Drinking alcohol in moderation can fit into a healthy lifestyle. However, if you start to notice symptoms such as excessive sweating after drinking alcohol, it might be time examine your habits.
Excessive sweating can be an unpleasant side effect of consuming alcohol. Typically this occurs when alcohol accumulates in the body, as the liver can only process around one drink per hour. Alcohol intolerance and alcohol withdrawal can also cause sweating.
According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, consuming alcohol in moderation means up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
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Understanding Alcohol Metabolism
As with the food you eat, the stomach and small intestine digest the alcoholic drinks you consume; most of this process occurs in the latter. The liver produces enzymes that break down alcohol so your body can absorb it.
The liver can only metabolize a certain amount of alcohol at one time, approximately one drink per hour. This is the equivalent of one 12-ounce beer, a 1.5-ounce spirit or a 5-ounce glass of wine, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. When you drink more than this in an hour, alcohol builds up in body tissues and the bloodstream.
Alcohol and Profuse Sweating
Consuming alcohol and profuse sweating can occur together. This accumulation of alcohol contributes to the many effects it has on the body — including sweating. Alcohol causes blood vessels near the skin to dilate, or enlarge, according to American Addiction Centers. This dilation also occurs during physical activity and helps instigate the sweating process.
This not only leads to perspiration but also explains why you feel hot while drinking; however, this is misleading. This physiological activity allows the body to release heat, thereby actually lowering your body temperature. This is why drinking alcohol is a risk factor for hypothermia.
Identify Alcohol Intolerance
If your sweating is excessive — even after just drinking a small amount — you may have alcohol intolerance. Deficiency in the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase, necessary for breaking down alcohol, may be the culprit. In addition to sweating, you may experience gastrointestinal distress and skin flushing, or redness.
According to Brown University, up to 50 percent of adults of Asian descent have difficulty metabolizing alcohol, due to inactivity of one of the enzymes needed by the liver to process alcohol. This can lead to facial flushing, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, headache and nausea.
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Beware Alcohol Withdrawal
On the flip side, not getting enough alcohol may cause sweating if your body has become dependent on the substance. Sweating is a classic withdrawal symptom. Withdrawal also causes a rapid heart rate, sleeping problems, tremors, anxiety, vomiting, seizures and hallucinations.
The severity of your symptoms is proportional to your alcohol intake, according to Mayo Clinic. If you are experiencing these effects or believe your drinking has gotten out of hand, talk with your doctor or other trusted professional. Both medical and psychological help is available.
- Brown University: "Alcohol and Your Body"
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: "What is a Standard Drink?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Alcohol Use Disorder"
- USDA 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: "Key Elements of Healthy Eating Patterns"
- American Addiction Centers: "Feeling Warm & Flushed Skin from Drinking Alcohol"
- "American Family Physician"; Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome; Max Bayard, MD, et al.; March 2004
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention FASTSTATS: Alcohol Use