Drinking alcohol is a part of American culture. In fact, 52 percent of adults age 18 and above drink regularly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drinking is so prevalent that you may forget that alcohol is a toxin – one that has numerous effects on your physical and mental functioning. Sweating is one of the common repercussions.
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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-oz. beer, a 1.5-oz. spirit or a 5-oz. 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.
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. 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.
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. This type of intolerance is more common if you are of Asian ethnicity, according to the University of Notre Dame's Office of Alcohol and Drug Education. Women are also more likely to have fewer enzymes for alcohol metabolism.
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 the level of your alcohol dependence, according to a March 2004 article in "American Family Physician." 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.