What Happens in Your Body After You Knock Back a Beer?

By May Wilkerson 08/21/15

Various experts laid out the facts about the emotional and physical effects of drinking beer.

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If you’re one of those people who drinks alcohol, you may have enjoyed a cool beer or ten on a hot summer day. But ever wonder exactly what goes on in your body after you knock back a cold one? In this illuminating article on Yahoo Health, various experts lay out the facts.

First, as you were probably aware, just one beer can make you feel more happy and relaxed. According to a 2013 study in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, just sipping beer can release dopamine, the feel-good hormone, even before intoxication sets in. This stimulates your brain’s reward center, which in some people can create a hankering for another beer... and another... and another.

Though most people won’t be stumbling or slurring their words after one beer, the booze content may lower inhibitions, making you a little more confident and outgoing.

“You get more garrulous, talk a lot more, and are more likely to make a social interaction, such as going over to a colleague you’ve been wanting to meet and introducing yourself,” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism director George Koob, PhD, tells Yahoo Health. “That’s why it’s a social lubricant.”

But while multiple beers can lead to drunkenness, the effects of drinking just one are more emotional and cognitive, Koob explains. The propensity towards drama, for which alcohol is famous, doesn’t set in until multiple beers. This is when the booze can also cause physical side effects, like slurring speech and falling down.

Where one person is crying at the bar after three beers, however, another may seem relatively sober after six, due to contributing factors like weight and gender. “Females tend to get more intoxicated than males from the same dose mainly because of the distribution of body water and body fat per kilogram,” explains Koob. “Females tend to have less body water than males and tend to get 30 to 40% more intoxicated than men with the same dose.”

Water and food in your stomach can also slow down the alcohol absorption rate, which is why drinking while hungry or dehydrated can get you buzzed much faster. Even just a beer or two on an empty stomach can lead to a “much more dramatic high from intoxication in the short-term.”

There’s also a scientific explanation for why you suddenly have to make more trips to the bathroom. “Alcohol inhibits antidiuretic hormones, so like coffee, you’ll go No. 1 more often while you’re drinking alcohol,” says Koob.

Luckily for beer-lovers, there are also health benefits to enjoying it—in moderation. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that consuming a bottle of beer per day reduced the risk of kidney stones by about 40%.

Though red wine is the tipple associated with heart health, beer also contains antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. One study found that among men with coronary artery disease, drinking one 12-ounce beer a day for a month could help reduce the risk of a heart attack.

The brew might even make you smarter. According to a study published in the journal Behavioral Brain Research, beer contains a type of flavonoid called xanthohumol that may enhance cognitive function. Just remember to stop after one or two, if possible, or all that extra intelligence gets put to waste and it’s time to call an Uber, because you’re drunk.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.