There have been raging debates about alcohol consumption and the risks that are associated with it. While impaired general motor skills are commonly cited and understood, not everyone is aware of the ways in which too much alcohol can repress your body’s ability to stay healthy. Drinking in moderation poses little risk if you are healthy and active, but it can cause numerous issues when it is abused.
While there are some reported health benefits to drinking alcohol in moderation (one drink for women and two for men on a daily basis) the research is not well rounded and does not apply to everyone. The possible benefits include:
- Reduced risk of developing heart disease
- Reduced risk for certain strokes
- Reduced risk of diabetes
However, these benefits can be achieved through other means, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising. The possible risks of too much alcohol consumption are great to your health and should be considered.
Your central nervous system is particularly sensitive to the effects of alcohol as it can pass through the blood-brain barrier to reach your neurons directly. The short-term effects of ingesting alcohol include:
- Slowed down thinking
- Altered speed
- Slower reaction time
- Dulled hearing
- Weakened muscles
- Reduction in memory
- Dulled hearing
These things are possible because alcohol is a depressant, which causes your brains nerve cells to become less excited and begin to slow down signals. This alone is not concerning as long as you are not abusing alcohol or driving, however; the long-term effects of alcohol abuse will shrink your frontal lobes and impair your skills.
The effects of alcohol on a baby’s brain are far more severe, which is why is it suggested that pregnant and breastfeeding mothers abstain completely. Alcohol consumption can kill a fetus or cause them to have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, which cause brain damage, birth defects, developmental delays, poor growth, low IW, and behavioral problems that last for life.
Drinking too much alcohol will cause the levels of certain fats to rise in your bloodstream, which increases your chances of clogged arteries. This can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, and strokes. The high calories content of most alcoholic beverages is also a factor in obesity, which lead to a greater chance of many health disorders including diabetes. While there has been some research that showed a positive link between red wine and heart health, it is suggested that it is only true of red wine due to certain antioxidants and flavonoids.
Your liver is one of your most important organs as it has over five hundred different roles including breaking down food to convert to energy and filtering out waste products. Drinking too much alcohol can cause liver disease, either acute or chronic that causes health issues. The liver turns glucose into fat, and then sends it to the rest of the body through the bloodstream for energy. When you drink in excess, your liver begins to store too much fat and becomes fatty. This is the first step in liver disease, with the second being alcoholic hepatitis and then alcoholic cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is the most advanced type of alcohol-related liver disease, is not reversible, and leads to transplants or death.
Your pancreas provides your body with digestive juices to break down food as well as digestive hormones such as insulin. Overuse of alcohol can cause pancreatitis, a condition where you pancreas becomes inflamed and its cells become damaged. You can suffer from acute pancreatitis where you pancreas becomes inflamed after heavy drinking, which causes these symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Occasionally, kidney failure
While it is rare for most drinkers to develop acute pancreatitis, is happens frequently with those who are heavy drinkers. Repeated drinking will eventually lead to chronic pancreatitis, which is not reversible and requires medication for the rest of your life to help you digest food and maintain your blood sugar levels. Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis include:
- Severe pain behind your ribs and through your back
- Weight loss
- Greasy and loose bowel movements
Pancreatitis increases your risk of diabetes and cancer.
There have been extensive studies showing a clear correlation between excessive alcohol consumption and certain types of cancers, as alcoholic beverages are a known human carcinogen. The known patterns include:
- Esophageal cancer
- Liver cancer
- Oral, pharynx, and larynx cancer
- Breast cancer
- Colorectal cancer
However, studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption will reduce the risk of renal cell cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, although the reasons why are not clearly understood.
Research has found that your immune system is immediately affected by alcohol consumption regardless of the amount. When it first enters your body, your immune system will speed up but within twenty minutes, it slows down significantly. When it is consumed in large amounts, alcohol reduces the ability of white blood cells to multiply and kill any bacteria’s or free radicals that cause cancer.
Increased alcohol consumption also deprives your body of valuable nutrients, leaving you with an overall nutritional deficiency. Alcohol deprives the body of B-complex vitamins, which are crucial for many different processes. Deficiencies in this vitamin can harm the liver, heart, and other organs while causing nervous tissue damage and anemia.
Alcohol will cause dehydration quickly and in a variety of ways. Consumption will decrease you body’s ability to produce anti-diuretics, which are hormones that reabsorbs water within your body. When this hormone is decreased, your body will automatically lose more fluid through urination, while excessive drinking can cause you to vomit and dehydrate you further. It is important to drink water if you are drinking heavily to ensure that you stay safe.
Alcohol in moderation is not a negative and may be positive in some ways, however; if it is taken in excess, it will definitely wreak havoc on every organ in your body and lead to a shutdown of critical ones. Following the guidelines for alcohol consumption is important and if you feel as though you may have a problem, please seek help.