Guilty Pleasures Part I
Fancy the occasional glass of red wine? We all have our guilty pleasures. You’d be happy to know that consuming red wine in moderation can have some health benefits, however as you know, it also contains alcohol, which has surprising effects on the body and can be harmful in large quantities.
Red wine contains an antioxidant called resveratrol which protects blood vessels in your heart, it diminishes “bad” cholesterol, reduces inflammation and stops blood clots, thus defending the body from heart disease. It also keeps you looking younger.
Another substance found in red wine is alcohol or ethanol which is an organic, water-soluble molecule, created when grains or fruits are fermented. Fermentation is a process that uses yeast or bacteria to convert sugars in food into alcohol.
What does alcohol do to the body?
The effects of alcohol on the body depend on many factors such as age, body weight, time of day, food, drugs, liver health, menstrual cycle and oral contraceptives. Each of these will either impact the rate at which alcohol is absorbed and or the rate at which it is metabolised by the liver. Alcohol is absorbed in the small intestine and makes its way through the bloodstream all over the body to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), kidneys, liver and lungs. Each of these organs have a dense network of blood vessels and a constant rich blood supply. Most of the effects of alcohol are felt when it enters the bloodstream, however it also effects the intestinal tract. Low levels stimulate the secretion of stomach acid which has many beneficial effects but high levels can impede digestive enzymes and aggravate the gastric lining.
Alcohol is a depressant, it slows down the function of the central nervous system by blocking messages to the brain. The central nervous system controls almost all bodily functions. A person’s perceptions, emotions, movement, vision, and hearing will be impaired, they will take longer than usual to react to a stimulus. As alcohol has a calming effect on the brain, it can help you relax. In high doses, it will decrease the pumping of the heart and impair the body’s ability to regulate heat. It causes the pancreas to overreact and produce abnormally high levels of insulin, which causes temporary low blood sugar. It will also cause increased urination. Alcohol impedes the pituitary gland’s secretion of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), when ADH levels drop, the kidneys do not reabsorb as much water; consequently, the kidneys produce more urine.
Alcohol is considered a toxin which the liver needs to break down, if too much is consumed the liver will be overly taxed taking away from its other very important functions. A small amount of alcohol is eliminated from the body unchanged in the urine, perspiration and expired air from the lungs. The remainder is broken down/metabolised by the liver.
Read Part II in the Guilty Pleasures series.