Milk does a body good, but it won’t help you sober up or relieve you from a high or hangover. However, milk does provide a few benefits that can alleviate symptoms of intoxication. Milk contains mineral-rich water, which supports healthy fluid and electrolyte levels. This counteracts dehydration caused by excessive drinking.
It also contains whey and casein, which bind to metals, helping to eliminate them from the system. (1) But drinking milk, alongside other so-called hangover cures like swallowing raw eggs or increasing carbs, just masks the symptoms of being drunk rather than helping you sober up.
How Alcohol is Processed in the Body
Understanding how the body processes alcohol involves a comprehensive look at its journey from consumption to elimination. The process can be broken down into four key stages: absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion.
- Stomach and Small Intestine: Upon consumption, alcohol primarily enters the bloodstream through the walls of the stomach and the small intestine. (2)
- Rate Factors: The absorption rate depends on factors like the presence of food in the stomach (slowing absorption) and the alcohol concentration in the beverage. (3)
- Bloodstream Circulation: Once absorbed, alcohol enters the bloodstream, allowing it to be distributed throughout the body.
- Blood-Brain Barrier: Alcohol easily crosses the blood-brain barrier, affecting the central nervous system and influencing behavior.
- Liver Enzymes: The majority of alcohol metabolism occurs in the liver, where enzymes break it down.
- Ethanol to Acetaldehyde: Ethanol, the primary component of alcohol, is first metabolized into acetaldehyde, a toxic substance.
- Acetaldehyde to Acetate: Acetaldehyde is further broken down into acetate, a less harmful compound.
- Conversion to Carbon Dioxide and Water: Acetate is then converted into carbon dioxide and water, which are eliminated from the body.
- Elimination Through Breath and Urine: Small amounts of alcohol are eliminated directly through breath and urine.
- Metabolism Rate: The liver metabolizes alcohol at a relatively constant rate, typically measured as a certain amount per hour (e.g.0.015% BAC per hour). (4)
Understanding alcohol metabolism is crucial for comprehending its effects on the body. Factors like body weight, gender, and liver health can influence how quickly the body processes alcohol.
It’s important to note that excessive and rapid alcohol consumption can overwhelm the liver’s capacity, leading to higher blood alcohol concentration levels and increased health risks. Responsible drinking involves being aware of these processes and their implications on overall well-being.
Can Drinking Milk Help You Sober Up?
The idea that drinking milk can aid in sobering up after alcohol consumption is rooted in traditional beliefs, and it often intertwines with various myths surrounding the process of reducing intoxication.
It’s essential to explore these notions with a critical eye and understand the role of milk in the context of alcohol metabolism.
- Traditional Beliefs:
- Historical Practices: Folk wisdom has, at times, suggested that consuming milk, or even orange juice, can alleviate the effects of alcohol and promote sobriety.
- Cultural Context: In certain cultural contexts, milk has been considered a remedy for various conditions, leading to its association with mitigating the impact of alcohol. In addition, breast milk has always been beneficial for babies growing up strong. (5) Could this belief have stemmed from breastfeeding mothers?
- Myths and Misconceptions:
- Neutralizing Alcohol: Some believe that the proteins and fats in milk could neutralize or dilute alcohol, reducing its effects.
- Absorption Rate: Misconceptions may arise from a misunderstanding of how alcohol is absorbed and metabolized in the body.
- Reality Check:
- Limited Scientific Support: Scientifically, insufficient evidence conclusively supports the idea that drinking milk significantly accelerates the sobering process. (6)
- Metabolism Factors: Alcohol metabolism primarily occurs in the liver, and the influence of milk on the rate of alcohol breakdown is limited.
- Cannabis and Milk:
- Mythical Pairing: There’s a myth that consuming milk can counteract the effects of cannabis. However, like with alcohol, there is no scientific foundation for such claims.
- Different Mechanisms: Cannabis and edibles affect the endocannabinoid system, and its interaction with milk does not result in a counteractive process.
- Responsible Choices:
- Hydration Aspect: Whole milk contributes to hydration, which is generally beneficial, may not have a pronounced impact on alcohol-related impairment.
- No Substitute for Time: Ultimately, the most effective way to sober up remains to allow time for the body to metabolize alcohol and lower your blood alcohol level.
Why Milk Doesn’t Help with Sobriety
Milk doesn’t interact with the brain like alcohol. It mainly interacts with the digestive system. Alcohol, on the other hand, is absorbed into the small intestine and then the bloodstream before making its way to the brain.
Healthy Alternatives to Sober Up at Home
Sobering up is the process of purging alcohol from your system. Your body naturally detoxes alcohol by processing it through the liver before it’s excreted.
According to Alcohol Beverage Control, a standard drink takes an hour on average to be eliminated from the body. However, it could take longer due to slow metabolism or impaired liver function. (2)
The best way to sober up at home is to allow the alcohol to leave your system without ingesting more. Hydrating yourself and resting can aid this process.
Eating and Drinking to Sober Up
Unfortunately, having a glass of milk cannot speed up the rate at which your body eliminates alcohol. However, alcohol has dehydrating effects, so staying hydrated is a smart idea.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drinking the recommended amount of water can also help with your general well-being and assist in eliminating toxins.
Does Milk Help Before Drinking Alcohol?
The idea of consuming milk before drinking alcohol, often referred to as “lining the stomach,” has been a subject of discussion regarding its potential impact on alcohol absorption and intoxication. However, it’s crucial to understand this practice’s scientific basis and limitations.
- Lining the Stomach:
- Theory: The concept of “lining the stomach” with milk before drinking suggests that it may slow down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. This means it’s not recommended to drink on an empty stomach.
- Limited Evidence: While some believe that milk’s proteins and fats could create a protective layer in the stomach, limited scientific evidence supports this theory. Likely, carbs will do the trick.
- Scientific Considerations:
- Alcohol Absorption: The primary site of alcohol absorption is the small intestine, not the stomach. Therefore, the stomach-lining theory might have a limited impact on alcohol absorption.
- Individual Variations: The effectiveness of any potential “lining” may vary among individuals due to factors such as metabolism, body weight, and the alcohol content and volume of the beverage consumed.
- Nutritional Components of Milk:
- Proteins and Fats: Milk contains proteins and fats, which can slow down the digestive process. However, their influence on alcohol absorption is secondary to the process occurring in the small intestine.
- Hydration: Milk’s fluid content contributes to hydration, potentially mitigating the dehydrating effects of alcohol.
- Individual Responses:
- Varied Reactions: Responses to drinking alcohol after consuming milk vary among individuals. Some may report feeling less intoxicated, while others may not experience a significant difference. The side effects depend on the amount of substance use.
Can Milk Help With a Hangover?
Drinking milk will not help you sober up once you’re drunk. However, warm milk can soothe an upset stomach and add fluids to your system. The effectiveness of milk in curing hangovers is something that requires more study.
Harvard School of Public Health states that milk consists of 87% water, which can help you rehydrate. So, you can choose to drink milk instead of drinking water to rehydrate. (7)
Health Risks of Excessive Alcohol Consumption
According to Learn Genetics, drugs, and alcohol take control of the brain’s reward system, causing an immense release of dopamine, followed by slowly depleting levels. This triggers an intense craving for alcohol, which is rewarded with more dopamine.
These changes occur in a part of the brain called the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia are also responsible for habit formation and motivation.
- Inability to control alcohol cravings
- Physical dependence on alcohol to feel better
- Taking greater risks
- Neglected responsibilities
- Getting into legal trouble
- Toxicity or overdose
- Increased alcohol tolerance
- Financial troubles
Physical symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder include:
- Red eyes
- Dilated pupils
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Strange body odor
- Impaired coordination
It’s important to know that symptoms of AUD may overlap with other mental health disorders.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, people with addiction and mental health disorders should be treated for both simultaneously. This lessens the risk of a relapse.
Worried About Alcohol Use Disorder? Let Us Help
Professional treatment is essential to overcoming addiction. Zinnia Health’s comprehensive approach to addiction includes one-on-one therapy, group sessions, and behavioral treatments that address your individual needs. Other treatment options include medication-assisted treatment (MAT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and 12-step.
Medication-assisted treatment offers a holistic approach to recovery. MAT combines medication with behavioral therapy, such as CBT, to address the root of addiction while providing tools to manage it.
You might feel embarrassed to ask for help; however, reaching out is essential to achieving long-lasting sobriety.