If you’ve ever felt cold at least one of your friends has given you the “have a quick drink” advice. Probably because of the warm rush you get afterwards. For those who have given or heard that advice, there was definitely the third party who called shenanigans as this is terrible advice. So what’s the deal, why does alcohol make you feel warm? Is this good advice in the first place?
Some of you probably get really red when you’ve had barely anything to drink. Don’t worry, we won’t know if that’s you unless you tell us.
At a very basic level, this is a mild allergic reaction to your favorite alcoholic beverages. You can thank your liver for having less aldehyde dehydrogenase–also known as your liver doesn’t break alcohol and get it out of your system as well.
Just because it’s basically an allergy doesn’t mean you have to deny yourself a drink. It’s only really a problem if you have a substantial deficiency in aldehyde dehydrogenase–in which case one might be at a higher risk for high blood pressure or esophageal cancer related to alcohol. But you probably already know if you’re in that camp.
These kinds of flushes typically do make you feel warm, and you probably also get them if you’re feeling particularly hot anyway.
While we’re on the topic of alcoholic allergies, some of you might get hives or rashes after a beer. Luckily (or unluckily) for you, that’s probably not a reaction to the alcohol itself, and more likely the grains you normally find in stuff like beer.
When you’ve reached the point where you’re categorically drunk, you might start sweating. At the very least, this is where we go from “the flush makes me feel a little warm” to the “alcohol makes you feel warm.”
If you haven’t experienced the feeling before, you need only see the people out at night in the winter without a coat or anything.
There’s a reason for that–and this time it isn’t just a placebo like most of the other weird stuff the body does.
Your liver creates heat when it’s metabolizing alcohol, which increases your body’s core temperature. At least, it makes you think it is.
But by the time you’re acutely drunk, your blood alcohol is a lot higher than it normally is. By now, your blood vessels have begun to dilate and relax, bringing more blood closer to the surface of your skin. Of course, blood is quite warm, which makes the surface of your skin feel a little hotter.
In case you were wondering, yes, your blood vessels do constrict when you’re cold. Keeps heat near the more necessary things in your abdomen, and it’s why your limbs and fingers get all pale and clammy.
Your skin feeling abnormally warm, combined with the perception of increased core temperature, might make you sweat.
Sweating for starters helps you cool down, and this combines with all the warm blood near the surface of your skin. Heat radiates pretty well from your skin, and it’s going to do that pretty well when there’s more of it concentrated there (since the colder air is taking the heat away). This might have the net effect of making you colder, depending on whether or not you were already cold.
Basically, getting drunk makes you and your body think you’re warm, when you’re actually getting colder.
Drink responsibly, and a winter jacket will probably do you more favors in the cold than a beer.
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