Alcohol is among the most widely used recreational substances on the planet. This is in no small part due to the fact that alcohol remains completely legal and freely available throughout much of the world. Most of us have drunk alcohol in the past and there will be a lot of people reading this who drink alcohol on a regular basis.
While alcohol is widely used by people of all ages and backgrounds, many people don’t appreciate the full range of effects that it has on the user’s body. While alcohol remains legal, it still has the potential to be hugely damaging, both emotionally and physically. It is therefore worth understanding what alcohol actually does when it enters your body.
Here are the main ways that alcohol affects your body. Some of these you may already know, but some of them will surprise you.
Digestive and Endocrine Glands
When we drink too much alcohol, it causes a variety of changes to our body’s enzymes, digestive enzymes in particular. These enzymes are produced in the pancreas and when they build up to excessive levels, as they do after consuming too much alcohol, they cause pancreatitis. This is inflammation of the pancreas and it can develop into a serious condition.
The liver is one of the most amazing pieces of machinery in the human body. It is one of the few organs that is capable of regenerating itself, making most types of liver damage reversible. This is just as well because the liver is incredibly important for maintaining our overall health. Both our liver and kidneys filter out harmful substances from our bodies, and this includes alcohol.
Alcohol intoxication (being drunk) is technically ethanol poisoning. Ethanol is the psychoactive ingredient produced by fermentation and is toxic to our bodies. When someone uses alcohol over the long-term, it can impair the liver’s ability to properly filter it out. This in turn leads to an increase in the individual’s chances of liver disease, inflammation and cirrhosis.
While the liver is able to regenerate itself, scar tissue will cause lasting damage. The more damaged the liver becomes, the less able it is to filter the blood, which leads to more damage. This cycle can lead to runaway liver damage. Remember, it isn’t just alcohol that your liver filters out of your blood; if your liver is damaged, then it won’t be able to properly filter out anything.
Our pancreas is responsible for regulating our body’s insulin use, as well as the way that it responds to glucose. Excessive alcohol consumption will impair the ability of your pancreas to do what it needs to and can lead to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Alternatively, a damaged pancreas might interfere with the body’s ability to produce insulin, which leads to too much sugar in the blood (hyperglycemia).
Inability to maintain proper blood sugar levels can lead to a number of serious long-term health complications. The most serious of these is diabetes, a condition that can afflict anyone who drinks too much for too long.
Central Nervous System
The effects that alcohol has on the central nervous system demonstrate its overall effect on the body. One symptom of being drunk that we have all encountered is that of slurred speech. This occurs because alcohol inhibits communications between the brain and the body. This is why we become so uncoordinated when we are drunk. In the most serious cases, alcohol consumption can lead to numb and tingling sensations in the extremities.
Another effect of alcohol that most of us have experienced at one point or another is that it impairs our ability to produce long-term memories. It also makes it much more difficult for us to think clearly and make rational decisions.
While it is available all around us, alcohol is a highly addictive substance. Not only is alcohol physically and emotionally addictive, it is one of the few substances with a withdrawal syndrome that can be fatal. When withdrawing from heavy alcohol use, seizures are a real possibility and can be fatal.
It is vital that if you think you need to reduce or eliminate your alcohol intake, you need to do it in a supervised manner. For example, you could use the Sinclair Method Alcohol Treatment which involves drinking in moderation alongside taking anti-craving medication. Read more about the Sinclair Method from Ria Health who provides effective at-home treatment plans.
Alcohol has numerous effects on our minds and bodies, not all of them are positive. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a drink every now and then, but we should all be on the lookout for signs that our drinking is out of control. Cutting back on the amount we drink is a fantastic way of improving our overall health, losing weight and leaving a little extra money in our wallets. If you think you need help quitting alcohol, make sure that you consult with your doctor.