Alcohol Dangers: Why Hot Weather and Alcohol Consumption Should Not Mix

Summer and vacations are a time where many people drink alcohol with the false belief that it will help them quench their thirst. But the body tolerates alcohol less well in hot weather. The complex molecular mechanisms involved in physiological regulatory systems are disrupted by alcohol consumption. The cumulative effect of these disruptions and the body’s natural response to high temperatures can have harmful effects.

Alcoholic Spirits

Alcoholic Spirits

Alcohol effects on the body

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Alcohol, also known as ethanol or ethyl alcohol, passes into the bloodstream after ingestion in the gastrointestinal tract and is metabolized, primarily in the liver, where it is converted to acetaldehyde. Alcohol is a psychoactive substance and is known for its various effects on the body. It promotes the release of dopamine (activation of the reward system), resulting in feelings of well-being and inhibition (euphoria), and may have sedative properties in a second phase. Effects of alcohol on the nervous system are easy to observe in an intoxicated person. However, the complex molecular mechanisms involving cell membranes, neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, and ion channels involved in the cellular exchange are not so obvious even though they are also altered during acute intoxication.

In the summer when temperatures are high, the body’s thermoregulatory processes in response to high external temperatures cause dilation of skin blood vessels and increased sweat production, which contributes to dehydration. These natural adaptations of the body to heat will be exacerbated by the side effects of heavy alcohol consumption.

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The vasodilatory effects of alcohol

Because alcohol acts on receptors involved in the contraction and dilation of vascular smooth muscle cells, it has a vasodilatory effect, the extent of which varies depending on the consumer’s environment. The higher the ambient temperature, the greater the vasodilation.

This mechanism leads to an increase in skin temperature, manifested by a feeling of heat, which in combination with the sun can be dangerous. Discomfort may occur and the possibility of getting a heat stroke increases.

The diuretic effect of alcohol

Alcohol increases the state of dehydration because of its diuretic properties. Although the mechanisms are poorly understood, alcohol is an inhibitor of vasopressin (an antidiuretic hormone produced by the hypothalamus that promotes water reabsorption by the kidneys and is involved in the sensation of thirst). During alcohol intoxication, the urine is more dilute, more frequent, and the amount of water excreted is greater than the amount of water ingested from the alcoholic drink. This results in a state of cumulative dehydration associated with the sweating that is caused by the hot environment.

Read Also: Is There Really a Safe Amount of Alcohol to Consume?

References

Alcohol’s Effects on the Cardiovascular System

The Diuretic Action of Weak and Strong Alcoholic Beverages in Elderly Men: A Randomized Diet-Controlled Crossover Trial

 

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