How Does Alcohol Affect Your Body?
Most of us drink a few glasses of alcohol each week without giving it a second thought. Sometimes we need it after a long and stressful day at work. Other times, we let our hair down and drink more than a few at the weekend. Rarely do we ever stop to think how it’s really affecting our body.
Sure, we all know about the dreaded hangover. Many of us live in fear of it and know that just one more drink could be the difference between a slight hangover in the morning and a full-on existential, angst-ridden hangover. In this way, we know exactly how alcohol is affecting our body. We also know that alcohol can make us light-headed, cause us to pee more, and make us tired the next day. As far as a lot of us are concerned, that’s about it.
But alcohol affects every single part of your body, from your belly to your head. Let’s take a look at what really happens when you drink the “nectar of the gods.”
Central Nervous System
The most noticeable effect alcohol has on our bodies is the way it affects our central nervous system. It can make it hard for us to talk so that we slur our speech, and it can affect our balance, so that walking becomes an unmitigated disaster.
If you drink too much, your memory becomes impaired so that you experience blackouts. Damage to your central nervous system can even cause pain and numbness, as well as weird feelings in your hands and feet.
Alcohol is not a friend of your digestive system; in fact, it’s very much an enemy. Your digestive system starts at your mouth and ends at your colon, and alcohol can damage every single part of it.
It starts with your salivary glands, gums and teeth. Too much alcohol can cause tooth decay, gum disease and canker sores on your tongue. A heavy drinking session can also cause acid reflux and heartburn, while stomach ulcers are also common.
Alcohol can also make it more difficult for your digestive tract to absorb important nutrients. Bacteria can get out of control, which can lease to gassiness and diarrhoea.
The long-term damage that alcohol can do to your brain can be quite scary; while in the short-term alcohol is well-known to cause memory loss, anxiety and blackouts, over the longer term it can lead to permanent brain damage as well as a dependence on alcohol and mental health problems.
Younger people are especially vulnerable to damage because their brain has not yet fully developed.
It can take just one bout of heavy drinking for alcohol to have untold consequences on your heart. Complications can include an irregular heartbeat, stroke, heart failure, or even a heart attack.
People who have diabetes are most at risk of low blood sugar levels, while too much alcohol can also cause a poisoning of the heart muscle cells.
When your immune system has been compromised by alcohol, it has a harder time combating viruses and germs, as well as any type of illness you can think of. You might be more susceptible to catching the common cold, while waiting for a small wound to heal could take forever.
Moreover, heavy drinking also leaves you vulnerable to potentially fatal illness, such as tuberculosis and pneumonia. Chronic alcohol abuse also increases the likelihood that you will get some form of cancer.
Lung infections can result from too much drinking. If you are a chronic drinker, collapsed lungs is a possibility, while vomiting after drinking can be serious if the vomit gets sucked into your lungs.
Your liver is responsible for many things, and once it is permanently damaged the only way out is a transplant.
Many people who have been drinking heavily for a number of years will have a fatty liver. While this in itself is not going to cause serious health issues, it can develop into a condition called cirrhosis which is essentially when the liver is scarred beyond repair. At this point, liver failure and death is inevitable without a transplant.
The liver is one of the few organs that can regenerate after damage; as long as you don’t reach cirrhosis, your liver can heal itself providing you abstain from alcohol.
Alcohol can have damaging effects on your skin which will be noticeable visible to you and other people. It can cause premature wrinkles, burst blood vessels and capillaries on the surface of your skin, and it can also make you look red, blotchy and generally worn down.
Drinking too much alcohol can put you at an increased risk of developing numerous cancers, including mouth cancer, throat cancer, liver cancer, oesophagus cancer and breast cancer.
When we drink too much alcohol, our pancreases has a tendency to produce toxic substances. Now and then, these toxic substances aren’t noticeable. But eventually, they can lead to pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis is a dangerous and painful condition that causes swelling of the blood vessels. It stops proper digestion and can cause vomiting and fever.
You’ve no doubt drank alcohol and had to pee a lot afterwards. You might ask yourself, “but I haven’t drank that much. Why am I peeing so much?!”
Naturally, we just brush it off. After all, it’s the alcohol that is causing us to pee more. It’s no big deal.
The science behind it is really interesting, though. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it acts on your kidneys and causes you to pee more than you’ve actually drank. For every 1 gram of alcohol you drink, your urine excretion actually goes up to 10ml.
More and more people have higher blood pressure than ever before, and a major contributory factor is regular drinking. Men who drink more than eight units per day are an incredibly four times more at risk of developing high blood pressure. Women only need to drink six units per day to double their risk.
Stay happy and healthy!