How is your body impaired by alcohol?
Alcohol is not a natural nutrient for the body. Even in small amounts alcohol can have an affect on the body. Alcohol when ingested goes into your bloodstream and is sent through your whole body. Even a small amount of alcohol has an affect on your body. When you drink, alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream and distributed throughout your body.
How quickly alcohol is metabolized is different for each individual. Height, weight and gender are all factors on how your body deals with alcohol.
If you have ever been to a bar, gone to a college party or holiday party you may have noticed that when someone partakes in alcohol consumption there is a change in physical and emotional state. Long-term alcohol consumption can lead to serious health problems like cirrhosis, memory issues, malnutrition, chronic pancreatitis, alcoholic liver disease, and cancer. This puts your health in serious jeopardy and can be fatal.
Here are some of the systems highly affected by alcohol:
1. Excretory System:
This system is responsible for getting rid of waste in the body. Part of this process includes the pancreas. The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes which work with the gallbladder bile to help in digestion. The pancreas also regulates the release of insulin.
Excessive use of alcohol use can cause inflammation (pancreatitis). This is a serious problem that can destroy the pancreas.
The liver breaks down harmful substances and tries to filter these out of your body. Alcohol is considered a toxic substance. Excessive drinking can cause alcoholic hepatitis which can lead to jaundice. This results in the yellowing of the skin and eyes.
Long term liver inflammation can lead to severe scarring on the liver known as cirrhosis. This scar tissue disrupts the livers ability to work properly. When the liver fails to perform, toxins will accumulate in your body and it can become life threatening.
Women are at higher risk for alcoholic liver disease than men. This is because women tend to absorb more alcohol and take longer to process it.
The result of the liver and pancreas not functioning properly can lead to hypoglycemia or what is known as “low blood sugar”. A damaged pancreas can cause the body to be unable to handle sugar due to a lack of amounts of insulin secretion. This can lead to hyperglycemia or “high blood sugar”. This can become highly impactfull on the body and cause diabetes which can also lead to death.
Alcohol abuse also raises your risk of liver cancer because of the stress added to the organ.
2. Central Nervous System:
As stated above, alcohol goes into your bloodstream and travels through the body easily including your brain and spinal cord. Speech can be altered and slurred. Coordination is impaired making it hard to balance and walk.
Thinking clearly is impaired and impulse control is hampered. This is why your ex may “drunk dial” you on nights they are out on the town. Chronic drinking can actually shrink the frontal lobes of your brain.
Acute alcoholic withdrawal can lead to seizures and delirium. Chronic alcoholism can progress to permanent brain damage, causing dementia which is highly debilitating.
Damage to your nervous system can result in pain, numbness, or abnormal sensations in your feet and hands. Thiamine (vitamin B1) levels can become deficient, which can result in involuntary rapid eye movements, weakness, or paralysis of the eye muscles.
Men and women metabolize alcohol differently. It generally takes less alcohol to affect women based on size, height.
Alcohol is addictive and if an alcoholic stops drinking abruptly, they’re likely to experience symptoms of withdrawal, such as:
In severe cases, confusion, hallucinations and seizures may occur. Detoxification can take between two and seven days and is very painful to endure.
3. Digestive System:
It doesn’t have to be someone who is drinking for a long period of time to impact the digestive system. One incidence of heavy drinking can injure parts of your digestive tract.
Alcohol abuse can damage the salivary glands and irritate the mouth and tongue. Gum disease, tooth decay and even loss of teeth can occur. Heavy drinking can cause ulcers esophageal ulcers, acid reflux, and heartburn. Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) and stomach ulcers can also be present.
Pancreatitis interferes with the pancreas in its ability to help with digestion and regulate metabolism. Digestive damage can cause gassiness, fullness of the abdomin and diarrhea. Internal bleeding can occur as well which can lead to ulcers, hemorrhoids, or esophageal dilated veins caused by cirrhosis.
Alcohol makes it harder for you to absorb B vitamins or control bacteria in the gut. Malnutrion is not rare for alcoholics. Risk of mouth, throat and esophagus cancer risk is higher for Alcoholics.
4. Circulatory System:
Even a single episode of heavy drinking can cause enormous stress on your heart. Chronic drinkers are more likely to have heart issues. Women are at a higher risk of heart damage than men.
Some of the problems with the system may be:
Cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart)
High blood pressure
Deficiencies in vitamin B6, vitamin B12, Thiamine (B1), and folic acid (B9) are all affected by alcohol use. Anemia may occur.
5. Sexual and Reproductive Health:
For men, erectile dysfunction is common with chronic alcohol use. Hormones, testicular function can occur and cause infertility.
Women may stop menstruating and also become infertile. Risk of miscarriage, premature births and still born babies increase.
If drinking while pregnant, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), can happen to the fetus. This includes physical abnormalities, learning difficulties, and emotional problems. These can last a lifetime. Risk of breast cancer rises with alcohol use.
6. Skeletal and Muscle System:
Long-term alcohol use makes it harder for your body to generate new bones and increases the risk of Osteoporosis (thinning bones) and risk of fractures. Muscles become weaker, cramping occurs more frequently and muscles may become atrophic.
7. Immune System:
This system is responsible for fighting off illnesses. When weak viruses, germs, and all types of illness may occur more frequently. Heavy drinkers are more likely to get pneumonia or tuberculosis than the general population.