Published August 2022 on YouTube

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

1. Effects of Alcohol Consumption

Andrew discusses the effects of alcohol on our biology, ranging from its effects on individual cells, on organs and organ systems in our brain and body. He also talks about hangover and what science says about ways to reduce the effects of hangover.+

2. Momentous Supplements

Andrew announces the Huberman Lab Podcast's partnership with Momentous Supplements. They emphasize the quality and precision of their single-ingredient supplements, which are optimized for cost and effectiveness. The supplements are available internationally and can be found at

3. Alcohol and Brain Degeneration

Andrew discusses a recent study that looked at the effects of low to moderate alcohol consumption on brain degeneration. The study found evidence of thinning of the neocortex, even for those who drank one or two drinks per day. Chronic alcohol intake, even at low levels, can disrupt the brain.+

4. Levels, Eight Sleep, ROKA

Health Hacks:Andrew shares two important health hacks in this episode. Firstly, he talks about how Levels, a continuous glucose monitor, can help you understand how different foods and activities impact your blood glucose levels. Secondly, he discusses how Eight Sleep's smart mattress covers with cooling and heating capabilities can help you maintain the right temperature for a good night's sleep.+
Sleep and Eyewear:Andrew discusses his sleep routine and the importance of temperature regulation in sleep. He also talks about ROKA eyeglasses and sunglasses and their unique design for athletic performance. Listeners can use the code "Huberman" to save 20% on their first order at

5. The Biology of Alcohol

Andrew discusses the history of alcohol consumption and its various uses. He explains how alcohol affects the body and the consequences of consuming it, even in small amounts.+

6. Alcohol's Toxicity

Alcohol's damaging effects:Andrew explains how alcohol affects the cells and tissues of the body, how it is both water-soluble and fat-soluble, and how it can pass into all the cells and tissues of the body. He also discusses the three main types of alcohol and how only one of them, ethyl alcohol or ethanol, is fit for human consumption.+
Alcohol Metabolism:Andrew explains the process of alcohol metabolism and how it involves the conversion of acetaldehyde into acetate. He emphasizes the toxicity of acetaldehyde and how the liver takes a beating during the conversion process. Alcohol is considered empty calories because it is metabolically costly and provides no nutritive value.+

7. Alcohol's Effects

Alcohol's Effects:Andrew discusses the effects of alcohol on the body and how people with a predisposition to alcoholism tend to feel more alert and excited every time they drink. He emphasizes that being drunk is actually a poison-induced disruption in the way that neural circuits work and that the range of effects is different for everyone.+
Alcohol's Effects:Andrew explains how alcohol affects the brain by suppressing the prefrontal cortex, leading to impulsive behavior and memory loss.+

8. Alcohol's Impact

Andrew explains how regular drinking can lead to changes in neural circuits that control habitual and impulsive behavior, even when not drinking. These changes can be reversed with abstinence, but chronic heavy drinking can have long-lasting effects on the brain.+

9. Food & Alcohol Absorption

Andrew explains how food impacts the effects of alcohol and why eating before or during drinking can slow down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. However, eating after already being drunk won't sober you up more quickly, but it can blunt the effects of any additional alcohol consumed.+

10. Alcohol and Serotonin

Alcohol and Serotonin:Andrew clarifies the relationship between serotonin and depression, and how SSRIs can help alleviate depression by changing neural circuits, not necessarily by increasing serotonin itself. He also talks about how alcohol affects the activity of neurons that control the release of serotonin, which is a neuromodulator that changes the activity of neural circuits involved in mood and feelings of well-being.+
Alcohol's Effects:Andrew explains how alcohol affects serotonin levels in the brain, disrupting mood circuitries and causing hyperactivity at first, followed by a drop in serotonin levels and activity. Chronic drinkers and those with a genetic predisposition for alcoholism may feel better with increasing amounts of alcohol, but eventually, their nervous system will start to diminish.+
Blackout Drinking:Andrew explains the dangers of blackout drinking and how it relates to alcoholism and memory formation. He also highlights that there is no definitive way to determine if someone has a predisposition for alcoholism.+

11. Alcohol and the Brain

Alcohol and the Brain:Andrew explains how alcohol affects the brain and how it can predict whether someone has a predisposition for alcoholism. He also discusses the relationship between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenals, and how alcohol changes this relationship.+
Alcohol's Cortisol Effect:Andrew explains how even moderate alcohol consumption can increase cortisol release from the adrenal glands, leading to heightened stress and anxiety when not drinking. This effect is often overlooked in discussions about the immediate effects of alcohol.+
Alcohol's Long-Term Effects:Andrew explains how alcoholism is caused by genetic variants and changes in neural circuitry and neurochemistry. Chronic alcohol consumption leads to changes in neural circuits and hormone circuitry, which make people less resilient to stress, have a higher level of baseline stress, and lower mood overall.Show transcript +

12. AG1 (Athletic Greens)

Andrew briefly acknowledges Athletic Greens as a sponsor of the podcast and shares why he's been a long-time user of their all-in-one vitamin drink. Listeners can claim a special offer by visiting

13. Alcoholism Risk Factors

Genetic Predisposition:Andrew discusses how genes related to serotonin receptors, GABA receptors, and the HPA axis combine with environmental factors to give rise to alcohol use disorders. He also explains how gene variants for alcohol dehydrogenase can affect alcohol tolerance, but environmental factors still play a strong role in alcoholism.+
Alcoholism Risk:Andrew explains that while there isn't a single gene for alcoholism, having immediate relatives who are chronic abusers of alcohol predisposes one to alcoholism. Additionally, people who start drinking at a younger age are at great risk for developing alcohol dependence regardless of their family history of alcoholism.+
Alcohol and Age:Andrew discusses how the age at which someone starts drinking can affect their likelihood of developing alcohol use disorder later in life. While genetics play a role, delaying the onset of drinking can significantly decrease the probability of developing full-blown alcohol use disorder.+

14. Alcohol's Effects

Alcohol's Effects:Andrew discusses the negative effects of alcohol on the gut-liver-brain axis and the importance of understanding the chronic pattern of drinking. He also mentions that occasional drinking is not harmful to most people.+
Alcohol and Gut Microbiome:Andrew explains how alcohol disrupts the gut microbiome, killing healthy bacteria that support the immune system and regulate mood through electrical and chemical signaling.+
Alcohol's Effect on Gut-Liver-Brain Axis:Andrew explains how alcohol disrupts the gut-liver-brain axis by killing good bacteria, allowing bad bacteria to move from the gut into the bloodstream, and releasing proinflammatory cytokines. This leads to inflammation in multiple places in the brain and body, causing the desire to drink even more and exacerbating gut leakiness.+

15. Alcohol and Gut Health

Andrew discusses the negative effects of alcohol consumption on the gut microbiome and how fermented foods can help replenish and repair the system. Regular ingestion of low-sugar fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and natto can be quite beneficial in reducing inflammatory markers and improving the gut microbiome.+

16. Alcohol Recovery Insights

Andrew shares insights on alcohol recovery, including how to reverse negative effects and manage increased stress levels during the process. He also mentions the importance of focusing on gut health and offers a resource for managing stress.+

17. Hangover Anxiety Explained

Hangover Anxiety:Andrew discusses the physiological reasons behind hangover anxiety, or hangxiety, and suggests resources for dealing with it. He also explains how alcohol affects sleep, which can contribute to other symptoms of a hangover.+
Alcohol and Sleep:Andrew explains how alcohol affects the architecture of sleep, disrupting slow-wave sleep, deep sleep, and rapid eye movement sleep, which are all essential for getting a restorative night's sleep. He also mentions that the sleep induced by alcohol is often considered pseudosleep, which is not real sleep, and may lead to disrupted gut microbiome effects.+
Hangover Relief:Andrew explains how a healthy gut microbiome can prevent hangovers and headaches. He also discusses the effects of alcohol on vasodilation and the dangers of using non-steroid anti-inflammatories to alleviate hangover symptoms.+

18. Cold Exposure Benefits

Cold Exposure & Hangovers:Andrew discusses the potential benefits of cold exposure for hangovers, citing evidence that increasing levels of epinephrine in the bloodstream can accelerate alcohol clearance and reduce inebriating effects. However, he emphasizes the importance of safety and warns against getting into bodies of water while inebriated due to the risk of hypothermia.+
Cold Exposure Hangover Cure:Andrew explains how alcohol disrupts the brain's temperature regulation, leading to hypothermia when exposed to cold water. However, he suggests that deliberate cold exposure, like cold showers, can help relieve hangovers by spiking adrenaline and dopamine levels. He advises caution and to check out his previous episode on safe cold exposure practices.+

19. Alleviating Hangover

Andrew discusses the multifaceted phenomenon of hangover and how dehydration associated with alcohol can disrupt electrolyte balance, leading to improper brain and bodily organ function. He suggests replenishing electrolytes before and after drinking, and mentions a list of things that have been proposed to alleviate hangover, but emphasizes that getting rid of hangover is best solved by doing a collection of small powerful things.+

20. Hangover Drinks

Andrew discusses the types of alcohol that are more likely to cause hangovers and the substances that contribute to the inebriating effects of alcohol. He also emphasizes the importance of supporting the gut microbiome to reduce the effects of hangover.+

21. Alcohol Tolerance

Alcohol Tolerance:Andrew explains the concept of alcohol tolerance and how it is caused by changes in neurotransmitter systems in the brain due to the toxicity of alcohol. He also mentions the different types of tolerance and refers to an excellent review for those interested in learning more.+
Alcohol's Dopaminergic Effects:Andrew explains how dopamine is involved in the reinforcing and tolerance-inducing effects of alcohol, leading to a short-lived increase in well-being followed by a long, slow reduction in dopamine and related molecules in circuits. He also discusses how individuals with low levels of the enzyme that metabolizes alcohol will feel sick and lousy, overriding any recognition of the dopamine release.+
Understanding Tolerance:Andrew explains how tolerance to alcohol works and why it leads to an extended period of negative effects. He also discusses how the dopamine and serotonergic systems of the brain are disrupted by alcohol and how abstaining from drinking can reset these systems.+

22. Red Wine and Resveratrol

Andrew discusses the health benefits of red wine and resveratrol. While there may be some positive effects of low to moderate red wine consumption, the amount of red wine needed to get enough resveratrol for health benefits is so high that it would induce negative effects that would offset the positive effects of resveratrol.+

23. Alcohol & Brain Thickness

Andrew explains that even light to moderate alcohol consumption can reduce the thickness of the brain and shrink gray matter volume and white matter tracts. He suggests that the best amount of alcohol to drink would be zero glasses per week or ounces per week. For those who do drink, he advises them to be aware of the negative health effects and do things to offset those.+

24. Alcohol and Cancer

Alcohol and Cancer:Andrew discusses the relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer risk, specifically breast cancer. He explains how alcohol alters DNA methylation and gene expression, leading to an increase in cancer risk. The amount of alcohol consumed and the concentration of alcohol in different drinks across the world also plays a role in the risk of cancer.+
Alcohol and Cancer:Andrew explains how alcohol consumption can lead to cancer, specifically breast cancer. Alcohol induces mutations that cause the proliferation of cells, leading to the growth of tumors. Even low to moderate amounts of alcohol can be problematic. The relationship between alcohol and cancer has been known since the late 1980s, yet it's not often discussed.+

25. Alcohol and Cancer

Andrew discusses the relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer risk, specifically in relation to the consumption of folate and B vitamins. While these vitamins may partially offset the increased risk of cancer associated with alcohol, they do not guarantee protection.+

26. Alcohol and Pregnancy

Andrew emphasizes that ingesting alcohol during pregnancy is a bad idea as it can cause fetal alcohol syndrome. Alcohol is a mutagen that can disrupt cellular processes and mutate DNA. There is no evidence that certain types of alcohol are safer for fetuses than others.+

27. Alcohol's Effect on Hormones

Andrew discusses the effects of alcohol on hormones, particularly testosterone and estrogen. Alcohol increases the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, which can lead to negative effects such as decreased sex drive and increased fat storage. Regular alcohol intake can increase estrogen levels, making it important to avoid excessive drinking.+

28. Alcohol Consumption

Andrew discusses the effects of alcohol consumption on the body and acknowledges that low to moderate consumption is a part of many people's lives. He highlights the negative effects of alcohol on the gut microbiome and stress system and encourages listeners to consider tools and protocols to offset these effects.+

29. Support and Resources

Andrew shares various ways to support the podcast, including subscribing to their YouTube channel, leaving reviews on Spotify and Apple, checking out their sponsors, and following them on social media. He also mentions their Neural Network monthly newsletter and their clips channel on YouTube, which provide actionable protocols on various topics related to sleep, focus, mental and physical health, and more.+