The Truth About How Alcohol Destroys Your Body
After tobacco, alcohol is the most commonly used drug in the United States. According to advanced statistics from the National Survey of drug use in 2019, 86% of American nationals aged 18 or more reported alcohol use in their life.
Alcohol gives a person a pleasant feeling, makes him happy and sociable temporarily, but its long-term use has adverse consequences on the human body and its systems. Alcohol is used to elevate mood as a lubricant and a relaxant. Long-term use and heavy drinking destroy different systems of the human body. Let’s have a detailed review of how alcohol destroys your body.
How much alcohol destroys your body?
Usually, heavy drinking and chronic alcohol abuse destroy your organ system and functioning. Moderate and limited alcohol use has comparatively fewer adverse effects than heavy drinking.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, adults may choose not to drink or limit their daily intake to 2 or less than that for males and 1 or less than 1 for females. This is considered moderate alcohol use.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports 5 or more units per day in males and 4 or more in females in less than 2 hours as binge drinking.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also defines heavy drinking as follows:
- For males: 4 drinks/day or more than 14 drinks/week.
- For females: 3 drinks/day or more than 7drinks/week.
What happens when you drink alcohol every day?
Drinking alcohol every day can affect your physical as well as mental health. These effects may be short-term or long-term. In the early days, you can also reverse the adverse effects, but with the passage of time, it becomes difficult to reverse the changes alcohol makes in your body.
Alcohol affects multiple organs and functions like the heart, liver, kidney, immune system, urinary system, GIT, and vascular system.
Short term effects of drinking alcohol
Daily intake of alcohol affects several systems of your body, causing painful signs and symptoms; these short-term changes may lead to long-term consequences.
Effect of Alcohol on Gastrointestinal tract
Alcohol irritates the inner lining or mucosae of the gastrointestinal tract, leading to inflammation. The first pass mechanism of alcohol in the gastrointestinal system interferes with different functions of GIT.
For example, alcohol is responsible for gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Alcohol-induced damage to cells in the inner lining of the esophagus leads to esophageal cancer. In the stomach, it disrupts the secretion of gastric acid. Alcohol impairs the function of the intestine leading to diarrhea in alcoholics.
Moreover, alcohol-related micronutrient deficiencies occur because alcohol interferes with the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine. It alters the permeability of the gut leading to the entry of toxins into circulation and eventually into the liver. These toxins induce liver injury.
In the large intestine, alcohol increases gut motility and impedes its mobility leading to diarrhea which is most frequently seen in alcoholics.
Effects of Alcohol on Liver
Alcohol consumption leads to alcoholic liver disease. The prevalence of this problem is most common in European countries. In the United States, the incidence of alcoholic liver disease is 61% in the general population and 10-12% in heavy drinkers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 30-50g/day of alcohol for 5 years causes alcoholic liver disease. 60g/day leads to steatosis of the liver in 90% of the population. Chronic use of alcohol of 40g/day results in cirrhosis in 30% of individuals.
Metabolism of alcohol in the liver increases NADH production, resulting in a metabolic shift to the formation of glycerol phosphate. It combines with fatty acids to form triglycerides, which accumulate in the liver leading to fatty liver disease.
How Does Alcohol Affect the Heart?
Mild to moderate use of alcohol is associated with low risks of coronary heart diseases, heart failure, and cardiovascular mortality. Heavy drinking leads to deleterious cardiovascular diseases and an increased risk of mortality. Diseases associated with alcohol abuse are:
- Heart failure
- Peripheral vascular diseases
- Coronary artery disease.
Low to moderate use of alcohol increases the risk of atherosclerosis and inflammation. Binge drinking increases blood pressure by 4-7 mm of Hg for systolic and 4-6 mm for Hg diastolic. Middle-aged and older people are more prone to the development of stroke and chronic heart disease due to alcohol intake.
Alcohol and kidneys
Alcohol compromises kidney function. Both acute and chronic consumption has adverse effects, especially if you already have liver disease. Alcohol disrupts the mechanism of hormone regulation in the kidneys that govern its function. Chronic alcohol consumption predisposes liver disease, which leads to detrimental effects on kidney function. Fluids balance and sodium balance are disrupted.
Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and its faster progression. It eventually leads to end-stage renal disease (ESRD).
Chronic alcohol consumption injures the tissues in the kidneys, causing kidney injury and kidney dysfunction. Kidney injury is due to increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress. Free radicals are produced as a result which triggers inflammation.
Physical effects of chronic Alcohol abuse
Alcohol abuse is associated with various physical health-related issues. Following are short term as well as long term effects of alcohol on physical health:
- Hypertension and heart diseases
- Mouth ulcers
- Stomach ulcers
- Immune system dysfunction
- Colon and breast cancer
- Alcohol use disorder
- Memory loss
- Slurred speech
- Blurred visions
- Disturbed sleep
- Slow reaction time
Chronic intake of alcohol is also associated with alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Once you are addicted to alcohol, you become dependent on it. Avoidance of alcohol causes symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Consult your doctor for treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome.
Long term effects of Alcohol Abuse
Chronic alcohol abuse and heavy drinking are associated with long-term effects. These effects may be reversible or irreversible. A detailed description of long term effects is given as follows:
How does alcohol affect mental health?
Alcohol alters the level of neurotransmitters in the brain, which modifies your behavior and thoughts. It mainly affects those parts of your brain that are involved in Inhibition.
Alcohol consumption is closely linked with mental illness. Most people suffer from depression, and to avoid depressed feelings and thoughts, they drink it repeatedly. Alcohol is not recommended while taking antidepressants because research studies show alcohol consumption increases the chances of relapse.
In addition, alcohol is closely linked with psychological problems like psychosis, anxiety disorder, suicide, and self-harm. If your fellow or family member has developed alcohol dependence, closely monitor him to prevent self-harm and suicide. Counseling may be helpful in these cases.
Diseases related to long term alcohol abuse
Chronic alcohol consumption is related to the following diseases:
- Wernicke’s Korsakoff syndrome or Wernicke’s encephalopathy
- Pernicious anemia
- Alcoholic hepatitis
- Delirium tremors
- Cancers (esophageal, gastric, colonic, breast)
- Fatty liver disease
- Marchiafava-Bignami disease
- Central pontine myelinolysis
10 Proven ways to eliminate Alcohol from your routine
Following are various scientifically proven ways to eliminate Alcohol from your daily routine and spend healthy life:
- Figure out how much alcohol you should drink, and avoid excessive intake. Don’t binge drink.
- Figure out why you drink? Is drinking more important than your health? It’s never a good idea to compromise your health for alcohol.
- Talk about your problems to your loved ones, friends, family, and children. Sort out your problems instead of getting an escape by drinking.
- Change your environment. If your friends or colleagues compel you to drink with them, change your friends or leave that place.
- Rediscover your interests and hobbies.
- Reach out for medical support. If you’re unable to avoid alcohol and facing a hard time sticking to it, consult your psychiatrist or take medical support.
- Don’t keep alcohol in your home. It will help you stay from it.
- Guard against your temptation for alcohol. Monitor your feelings, thoughts, and behavior.
- Keep a diary of your drinking and set your goals. Choose alcohol-free days.
- Be persistent with your goals.
Alcohol is used as an antidepressant and relaxant, but its persistent use is not free from the worst consequences. Mild to moderate and seldom intake of alcohol doesn’t have detrimental effects on your body, but heavy drinking disrupts your body functions. Organs affected by alcohol abuse are the liver, kidneys, heart, vessels, and brain. The most commonly affected organ by alcohol abuse is the liver. Fatty changes occur in the liver, which leads to fatty liver disease, Alcohol hepatitis, steatohepatitis, and liver dysfunction.
Try to cut down your drinking habits as early as possible, and once you’ve achieved these goals, be persistent. Monitor your drinking habits regularly. If you’re unable to control your excessive drinking habit, consult your doctor for medical treatment. Thiamine intake may help you relieve symptoms of Wernicke’s Korsakoff syndrome. Several medications like disulfiram, sedatives, and anticonvulsants are useful in treating excessive alcohol abuse.
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