The answer is Liver. The liver is the organ with the primary responsibility of eliminating alcohol or ethanol from the bloodstream. Nonetheless, it is the main function of the liver to filter the blood that comes from the digestive system before the blood can enter other body parts.
The liver is the largest internal organ in the human body with a weight of about 1.5 kg and is present in the upper right-hand side of your abdomen. Apart from filtering wastes and bacteria, the Liver performs above 500 functions which include
- Make bile juice to help digestion
- Helping in blood clotting
- Processing medicines and food nutrients
- Storing the energy
It is the main part where alcohol breakdown takes place. This process takes place in two ways by the liver
The first way of alcohol breakdown in the liver is through Alcohol Dehydrogenase (ADH), an enzyme present in the liver cells. It breaks down alcohol into acetaldehyde and sends it to Aldehyde Dehydrogenase (ALDH). The function of the ALDH enzyme is to continuously break down acetaldehyde into acetate which metabolizes and leaves the body as CO2 and water.
Acetaldehyde, which is released from ADH, is considered a toxic substance with adverse reactions in the body. When Acetaldehyde starts to build up, the person may experience hot sensation, palpitation, and flushing of the face, etc. But, the main reason behind Acetaldehyde is the abnormal function of the ALDH enzyme which later breaks it into acetate.
As per the recent survey, around 50% of Asian people have a condition in which the ALDH enzyme doesn’t work properly. As a result, most of them come across acetaldehyde spikes shortly after consuming a drink with a high alcohol concentration. This condition is normal and occurs due to genetic variation in this region.
So, theoretically, most Asian people can’t withstand the excess amount of Alcohol as they go through the effects of the rise in the level of Acetaldehyde.
The second way of alcohol breakdown is called Microsomal Ethanol-Oxidizing system. This system is used during alcohol overdose. This pathway functions effectively and continuously in the regular drinking scenario.
A human body needs such an efficient filter because alcohol is one of the harmful substances able to affect kidneys and reduce their functioning. This results in the reduction of the ability to filter the blood from many other toxic elements that can harm health. The alcohol absorption depends on numerous factors including
- The alcohol concentration in the consumed drink
- Whether you have eaten something or not
- Whether the drink is carbonated
The carbon drinks with alcohol get absorbed faster than the normal ones similar to that of the higher concentration drinks. On the other hand, having food in the stomach for digestion can slow down absorption to some extent.
Well, after the alcohol is absorbed by the body, it remains until it is processed by the liver. The liver breaks down 90 to 98% of alcohol whereas 2 to 10% of it gets out of the body through urine or through breath and sweat.
Therefore, if a person consumes more alcohol than the ability of Liver to process it, the alcohol level in the body spikes up. Normally, it takes around an hour for a person to process 10 grams of alcohol in the drink.
Extreme alcohol consumption delays the function of the Liver which is why the person experiences severe intoxication and sometimes may lead to death as well. Weak liver functions due to excess alcohol also lead to an increased risk of cirrhosis, jaundice, liver cancer, liver failure, and many other conditions.