Effects On Your Body

As alcohol travels through your bloodstream, it affects the performance and functioning of different parts of the body. It affects your stomach by prompting it to produce gastric juices. But with too much alcohol, many of your body's functions are depressed, and that includes the stomach. Too much alcohol—and the process of digestion slows or even stops.

What about your heart and blood pressure? In small amounts, alcohol causes the blood vessels near the surface of the skin to expand. You may feel warm, and your skin may flush. But don't be fooled. Despite the feeling that you are getting warmer, alcohol is actually acting to cool off your body.

Next come the kidneys. Someone who has had several drinks may need to use the bathroom frequently. But something more is at work than simply the body's attempt to eliminate excess liquid. Alcohol affects the pituitary gland— a gland located at the base of the brain. The pituitary gland regulates many critical body functions, and one of these is the production of urine. The pituitary gland secretes a hormone that regulates urine production. Just as alcohol depresses the functioning of other parts of the body, it depresses the functioning of the pituitary gland, causing it to release too little of this critical hormone. The kidneys then respond by forming larger than normal amounts of diluted urine causing mild dehydration.

The brain is even more sensitive to the presence of alcohol—in fact, it is probably the part of the body most

This cross section of the human brain shows the structures that are most affected by alcohol: the thalamus and hypothalamus (responsible for processing information from the sensory organs and regulating body temperature), the cerebral cortex and cerebellum (responsible for the coordination of sensory and motor information, coordination of muscles and equilibrium), and the pituitary gland (responsible for a hormone that regulates urine production).

strongly affected by alcohol. Alcohol has an impact on nerve cell membranes, the production and activity of neurotrans-mitters and receptors (controlling how the brain conveys messages from one nerve cell to another). It reduces a nerve's ability to send these messages, preventing it from properly processing information from the senses, the muscles, and even the skin. This prevents the brain from transmitting information critical for thinking and for bodily functions. In addition to blocking learning and memory, alcohol also blocks reasoning. People who have had too much to drink may still believe themselves fully capable of doing ordinary tasks—including driving.

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