Alcohol: Its effects on the body

People who drink alcohol may consider it as a pastime, stress-relief, social habit, means of relaxation or even a competition. This means of "relaxation" comes with a lot of negative effects on the body. Before you grab a bottle of alcoholic drink, you might want to ponder on the effects on the body.

Alcohol’s impact on your body starts from the moment you take your first sip. While an occasional glass of wine with dinner is not a cause for concern, the cumulative effects of drinking wine, beer, or spirits can take its toll.

* Alcohol and Testosterone Alcohol appears to inhibit testosterone secretion from the testes, as alcohol is directly toxic to this part of the body. Low testosterone levels can result in diminished male physical characteristics (diffficulty in achieving an erection) and have been associated with a greater risk for prostate problems in the future. Alcohol has also been known to reduce sperm production and alter sperm structure.

* Alcohol and Weight Gain Light and moderate alcohol use are not associated with significant weight gain and obesity, but a study published in Current Obesity Reports found that heavy drinking is consistently related to weight gain. Alcohol is high in calories and can alter cognitive processes and metabolism. The volume of alcohol consumed appears to be the most significant factor in affecting a person’s weight, but the intensity and frequency of drinking also seem to have an effect. * Alcohol and the Brain Alcohol interferes with how the brain communicates, thus changing a person’s behavior and mood. The ability to think clearly is often inhibited, and enough alcohol consumption can drastically affect motor functioning via its effects on the brain. Common effects on the brain and the rest of the central nervous system (CNS) include slurred speech and issues with coordination. Alcohol can have more drastic effects on the central nervous system in the long-term. Pain, odd sensations, and numbness in a person’s hands or feet can arise due to the damage done to the CNS over time. It can also have significant effects on the eyes in particular.

* Alcohol and the Heart While heart complications caused by alcohol are most common in people who participate in excessive consumption for a prolonged period of time, drinking too much on a single occasion can have negative effects on the heart as well. Some of the effects alcohol can have on this organ include: - Heartbeat Irregularity - Increased blood pressure - Stroke - Stretching of the heart muscle Heart attack and heart failure are very serious problems associated with long-term alcohol consumption.

* Alcohol and Sugar levels The pancreas helps regulate your body’s insulin use and response to glucose. When your pancreas and liver are not functioning properly, you run the risk of experiencing low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. A damaged pancreas may also prevent the body from producing enough insulin to utilize sugar. This can lead to hyperglycemia, or too much sugar in the blood. If your body can’t manage and balance your blood sugar levels, you may experience greater complications and side effects related to diabetes. It is important for people with diabetes or hypoglycemia to avoid excessive amounts of alcohol.

* Alcohol and the Liver Cirrhosis of the liver is a condition that results in scarring of the liver tissue. Scarred tissue cannot perform the proper functions that healthy liver tissue can, such as cleaning the blood and helping to fight infection. Alcoholism is the most common cause of this condition, and it can also result in fatty liver, fibrosis, and alcoholic hepatitis.

* Alcohol and the Skeletal and muscle systems Long-term alcohol use may prevent your body from keeping your bones strong. This habit may cause thinner bones and increase your risk for fractures if you fall. These factures may heal more slowly. Drinking alcohol may also lead to muscle weakness, cramping, and eventually atrophy(wasting away of the bones). * Alcohol and Digestion The digestive system can suffer significantly due to the effects of alcohol. Beginning with the mouth, alcohol can do significant damage to the salivary glands, gums, and tongue. Tooth decay is not uncommon among heavy drinkers. Esophageal problems can arise in the form of ulcers, which can also form in the stomach. The pancreas is affected by alcohol and could experience pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the organ. Infection and permanent organ damage can arise as a result of this condition. Difficulty absorbing vitamins and minerals from food can cause anemia. This is a condition where you have a low red blood cell count. One of the biggest symptoms of anemia is fatigue.

* Alcohol and Women's Health A woman can see the disruption of her menstrual cycle due to alcohol abuse, and menstruation can even stop completely in some cases. Some women become infertile due to alcohol use, and the risk for pregnancy and birth complications increases. A woman drinking while pregnant can lead to a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in the child, a range of conditions that can be physical and mental.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that between 0.2 and 1.5 infants per 1,000 births experience some degree of fetal alcohol syndrome. Women who consume just one alcoholic beverage per day increased their risk of developing breast cancer by as much as five percent.

* Alcohol and Immune System Excess alcohol causes a change in the immune system by altering the cells and molecules in the body. This change slows your ability to ward off infections – for up to 24 hours after getting drunk.  Alcohol misuse increases the chance of contracting diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis. Changes in liver function resulting from chronic drinking can even make the immune system turn against the body’s own tissues.

Alcohol is said to be relaxing on the short run but the effect on the long run is devastating taking into consideration the above facts and the probability of becoming alcohol-dependent(addiction). Breaking free from this addiction is a very difficult process which is associated with withdrawal symptoms that are extremely unpleasant.

It is easier and better not to drink at all compared to trying to stop drinking but it is never too late to stop!


Writer at The Healthwise...daily health tips