What Alcohol Does to Your Body, Brain & Health | Huberman Lab Podcast #86

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In this episode, I discuss the physiological effects that drinking alcohol has on the brain and body at different levels of consumption and over time. I also describe genetic differences that predispose certain individuals to alcoholism, binge and habit-drinking. I explain alcohol metabolism in simple terms and how it effectively acts as a poison, leading to cellular stress and damage. I then explain that it impacts neuronal function and changes our thinking and behavior – hallmarks of inebriation. I also discuss how alcohol consumption of different amounts impacts inflammation, stress, neurodegeneration, and cancer risk and negatively impacts the gut microbiome, brain thickness, hormone balance, mood and feelings of motivation. Additionally, I discuss the biology of hangovers and describe science-based strategies to mitigate the severity of a hangover. Since alcohol is one of the most widely consumed recreational substances, this episode ought to be of relevance to everyone. Indeed, even low-to-moderate alcohol consumption negatively impacts the brain and body in direct ways. The goal of this episode is to help people make informed decisions about their alcohol consumption that are in keeping with their mental and physical health goals.

Thank you to our sponsors
AG1 (Athletic Greens):
Eight Sleep:

Supplements from Momentous

Social & Website

Associations between alcohol consumption and gray and white matter volumes in the UK Biobank:
Gut Microbiota at the Intersection of Alcohol, Brain, and the Liver:
Tolerance to alcohol: A critical yet understudied factor in alcohol addiction:
Associations Between Drinking and Cortical Thickness in Younger Adult Drinkers: Findings From the Human Connectome Project:
Moderate Alcohol Consumption and the Risk of Breast Cancer:
Can alcohol promote aromatization of androgens to estrogens? A review:

Other Resources
Examine – Alcohol & Hangover:

00:00:00 Effects of Alcohol Consumption
00:02:25 Momentous Supplements
00:03:19 Low to Moderate Alcohol Consumption & Neurodegeneration
00:06:52 Levels, Eight Sleep, ROKA
00:10:46 Historical Context & Uses of Alcohol
00:13:28 Alcohol Metabolism, “Empty Calories”
00:18:23 Inebriation: Top-Down Inhibition, Impulsivity & Memory Formation
00:24:23 Long-Lasting Effects & Impulsivity, Neuroplasticity & Reversibility
00:27:55 Food & Alcohol Absorption
00:30:07 Alcohol & Serotonin, SSRIs & Depression, Risk for Alcoholism, Blackouts
00:37:39 Predisposition for Alcoholism; Chronic Consumption, Cortisol & Stress
00:44:53 AG1 (Athletic Greens)
00:46:07 Genetic Predisposition for Alcoholism, Consuming Alcohol Too Young
00:52:27 Gut-Liver-Brain Axis: Alcohol, Gut Microbiome, Inflammation & Leaky Gut
00:59:46 Tool: Improving/Replenishing Gut Microbiome
01:02:44 Reducing Alcohol Consumption & Stress
01:04:25 Hangover: Alcohol & Sleep, Anxiety, Headache
01:12:11 Hangover Recovery, Adrenaline & Deliberate Cold Exposure
01:17:16 Hangover Recovery, Dehydration & Electrolytes
01:20:45 Types of Alcohol & Hangover Severity, Congeners
01:25:25 Alcohol Tolerance, Dopamine & Serotonin, Pleasure-Pain Balance
01:33:36 Are There Any Positive Effects of Alcohol?, Resveratrol
01:35:42 Alcohol & Brain Thickness
01:37:11 Alcohol & Cancer Risk: DNA Methylation, Breast Cancer Risk
01:44:31 Mitigating Cancer Risk, Folate, B Vitamins
01:46:54 Alcohol & Pregnancy, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
01:50:58 Hormones: Testosterone & Estrogen Balance
01:55:09 Negative Effects of Alcohol Consumption
01:58:35 Zero-Cost Support, YouTube Feedback, Spotify & Apple Reviews, Sponsors, Momentous Supplements, Instagram, Twitter, Neural Network Newsletter, Huberman Lab Clips

The Huberman Lab Podcast is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing or other professional health care services, including the giving of medical advice, and no doctor/patient relationship is formed. The use of information on this podcast or materials linked from this podcast is at the user’s own risk. The content of this podcast is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should not disregard or delay in obtaining medical advice for any medical condition they may have and should seek the assistance of their health care professionals for any such conditions.


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  1. 54 hours sober at this moment. It seems pathetic, but that’s the longest in 2 years I’ve gone without having 6 to 10 drinks a a day. I was in the hospital twice in 2020 for alcohol withdrawal syndrome. I thought I was dying. I MUST quit or I’m going die an early death. God help me.

  2. 😄Hey, this was great! Very comprehensive in the physiology and neurology and especially the brain/body connections. TY for this, very informative lesson set, and all your condensing of research !

    If you could, I'd like to see a podcast about how the body heals itself after medical testing such as:
    X-ray involved testing,
    CAT-scans, and how we can help the processes of the body by specific foods and exercises that pertain to better/quicker recoveries

  3. Thank you so much for helping us with this valuable information. I recently managed to stay sober for a month, which was the longest i've been sober in 15 years. I felt many benefits, but started drinking a bit again after going to a birthday party. this video motivated me to restart my sobriety, and this time for good.

  4. Been dealing with and trying to understand Wernike Korsakof Sydrome for the last year that a friend was diagnosed with when I realized her symptoms were way more than detoxing or inebriation… going through this has made me so much more aware and careful with my own intake. Heavy how many lives it destroys in the long run

  5. Since it was asked, I believe "hair of the dog" is simply short for "hair of the dog that bit you". Per Oxford word origins, it comes from an old belief that someone bitten by a rabid dog could be cured of rabies by taking a potion containing some of the dog's hair. Very informative (and a bit scary) podcast.

  6. All bullshit. It highly depends on the person consuming it and the circumstances. I watched so many of these videos and never one of the things he has researched apply in the real world.

  7. Great lecture! Thank you. This should be part of all high school and college curriculums and in the military. It's so important to change the terrible culture around drinking in this country!!

  8. Could you please explain the herb Kudzu. It has had studies showing those who took it drank 1/3 less than the placebo group. Many over 400 comments on Amazon say it works on alcohol and nicotine. I’m wondering why or how it works on the brain.

  9. 1:11:14 "Hair of the dog", short for "hair of the dog that bit you", The expression originally referred to a method of treatment for a rabid dog bite by placing hair from the dog in the bite wound.

  10. The anhedonia is what kills me everytime. I can’t enjoy anything and I think my family would rather I not be around them during that time cause I’m nothing but negative

  11. Very nice and interesting… your work is exceptional as always. Unfortunately the systematic use of alcohol nowadays is excessive. However, I believe you unfairly and strictly presented only the one side of the coin. For example, in Blue Zones, areas where extended lifespan in parallel to health span has been observed, moderate wine drinking has been noted as a common denominator (Buettner et al., 2016). Moreover, the French paradox – despite being nowadays somehow controversial – has been attributed by many authors to red wine which is undoubtedly rich in polyphenols and may beneficially affect the cardiovascular system (Castaldo, L., et al.,2019). Light to moderate wine intake is also a part of the Mediterranean diet which is one of the healthiest diets one can follow, effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and overall mortality. In addition, despite the fact that broadly alcohol intake has detrimental effects to microbiota altering negatively its biodiversity, there is some evidence that red wine, can serve as a prebiotic agent as it may modulate the growth of specific gut microbiota (Queipo-Ortuño, M. I., et. al., 2012). Finally, it would be interesting to examine how wine in antiquity e.g., ancient Greece, Sino-Tibetan Pharmacopoeia, the Egyptian Medical Papyri and so forth, was used, apart from its recreational and/or ceremonial use, as a medicinal agent. Last but not least, as Paracelsus said "dosis sola facit venenum".. Thanks again for all the effort and the magnificent work you offer to all of us.

  12. This podcast could not of come at a better time for me, I’m 8 days in from quitting alcohol because I’ve been drinking heavily over the last few years it’s beginning to destroy my life. Thank god I don’t find it difficult eliminating alcohol out my life for extended periods of time but I alway slip back into binge drinking, no more!! I’m done I’m a frequent viewer of huberman thanks to joe rogan and it’s feels like this episode was meant for me
    Thank you

  13. If you get ‘Asian Glow’ your body lacks the correct enzymes to digest alcohol correctly, thus potentially causing more damage to the body

  14. The Hair of the dog…
    Is actually 'The hair of the dog that bit you.'
    Meaning that imbibing a bit more of that 'dog' – will help cure the original insult, e.g. the dog bite..
    or, obviously in this case, the hangover resulting from too much alcohol, by drinking more alcohol.
    (unsure of the logic of imbibing the 'hair of the dog', rather than going back for a 2nd bite to help cure the first one haha.
    It's completely illogical, but then whoever came up with this saying was most probably 'under the influence' at the time😆

  15. Hello. I would like to know your opinion and facts about compulsive Epsilon type drinking. Thanks in advance!!!!

  16. I've listened to all your podcast. I suggested this topic to you after your 2nd podcast. Thanks. But what I really want to know is why my reaction to alcohol is so different from everyone. Very small amounts give me an unpleasant headache. Just smelling it in a bar where it is being poured or in a laboratory where it is used causes the headache. If others felt like I did they wouldn't drink. I've tried to get intoxicated when I was young, and succeeded, but it was very difficult and I hated it. Every now and then I will take a sip of wine to see if I still react the same way, I do. I'm in my mid 60's now. Up until my 40's I just thought everyone was dumb. That's when I realized I was different. Nobody in my family history has the same reaction. In fact most of my family is either alcoholic or recovering. From what I know most of my ancestors where alcoholic.

    So my question is: Is there a known reaction to alcohol like mine, an instant uncomfortable headache that lasts about 10 minutes? Very small doses cause this, just the touch of wine to my lips will do it.

  17. Explaining “Hair of the Dog”
    the complete old saying is:
    “take a nip of the hair of the dog that bit you the night before”

  18. Crazy coincidence or algorithm? Been a heavy drinker for many years. Like a good lot and not much sleep either. My hair turned white before my time. Got a lot of mood problems too and use alcohol to come down and reward myself. After all all the pretty and successful people do it too, right? And I'm sure it's unhealthy it's in every study after all.
    It's now day five, don't real feel like opening a bottle of expensive vodka yet, no drop in the house. Got some more changes done for distraction or challenge, wish me luck.
    And never ever be afraid to tell the truth because of folks not liking it. That's a false priority I think.

  19. Great podcast episode, as always. Even with all the amazing content I’m left with one question: What did you find regarding the risk for coronary heart disease and alcohol consumption? Because there is plenty of (mis-)information that moderate alcohol consumption lowers the risk for cardiovascular diseases. And since this group of chronic diseases is (as far as I know) the most prevalent reason for premature death, some literature considers moderate drinking healthier than not drinking at all? After all I heard I guess that this might not be true. Looking forward to this missing piece of information. Keep up the great work, love your podcast and didn’t miss one single episode yet!

  20. hello! what an amazing episode, thanks! what do you know about alcohol as a hidden ingredient, a 0.3% in a dessert? I would like to ask also about the effects of pesticides and herbicides that may remain in vegetables.. also about chlorine in tap water and in shower?

  21. This was such a great video @AndrewHuberman. It would be very useful to have a similar breakdown on the effect of cigarettes (or nicotine more specifically) on your overall health. From the episode with Dr Peter Attia, I remember the stat about how smoking increases your risk of dying by quite a significant percentage. Thanks again for the content!

  22. Can you post the list of alcoholic drinks that you referenced. Stay away from brandy. I got that but, I've already forgotten what the other things were. The food you mentioned is helpful if you a drinker or not. The electrolyte advice is helpful

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