Should You Have That Last Drink? 10 Effects of Alcohol On the Body

posted by Chris Valentine

You may think you need a few drinks to have a good time. Sometimes you end up saying or doing something you regret and wake up with a hangover making you swear you’ll never drink again.

Alcohol can have a huge impact on more than just your head the next morning. It can interfere with your ability to have good relationships, financial and emotional negative implications and leave your life and body in less than optimal shape.

There’s more to worry about than just feeling sore and dehydrated after a few too many. Alcohol affects every system in your body. Your physical and mental health may be suffering because of your alcohol intake more than you realize.

Keep reading for 10 effects of alcohol on the body and the damage they can lead to.

Sugar Levels

The initial effect of alcohol on your blood sugars may be to cause them to rise. Alcohol will eventually cause your blood sugar levels to fall because it stops your liver from producing glucose.

Insulin production can also be affected and many chronic drinkers suffer from pancreatitis.

Alcohol is also connected with weight gain and puts you at a 35% higher risk of obesity.

This is particularly dangerous for those who have diabetes but can have serious consequences for anyone if left uncorrected.

Central Nervous System

Part of the reason you begin to slur your speech when you’ve had too much alcohol is because of the effect it has on your central nervous system. Alcohol inhibits or slows down communication from your brain to your body.

Much of the sobriety test given by police officers is to identify this response to alcohol. Your balance, short term memory, and coordination, as well as your judgment, are all affected.

Police have you walk a straight line, recite the alphabet backward and touch your nose with your eyes closed to check these impairments.

Not Just Short Term Effects

Over time alcohol can have long-lasting effects on your brain and central nervous system such as:

  • tingling and numbness in the extremities
  • contribute to diminished brain function
  • depressed central nervous system
  • serious cognitive impairment
  • memory issues

Chronic physical and mental impairment may result from excessive alcohol use.

Circulatory System

While one drink may relax your circulation and help blood flow to extremities, two drink reverses any positive effects. Blood pressure may be lowered momentarily but add a second drink and you are at risk of coronary disease, high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke.

You may also be at greater risk for heart attack, irregular heartbeat and develop issues with your heart’s ability to pump blood properly.

Muscles and Bones

Alcohol use can cause chronic and acute health issues involving your muscular and skeletal systems as well.

Muscular System

Sustained or prolonged use of alcohol can lead to several muscular system issues:

Dehydration contributes to the intensity of muscle spasms and cramps and can lead to other serious complications with other body systems and organs.

Skeletal System

Your bones become more fragile and susceptible to fractures and breaks with prolonged or excessive alcohol consumption.

Alcohol bone disease can occur when bone tissue regrowth has been affected by alcohol. Alcohol in young adult and adolescence is a contributing factor to osteoporosis decades later.

Digestive System

Every part of the digestive system from your mouth, esophagus, stomach and gastrointestinal function are affected by alcohol eventually.

Some possible effects include:

  • inflammation of the tongue
  • damage to salivary glands and enlargement of the parotid gland
  • impaired esophageal reflexes and motility
  • weakened esophageal sphincter
  • acid reflux and heartburn
  • Mallory-Weiss syndrome
  • gastric lesions
  • ulcers and internal bleeding
  • malabsorption of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats

Alcohol also affects the intestines functioning optimally and may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and cramps and internal discomfort.

Alcohol Damage to the Skin

Alcohol causes dehydration which can dry out and damage the skin. There is a chance of increased risk of skin tears, inflammation, discoloration, and infection.

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to broken capillaries and a flushed appearance most noticeable on the nose and cheeks.

Alcohol and Kidneys

Anyone who’s gone drinking knows it makes you have to use the bathroom more often but alcohol can affect your kidneys in other ways too. In fact, excessive alcohol use can cause kidney damage and lead to kidney disease by interfering with their ability to filter the blood properly.

Many of the other complications of alcohol abuse such as high blood pressure can damage kidney function as well.

The Respiratory System

Alcohol can make you more susceptible to lung infections, respiratory illnesses, and pneumonia. Intoxication can lead to repeated sleep apnea episodes and depressed respiratory function due to oversedation.

You are also more likely to develop serious conditions such as acute respiratory distress syndrome, TB, RVS infections and more.

Immune System

You don’t have to drink alcohol for decades to feel the effects of it on your immune system. In fact, acute drinking binges can have a negative effect on your body’s ability to fight infection, heal from injury or illness or keep healthy in general.

Dehydration, lowered ability to filter blood, and other side effects of alcohol consumption can lead to significant problems for your immune system and leave you at greater risk for serious infections and health issues that are more difficult to recover from and can lead to more dangerous health complications.

Immune homeostasis is interfered with by alcohol consumption whether in the form of prolonged use or binge drinking. This can cause issues with your body’s ability to heal from burns, shock, injury, and illness.

Mental Health Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol doesn’t just affect your physical health but can contribute to acute and chronic mental health issues as well.

Alcohol is a depressant and can lead to mental health issues such as suicidal ideation, depression, aggressive disorders and struggles with addiction.

Many who have difficulty with drinking too much require the help of a treatment center for alcohol addiction to overcome their addiction.

Alcohol abuse can also be a contributing factor to the development of mental health and cognitive disorders and lead to dementia.

Moderation Minimizes Alcohol Damage

You don’t have to cut out alcohol all together though some people find they feel and look healthier when they do. Moderation is the key to minimizing alcohol damage to your body and mind.

To learn more about living a healthy balanced life and much more be sure to check out our section on wellness or any of our other sections on love, sports, travel and more.

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