Q&A: Why Do I Sweat When I Drink Alcohol?

Four adults talking and drinking in nightclub

Question from BlackDoctor.org Facebook Fan: “Why is it that more often than not, when I drink alcohol, I sweat?

Answer: As with the food you eat, the stomach and small intestine digest the alcoholic drinks you consume; most of this process occurs in the latter. The liver produces enzymes that break down alcohol so your body can absorb it. The liver can only metabolize a certain amount of alcohol at one time, approximately one drink per hour. This is the equivalent of one 12-oz. beer, a 1.5-oz. spirit or a 5-oz. glass of wine, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. When you drink more than this in an hour, alcohol builds up in body tissues and the bloodstream.

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This accumulation of alcohol contributes to the many effects it has on the body — including sweating. Alcohol causes blood vessels near the skin to dilate, or enlarge. This dilation also occurs during physical activity and helps instigate the sweating process. This not only leads to perspiration but also explains why you feel hot while drinking; however, this is misleading. This physiological activity allows the body to release heat, thereby actually lowering your body temperature. This is why drinking alcohol is a risk factor for hypothermia.

If your sweating is excessive — even after just drinking a small amount — you may have alcohol intolerance. Deficiency in the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase, necessary for breaking down alcohol, may be the culprit. In addition to sweating, you may experience gastrointestinal distress and skin flushing, or redness. This type of intolerance is more common if you…