The Many Ways Alcohol Affects the Body

Society sends mixed messages about alcohol. On one hand, alcohol has been linked to health benefits like a lowered risk for heart disease. On the other hand, alcohol can be addictive and toxic, especially when you drink too much. In reality, the effects of alcohol vary among individuals and how often they drink. One glass of wine with dinner may be fine for some people, but many far exceed these limits.

Here at Acceptance Recovery Center, we see firsthand how alcohol can destroy the lives of innocent people. While there are safe drinking limits for some people according to the CDC, there are also people who should not drink, including pregnant women, those taking certain medications and those recovering from an alcohol use disorder.

Let’s explore the many ways that alcohol can affect the body – and you don’t have to drink that much for them to happen.

Central Nervous System

Probably the most obvious part of the body that’s affected by alcohol is the central nervous system. One of the first signs you’ve had too much to drink is slurred speech. This happens because alcohol interferes with how your brain and body communicate. You might also have a hard time with coordination and balance.

But there’s more to drinking than just the short-term effects. Drinking too much shrinks the frontal lobes of your brain, making it more difficult to control your emotions, make good choices or remember things that happened recently.

Circulatory System

Despite the popular rumors, it’s not exactly clear if small amounts of alcohol are good for the heart. Not to mention, you can get these same benefits from healthier alternatives like drinking grape juice or eating whole grapes. In reality, too much alcohol affects the heart and lungs and increases the risk for developing heart disease.

Here are some of the ways that alcohol can harm your circulatory health:

  • Increase high blood pressure
  • Cause an irregular heartbeat
  • Make it difficult to pump blood through the body
  • Increase the risk for stroke or heart attack
  • Raise the risk for heart damage or heart failure

Inflammatory Damage

The liver is an organ that breaks down and removes toxins from the body, including alcohol. However, drinking in excess can interfere with your liver’s functioning and increase your risk for chronic liver inflammation and liver disease. As scarring occurs in the liver, it can lead to cirrhosis that prevents your liver from working properly.

Immune System

Do you find yourself getting sick more often? It could be due to your drinking. Alcohol reduces your body’s natural immune system and makes it more difficult to fight invading germs. Research also shows that people who drink heavily are more likely to have tuberculosis or pneumonia than the general population.

Digestive and Endocrine Systems

Drinking too much alcohol can cause abnormal activation of digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas. If these enzymes build up in the body, they can cause pancreatitis, also known as inflammation of the pancreas. Acute pancreatitis occurs suddenly and causes severe pain in the abdomen and back, though it can become a long-term condition as well.

Insulin Levels

Another thing alcohol messes with is your insulin levels. The pancreas helps regulate your body’s insulin and how it responds to glucose. When your pancreas and liver aren’t working properly, you can experience low blood sugar or high blood sugar, both of which can put you at risk for diabetes.

Tolerance and Dependency

Some people who drink heavily will develop an emotional and physical dependence on alcohol. Trying to stop alcohol on your own can be life-threatening as one of the withdrawal effects is delirium tremens, a type of delirium that involves hallucinations, sweating, shaking, confusion and high blood pressure. The only way to treat an alcohol addiction is with professional treatment. Addiction is not something that can be stopped with willpower alone.

Digestive System

Even just one or two drinks can cause you to feel bloated and gassy. This happens because the alcohol can damage the tissues in your digestive tract and prevent your intestines from digesting food and absorbing nutrients. This is also why malnutrition is common among alcoholics.

Not only can you experience an upset stomach from drinking but also ulcers, hemorrhoids and certain types of cancer like esophagus, colon, liver, mouth or throat. There is a fine line between a healthy serving of alcohol and an excessive amount. And, if you smoke, these risks increase even more.

Sexual and Reproductive Health

You might think that drinking loosens you up in the bedroom, but this is an illusion. Men who drink are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction, and both men and women may have a lowered libido. Even if you are able to perform, people who engage in drunk sex are more likely to take risks, which can lead to an STD or unplanned pregnancy.

Certainly, there are major risks for women who drink during pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome disorders are serious and can cause long-term learning difficulties, health issues, emotional problems and developmental abnormalities.

Don’t Let Alcohol Ruin Your Life. Start Your Journey to Sobriety Today.

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction in Scottsdale AZ, know that help is available. Drinking is socially acceptable and even encouraged at times, which can stop people from seeing the extent of their problem. However, alcohol negatively affects the body and you don’t have to drink much to see this happen. Even just a few drinks at night or binge drinking on the weekends place stress on the body.

Not to mention, there are many social and emotional effects to abusing alcohol, such as trouble in your relationships or at work. You can also get into financial trouble if you get caught drinking and driving or being under the influence at work. Fortunately, you don’t have to let things get this far if they haven’t already.

Acceptance Recovery Center provides all of the treatment services you need to fight alcohol addiction, including detox, counseling and aftercare. Contact us today to start your journey.