC543875/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3767933/ https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/0003-4819-132-11-200006060-00008 ____ Video Timeline 00:00 – 00:34 Intro 00:35 – 01:29 Disclaimer 01:30 – 03:30 Oral Cavity 03:31 – 04:10 Esophagus 04:11 – 07:46 Stomach 07:47 – 09:30 Intestines/Mesentery 09:31 – 11:50 Liver 11:51 – 13:02 Heart/Lungs 13:03 – 14:04 Spleen/Gallbladder/Pancreas 14:05 – 15:24 Muscle Tissue 15:25 – 17:43 Brain/Neurotransmitters/Behavior 17:44 – 19:13 Hypothalamus/Pituitary/Adrenaline/Cortisol 19:14 – 22:12 Kidney/Vasopressin/Urination 22:13 – 23:24 How Alcohol Effects Different People 23:25 – 26:06 The Hangover 26:07 – 27:37 Thank You Body Donors! ____ #SaintPatricksDay #Liver #InstituteOfHumanAnatomy