The impact of alcohol on your body begins 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 their toll.
One glass a day can do little harm to your overall health. But if the habit grows or you have a hard time stopping after just one glass, the cumulative effects can add up.
Digestive and endocrine glands.
Drinking too much alcohol can cause abnormal activation of digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas. The accumulation of these enzymes can lead to inflammation known as pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can become a long-term condition and cause serious complications.
The liver is an organ that helps break down and remove harmful substances from your body, including alcohol. Long-term alcohol use interferes with this process. It also increases your risk of chronic liver inflammation and liver disease. The scarring caused by this inflammation is known as cirrhosis. The formation of scar tissue destroys the liver. As the liver becomes more and more damaged, it becomes more difficult to remove toxic substances from your body.
Learn more about alcohol-related liver disease »
Liver disease is life threatening and leads to the accumulation of toxins and waste in your body. Women are at higher risk of developing alcoholic liver disease. Women's bodies are more likely to absorb more alcohol and take longer to process. Women also show liver damage faster than men.
The pancreas helps regulate your body's insulin use and response to glucose. When your pancreas and liver are not working properly, you are at risk for low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. A damaged pancreas can also prevent the body from making enough insulin to use sugar. This can lead to hyperglycemia or too much sugar in the blood.
If your body cannot control and balance your blood sugar levels, you may experience further complications and side effects related to diabetes. It is important for people with diabetes or hypoglycemia to avoid excessive amounts of alcohol.
Central Nervous System
One of the easiest ways to understand the impact of alcohol on your body is by understanding how it affects your central nervous system. Difficulty speaking is one of the first signs that you have had too much to drink. Alcohol can reduce communication between your brain and your body. This makes coordination more difficult. You may have a hard time balancing. You should never drive after drinking.
As alcohol causes more damage to your central nervous system, you may experience numbness and tingling in your hands and feet.
Drinking also makes it difficult for your brain to create long-term memories. It also reduces your ability to think clearly and make rational decisions. Over time, frontal lobe damage can occur. This area of the brain is responsible for emotional control, short-term memory, and judgment, in addition to other vital roles.
Chronic and severe alcohol abuse can also cause permanent brain damage. This can lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a brain disorder that affects memory.
Some heavy drinkers can develop a physical and emotional dependence on alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal can be difficult and life threatening. You often need professional help to break an addiction to alcohol. As a result, many people seek medical detox to stay sober. It is the surest way to make sure you break the physical addiction. Depending on the risk of withdrawal symptoms, detox can be administered on an outpatient basis or as an inpatient.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
anxiety nervousness mononause trembling high blood pressure irregular heart beat heavy sweating
Seizures, hallucinations, and delirium can occur in severe cases of withdrawal.
The connection between alcohol consumption and your digestive system may not immediately seem clear. Side effects often only appear after damage has occurred. And the more you drink, the greater the damage.
Drinking can damage the tissues of the digestive tract and prevent the intestines from digesting food and absorbing nutrients and vitamins. As a result, malnutrition can occur.
Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to:
gas, bloating, a feeling of fullness in your abdomen, diarrhea or painful stools
For people who drink heavily, ulcers or hemorrhoids (due to dehydration and constipation) are not uncommon. And they can cause dangerous internal bleeding. Ulcers can be fatal if they are not diagnosed and treated early.
People who consume too much alcohol can also be at risk for cancer. People who drink frequently are more likely to develop cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, colon, or liver. People who regularly drink and use tobacco together have an even higher risk of cancer.
Alcohol can affect your heart and lungs. People who are chronic alcohol drinkers are at higher risk for heart-related problems than people who don't drink. Women who drink are more likely to develop heart disease than men who drink.
Complications of the circulatory system include:
high blood pressure, irregular heart beat, difficulty pumping blood through the body, race, heart attack, heart disease, heart failure.
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.
Sexual and reproductive health.
You may think that drinking alcohol can lower your inhibitions and help you have more fun in bed. But the reality is quite different. Men who drink too much are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction. Excessive alcohol consumption can also prevent the production of sex hormones and lower libido.
Women who drink too much can stop menstruating. That puts them at a higher risk for infertility. Women who drink heavily during pregnancy are at increased risk of preterm labor, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy put their unborn child at risk. Fetal alcohol syndrome disorders (FASD) are a serious concern. Other conditions include:
learning difficulties long-term health problems increased emotional problems abnormal physical development
Skeletal and muscular systems.
Long-term use of alcohol can prevent your body from keeping your bones strong. This habit can cause thinner bones and increase the risk of fractures if you fall. And bills can heal more slowly.
Drinking alcohol can also lead to muscle weakness, cramps, and eventually atrophy.
Drinking a lot lowers your body's natural immune system. This makes it harder for your body to fight invading germs and viruses.
People who drink heavily over a long period of time are also more likely to develop pneumonia or tuberculosis than the general population. About 10 percent of all tuberculosis cases worldwide may be related to alcohol use. Drinking alcohol also increases the risk of several types of cancer, including the mouth, breasts, and colon. Click here to learn the basics of alcoholism. You can also read about the stages of alcoholism and recognize an addiction.