Most people enjoy having a drink once in a while, considering alcohol is one of the most extensively used social drugs. However, like all other drugs, alcohol damages the body, especially if you are binge drinking or taking it every day. Even small amounts of it are still connected to certain illnesses, including several cancers.
Alcohol affects the body in various ways while presenting some immediate but short-lived effects. Other effects of alcohol pile up over time and can considerably affect one’s quality of life, mental and physical health. Other contributing factors to alcohol’s effects on the body include:
- Social factors
- Nutritional status
- Drinking experience
- Body composition and size
- Quality of alcohol consumed
- Drinking patterns
- Quantity of alcohol consumed
Alcohol is typically a waste product that the body works hard to eliminate as soon as it is in your system. Even the smallest amount of alcohol can affect the systems in your body. If you take more than your body can handle, you will start to become intoxicated as your blood alcohol concentration accumulates all through the body. This alcohol distribution can slow down one’s brain function and affect the nerve endings in the body, causing feelings of inhibition, numbness, or excitement.
Effects of Alcohol on Body Systems
This part of the body combats diseases, viruses, and germs in the body. Alcohol affects the immune system by slowing it down. It makes the white blood cells, which fight bacteria, less efficient and more sluggish. This makes it harder for the body to combat any invading viruses and germs. Heavy drinkers are more at risk for diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and some types of cancer.
The excretory system helps the body eliminate waste products like alcohol. Heavy drinking may affect the pancreas’ average insulin production and generate toxic substances that can damage the organ. The liver is responsible for breaking down destructive substances in your body, and too much alcohol can harm it. This may result in cirrhosis, jaundice, and hepatitis. Cirrhosis is the scarring of liver tissue caused by inflammation. Increased liver damage makes it harder for the organ to eliminate toxic substances from the body. Liver disease caused by alcohol is lethal and results in waste and toxins build-up. Alcohol can also lead to prostate, bladder, and kidney inflammation. Women have a higher likelihood of alcoholic liver disease as their bodies have a higher chance of absorbing more alcohol and need more time to break it down. Women also get liver damage faster than men do.
Central Nervous System
Alcohol alters your behavior by causing impaired coordination, slurred speech, and inhibiting speaking. Slurred speech is one of the first indications that one has taken too much alcohol. It also affects one’s ability to make memories and control impulses resulting in blackouts. Other effects of alcohol on the central nervous system include temporary paralysis, weakness, and numbness. Alcohol impedes communication between the body and the brain, making coordination harder. The individual might experience difficulty with balance hence why it is advisable never to drink and drive. As alcohol damages the central nervous system, one may experience tingling sensations and numbness in the hands and feet. Drinking affects your ability to make long-term memories while reducing the ability to make rational decisions and think clearly.
Long-term alcohol use may shrink the brain’s frontal lobe, which is the part of the brain responsible for crucial brain functions such as judgment, short-term memory, and emotional control. Heavy use might result in dependency, which can have serious withdrawal effects. Severe, chronic alcohol abuse may also lead to permanent brain damage and brain disorders such as Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, affecting memory.
This system suffers the most from alcohol use. Alcohol makes it hard for the intestines to deal with bacteria and absorb nutrients, possibly leading to malnutrition.
It also causes:
- Gastritis and stomach ulcers
- Heartburn and acid reflux
- Tooth decay and gum disease
- Internal bleeding
- Esophageal ulcers
- Damage to the salivary glands
Heavy alcohol use can also cause internal bleeding, and if not treated early, ulcers may be fatal. Taking too much alcohol may cause irregular activation of digestive enzymes generated by the pancreas. When these enzymes build up, it causes inflammation, also referred to as pancreatitis, which can cause serious, long-term complications.
Even one night of heavy drinking poses a risk to your heart, meaning heavy drinkers have a higher risk of developing heart problems than non-drinkers. Women are at an even higher risk. Heart problems caused by alcohol use can include heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, or poisoning of the heart’s muscle cells. When your body has trouble absorbing minerals and vitamins from food, it can lead to anemia, a condition where one has a reduced blood cell count. A significant symptom of anemia is fatigue.
Erectile dysfunction in men is one of the most common side effects of alcohol use on the reproductive system. It can also inhibit hormone production leading to infertility and ceasing menstruation in women, increasing the risk of breast cancer. Heavy alcohol use also lowers libido and prevents the production of sex hormones. Heavy drinking during pregnancy also increases the risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, or premature delivery. Women who take alcohol during pregnancy also increase the risk of their unborn child developing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD)
Alcohol abuse suppresses bone production, increasing the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. It also increases the likelihood of one’s muscles atrophying, cramping, or weakening.
Even though moderate alcohol consumption can be good for one’s well-being, it can still have several adverse effects on the body. This is why it is essential to consider all the factors before overindulging too much the next time you have a drink. If you experience any of the behaviors mentioned above or symptoms, you need to communicate this to your physician and get help immediately. Recovery only happens when you speak out when alcohol affects your health and quality of life so you can get the help you need.