How Bad Is Alcohol For The Body? 7 Important Effects Of Alcohol on Physical Health

Whether you are an occasional consumer of alcohol, a daily heavy drinker, or fall somewhere in-between, you should be concerned about the impact that alcohol is having on your physical health.  The effects of alcohol on health range on a spectrum from mild to severe, but recent research suggests that alcohol is more damaging than most suspect.

An estimated 1 in 5 deaths of individuals in the United States between the ages of 20 to 49 are attributed to excessive alcohol use.  While not all of these deaths are health related, many of them are.  Even a single alcoholic beverage per day has been found to be bad for your health, including a glass of wine with dinner which was once thought to provide health benefits.  On the contrary, studies have shown that even a single glass of wine per day exacerbates aging and contributes to cognitive impairment.  There are a number of other ways that alcohol can affect your body, with 7 areas discussed below.  Unfortunately for the alcohol consumer, this list is far from exhaustive.

It should be noted that there are studies that show associations between moderate drinking and health benefits such as raising levels of HDL cholesterol and providing antioxidants that can protect the heart.  Some of these studies have been disproven in later studies, and there are discrepancies among some of the research.  Despite where the science stands on health and alcohol consumption, it is worth understanding how alcohol can impact physical health, and the benefits of abstinence on the body as a whole.

Gut Health

If you are concerned with wellness and your general physical health you may be aware of the importance of gut health and the impact it has on your brain and overall wellbeing.  You may know that there are trillions of bacteria in your body, most of which live in your gut, known as the gut microbiome.  While many who are concerned with their gut health focus on foods to consume that will improve gut health such as fruits, vegetables, fermented foods, and other probiotics and prebiotics; many do not consider the devastating impact alcohol has on gut health.  Alcohol damages the gut microbiome as well as the gut barrier which can lead to leaky gut which will in turn lead to issues such as inflammation.  Furthermore, the damage to the gut will have a direct impact on the liver and brain.

Liver Health

The liver is responsible for filtering waste such as alcohol from the body.  Every time alcohol is filtered through the liver it kills liver cells, resulting in liver damage over time.  Many are familiar with the damage that alcohol can have on the liver, and in extreme cases can lead to fibrosis, fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.  In most cases of mild and moderate liver damage, the liver can heal itself through abstaining from alcohol and adopting a healthy diet.  However, in cases of severe liver damage such as cirrhosis, a liver transplant may be necessary.

Cardiovascular Health

Alcohol misuse can damage the heart and lead to cardiovascular problems such as cardiomyopathy, hypertension, high blood pressure, arrhythmias, and stroke.  Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to weight gain and obesity, which in turn is harmful to heart health.  While there have been past studies that have shown mild to moderate alcohol use, especially red wine, to be heart healthy, more recent studies have found these findings to be false.  The World Heart Federation has recently stated that no level of alcohol consumption is safe for health.

Pancreatic Health

Alcohol in the body is broken down into substances that are toxic for the pancreas.  These toxic substances can result in inflammation and swelling of blood vessels in the pancreas, known as pancreatitis.  Even just two drinks of alcohol per day can significantly increase your risk of developing pancreatitis.  Alcohol induced pancreatitis can be acute or chronic.  Acute alcohol-induced pancreatitis is often reversable through abstaining from alcohol and adopting a healthy diet; however, chronic alcohol-induced pancreatitis may not be reversable and may require lifelong medication or a transplant.

Epidermal Health

Alcohol causes your body and skin to lose fluid, resulting in dehydrated skin that may appear dry and more easily wrinkle.  Furthermore, alcohol has a diuretic effect that results in the loss of micronutrients that are important for healthy skin, such as vitamin A.  Additionally, alcohol changes hormonal levels and can cause or exacerbate acne for some individuals.  Subsequently, when you abstain from alcohol you will experience healthier, hydrated, clearer skin.  The term “sober glow” was coined in-part to describe this phenomenon of skin rejuvenation for individuals new to sobriety.

Neurological Health

Alcohol has a detrimental effect on the brain as it hijacks the brain’s reward system, interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can contribute to significant cognitive decline.  Neuroimaging shows that individuals who abuse alcohol have reduced overall brain volume and gray matter, which is one reason why alcohol abusers may experience learning and memory issues.  In extreme cases alcohol abuse can lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, also known as wet brain disease or alcohol-related dementia.  Unfortunately, it is not only alcoholics that have to worry about the damage alcohol can have on the brain, as studies have shown that just 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks per day is associated with brain damage.  Fortunately, many of the negative impacts of alcohol on the brain can be reversed through abstention.

Immune Health

Alcohol, even when consumed in moderation, will weaken the immune system, resulting in the body having difficulty fighting off disease.  The mechanisms that compromise immune health as a result of alcohol consumption are multifaceted, and go beyond impairing cells responsible for immune function.  Alcohol impairs sleep quality which is critical for maintaining the immune system.  Furthermore, alcohol depletes many vital micronutrients that are necessary for optimal immune health.

If you are experiencing any physical health issues as a result of alcohol, please speak with your primary care doctor or seek out a medical professional or addiction specialist immediately.

For more information on alcohol and drug addiction treatment, as well as day trading addiction treatment, cryptocurrency addiction treatment, video game addiction treatment, and other forms of addiction treatment, and to find the best addiction counselor near me, or for general therapy and mental health counseling, or to inquire about Family Addiction Specialist’s private concierge sober coach services, recovery coach services, sober companion services, addiction therapy services and/or teletherapy services (online therapy or virtual therapy) for drug addiction, alcohol addiction, gambling addiction, day trading addiction, cryptocurrency addiction, video game addiction or other forms of digital addiction and technology addiction please contact Family Addiction Specialist’s undisclosed private therapy office in the Upper East Side of New York City today at (929) 220-2912.  Family Addiction Specialist serves clients in Manhattan and the surrounding NYC area, as well as concierge or virtual services with select clients worldwide.

Author
Lin Sternlicht & Aaron Sternlicht

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