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When we’re in our 20s, enthusiastic social drinking might fit seamlessly alongside fitness routines, jobs, and other obligations. A couple of decades hence, the same approach to alcohol might tank our functioning.

That’s because as we age, we process alcohol less efficiently. “Some are surprised by it and find they feel intoxicated by the same amount of alcohol they used to drink [without a problem],” says functional-medicine practitioner Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN, NP. But as we get older, we have less muscle mass and body water, she explains, which affects alcohol processing.

The liver’s capacity to break down alcohol also decreases with time. Think of a bathtub: When the drain is open, the tub empties easily. As we move on in years, the liver’s drain tends to slow down. “One hypothesis is there’s less blood flow to the liver as we age,” says Haas. “If blood is flowing to the liver at a lower rate, then that drain is also slower.”

There’s also the simple fact that the longer we live, the greater our exposure to various toxins — and the greater their cumulative burden on the liver.

“The more you’re hanging on to those toxins, the more the drain is clogged and metabolism is slowed down,” cautions Haas. “It’s important for everyone to cultivate a detox-supportive diet and lifestyle, and keeping alcohol consumption moderate is important for that. The less effectively those detox pathways function, the more likely we are to experience disease as we age.”

This was excerpted from “A Toast to Moderation” which was published in the December 2021 issue of Experience Life magazine.

Mo Perry

Mo Perry is a freelance writer and actor in Minneapolis.

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