Why does alcohol leave a smell on our breath?

You’ve indulged in alcohol on a Sunday night, forgetting about an important meeting scheduled at 8:00 am the following day. While you’re quite sane, your biggest problem is getting the smell of alcohol out from your breath, so you’re boss won’t be able to know that you boozed out some few hours ago.

But, why does alcohol leave a smell on our breath? Why is it too hard to remove? And, why that is a strange odor that stays in our mouth the morning after?

First, most people assume that alcohol itself has no odor, and whatever you smell in a rum or vodka bottle is brought by the ingredients that come along with. But, many debates are saying it does have an odor, as you can actually still smell something, even with pure alcohol. Nevertheless, each alcoholic beverage will have a distinct scent due to its compositions, be it from beer, whiskey, or wine. Whatever you drink will hang around in your for awhile. So, if you drink brandy, then you will have brandy breath. That is now what people refer to as ‘alcohol breath.’

Truth to be told, the alcohol breath people ping is superficial. The smell of the alcoholic beverage tends not to last too long, like the smell of other food and drink you consume. The actual alcohol breath stems within your body’s system, making it more challenging to get rid of.

When you drink alcohol, the body doesn’t digest it like other typical substances. It treats it as a toxin and isn’t absorbed too quickly. Instead, your body will metabolize the alcohol using your liver, where it is broken down by its enzymes. However, the liver can only metabolize an ounce of alcohol per hour. The unprocessed alcohol stays all over your system and waits until it’s metabolized. In the meantime, it visits your brain and blood, etc. Since it is in the latter, it is also in your lungs. That now produces the distinct odor you detect when someone gets intoxicated.

Now, why is it too difficult to get rid of it despite brushing or gargling half a liter of mouthwash? As mentioned, the problem traces within your system. You cannot remove the smell unless your body cleanses it. Additionally, as alcohol stays in the blood, it gets released by the body in your sweat from your pores. That is why you can know if someone boozed out without even having to smell their breath.

Then, what is the strange taste that lingers the following morning? It’s just a normal bad breath. Alcohol has hygroscopic water, meaning it absorbs water. When you drink alcohol, it sucks your mouth dry. And that what most bacteria love. They thrive in drier environments and make full use of that dry mouth to multiply. Plus, most people who indulged in alcohol tend to go directly straight to bed without brushing their teeth, making a lot of food debris for the bacteria to feast on.

But what if you baldy need to get rid of the smell? Well, time is only your ally.  You need to wait until your body process all the alcohol in its system. If you have something important to do the following morning but can’t say no to your friends’ invitation to visit the club, your best bet is to watch your consumption to avoid excess alcohol build up. Stay hydrated and drink in moderation.

More Readings:

Alcohol Intoxication (Wikipedia)

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