Drinking is deeply enmeshed with themes of social engagement and celebration. The social and psychological benefits of alcohol can’t be ignored.
A happy hour cocktail can serve as a respite after a long stressful day. An aperitif and digestif can, respectively, prime the appetite and improve digestion. Bloody Marys at brunch with friends can serve as an uplifting social tonic. Tossing back a shot before a keynote may help you lose the edge.
Today I set aside my passion for libations to address how ethanol interacts with the human body. Have you ever had too much to drink or observed someone who has? Then you know what I mean. There’s science at play. How alcohol affects us depends on a variety of factors, such as age, size, body mass index, gender, medications, and current health. How quickly we drink, and whether it is with food or on an empty stomach, also affects how quickly we absorb alcohol.
Here is what we know: If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation. That means one drink a day for women and two for men—a drink being classified as five fluid ounces of wine, 12 fluid ounces of regular beer, or 1.5 fluid ounces (a “jigger”) of 80-proof distilled spirits. The consumption of small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis is more healthful than binge drinking large amounts of alcohol occasionally.
How Ethanol Dehydrates
Alcohol is a diuretic. It blocks the release of antidiuretic hormone, or ADH, needed for water reabsorption in the kidneys. The kidneys are prompted to get rid of nearly triple the amount of water than normal, via the bladder, as urine.
How to Prevent Dehydration if You Know You’ll Be Drinking Alcohol
If you must, drink in moderation and keep your blood alcohol content low by sticking to one drink per hour so that the liver can detoxify your bloodstream. Even better, consume extra water before, during, and after you imbibe and make sure you have a constant amount of food in your system.
Shucks. You’re Dehydrated. What Do You Do?
In the event of a wonky morning, there are a few ways to rehydrate more efficiently than sticking your face under the tap (which is also OK)! Forget the hair of the dog and skip chugging coffee, also a diuretic: You must replenish lost fluids. Certain foods help too, but this column is called “Into the Drink,” so we’ll keep it fluid.
- Liquid IV: Oral Rehydration ($1.65/packet)
According to the World Health Organization and Harvard University, a simple oral rehydrating solution of salt, sugar, and clean water is the most effective way to rehydrate. Why? It enters the bloodstream more efficiently than water alone, and it happens earlier in the digestive tract so you feel better faster.
- Essentia: Purified Alkaline Water ($2/liter)
Not all water is created equal. What is important to me is that the water is filtered and is neutral to alkaline, aka ionized. It’s widely believed the standard American diet contributes to low-grade acidosis, associated with several health issues. Our bodies are 80 percent water so countering acidity makes sense if you buy into the idea that you don’t want your body borrowing minerals from bones, teeth, and organs to neutralize acidity.
Essentia doesn’t “just add alkalinity.” Their proprietary ionization process removes bitter-tasting acidic ions, and the processes—microfiltration, reverse osmosis, and UV sanitation—can be used on any water source. It’s good and inexpensive. As someone who consumes a huge amount of water, I appreciate that the fluoride and chlorine are filtered out. (Disclosure: A packet of Liquid IV and a 20 ounce-bottle of Essentia are my daily ritual, and I’m kickin’ hard.)
- O2 Natural Recovery: Toxin Police ($3.15)
Oxygen is good for you and not just breathing it. Drinking oxygenated fluid, such as the aptly named O2 Natural Recovery, which has seven times the oxygen of regular water, helps your liver process toxins faster. Studies have documented an increase in the liver’s oxygen demand during such trying times. Likewise, the liver cannot process toxins effectively in low-oxygen environments, and that is why I do not imbibe while climbing at altitude. This is the first drink to incorporate this scientific knowledge over the counter.
Amanda Burrill sees through an adventurous lens, typically focused on culinary and travel. Her education includes a bachelor’s in archaeology, a master’s in journalism, a culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu, and wine and spirits credentials earned while living in Paris. She is a U.S. Navy veteran, Ironman triathlete, high-alpine mountaineer, and injury connoisseur who ruminates on UnchartedLifestyleMag.com