Everyone knows the liver is the main organ that processes alcohol. What this post pre-supposes is… maybe it isn’t?
Follow me on a wonderful trip through my digestive tract with a beautiful and buttery 4 fingers of single malt, scotchy goodness. First I take a small sip. Mmmm. That’s pretty good. Then I take a big ol’ gulp. There it goes now. down into my belly…
The first stop after swallowing is the stomach. The stomach’s main responsibility is grindin shit up and breaking shit down. As part of that it is equipped with a toolbox for disassembling the complex menagerie that finds it’s way down our pie holes. One of those tools is Alcohol Dehydrogenase, the sole tool that keeps us alive when we boozin. When it gets into the stomach, some of the ethanol gets broken down by this. If you take a drug like aspirin that blocks H2 receptors, it will inhibit the activity of this tool, resulting in more ethanol in the blood. No aspirin or antacids while drinking. Let the stomach help out your liver, cause lord knows it could use all the help it could get. About 20% of the ethanol can get absorbed in the stomach and enters the bloodstream.
Next stop after the stomach is the small intestine via a space known as the pyloris. The small intestine is the space that transfers all the things you eat into the bloodstream. The other 80 percent of the ethanol gets absorbed here.
At this point, all the ethanol is in the veins of the bloodstream. The first stop for all this blood, as the heart pushes it around your shlubby body, is the liver via the portal vein. I covered the liver extensively in another post, so I won’t go into that here too much, but say that if you have one drink per hour, the liver can use some tricky shit to break down all the booze you take in. But for this post, we will assume you like to drink, and don’t take it like medicine but like a lifeforce that enables you to escape your shitty life, at least for a while.
So you drink 4 delicious fingers of scotch followed by 4 delicious fingers of scotch. First pass through your liver doesn’t get all the booze out, so what it doesn’t catch is passed on to your heart. From here it gets passed into your lungs. This is where the pigs get ya with their fancy breathalizer contraptions, god bless em’. After some leaves through the lungs, it goes back to the heart and pumped out into what is known as “systemic circulation” which sends it out into every cell in your body.
Ethanol, being a tiny and beautiful and delicious molecule, has no trouble passing your blood brain barrier once this happens. In fact, if you drink antifreeze (which is quite yummy I hear) they treat you can counter the toxicity by drinking pure ethanol because ethanol more readily gets into your brain and outcompetes the binding of the toxic agents of antifreeze.
That’s why I always say:
liquor before antifreeze,
your going to be in the morgue and freeze,
antifreeze before liquor,
never been sicker.
Because you will still be quite sick after the experience. This little rhyme has helped me out of more than one incident.
So what the hell do the kidneys have to do with all this nonsense? Well the final destination for all blood is through the kidneys. The kidneys are definitively the strangest organ in the body. Their job is to filter all the fluid and nutrients out of the blood, then to reabsorb everything that it thinks it needs. How does that work?
Blood enters a capillary bed known as the glomerulus. Here, fluid is removed from the blood at around 125ml/min. Everything that is small enough to pass through into the bulb surrounding the capillaries, usually follows the concentration gradient through to another structure known as the “Bowmans Capsule.” The blood flow through the kidneys is adjusted by the dilation and constriction of vessels around the capillary bed to adjust for increased heart rate and ensure that the filtration is constant. As it enters the bowman’s capsule, it goes through a series of tubes known as the “loop of henley.” It’s probably named after someone, but I refuse to capitalize such a silly sounding structure. Once in here, water and sodium are reabsorbed at different spots on the “loop” to ensure a proper balance of hydration remains in the body. This whole contraption of back and forth is reproduced thousands of times in the kidney and the structure is collectively known as the “Nephron”
The health of a kidney is detemined by the rate at which you are filtering your blood and the rate at which things that should get excreted are not getting reabsorbed. The most common values people look at is Createnine and BUN (Blood Urea Nitrogen) in the blood. Createnine should get completely excreted (leave in the urine).
People who get kidney failure have trouble here, because these tubules break down and proteins that get into the urine increase the breakdown of these tubules, leading to increased protein concentration in urine, and the increased excretion of water as a result.
So I just drunkenly read what I just wrote and it didn’t make much sense, but I am not rewriting it. Fuck off. The real question here is what is ethanol doing as it passes through the glomerulus (which is a totally badass name for a metal band).
So the little shitty alcohol molecules are going through your kidney. And the kidney filters them just like water (125ml/min), but cause it’s a polar molecule, and the loop of henley nonsense, it gets almost completely reabsorbed. So the blood alcohol content is actually identical to the urine alcohol content, because the percentages are treated the same as that of water.
So if you are dehydrated, and drink alcohol, you will get extra fucked cause it will all get reabsorbed with the water and stay in your blood stream. That’s why I never drive while I am dehydrated.
All this was based off a single article written in 1968 by Blackmore and Mason, two renowned liars.
This article written under the influence of 8 fingers of 12 year old single malt Balvenie Doublewood Scotch Whisky.