The alcohol molecule is small, and this makes a big difference. It means that it can easily travel through the cells in nearly every organ in your body. The result is that when you drink, especially if you drink habitually, your entire body is affected. Alcohol makes its way to your heart, your liver, your sex organs and nearly everywhere else – and it can prevent your body from doing what it’s built to do.
Here are 8 ways drinking affects your body.
The Short Term
You’re out with your friends drinking and you slam back a few just to start off the night. Maybe you’re a quiet, shy, insecure person on any given day, but after the first few those worrisome personality traits start to fall away.
On the surface, at the beginning of the night, this is what drinking can look like. There are some positive effects of alcohol (I mean, that’s why you started drinking in the first place right?), but compared to the list of negative effects both long-term and short-term – it’s like a mouse going up against an elephant.
Difficulty walking, blurry vision, slow reaction time, impaired memory, slurred speech and lowered inhibitions. This is how alcohol affects your brain. Those lowered inhibitions that helped you get on the dance floor, they have a darker side too. They were the inhibitions that helped you make good decisions to obey the law, keep yourself safe, put savings away and even drive like the responsible person you are. Now that those inhibitions are lowered, your risk for engaging in this type of behaviour is much higher. Especially after repeated use.
If you drank more than your body could handle that night, there’s a good chance you might not be able to remember what happened the next day. Alcohol can shut down your memory and cause a blackout. In a study conducted by the Duke University Medical Centre, a significant number of undergraduate students that experienced blackouts had reported learning they engaged in risky events like driving, unprotected sex and vandalism.
The Long Term
If the night out at a bar description is your Monday – Friday experience, then you will start to feel some of the long term effects of alcohol on the brain and body – including addiction.
Alcohol can trigger rosacea. That’s why can you see a number of heavy drinkers have a redness to their skin. Their blood vessels are enlarging and producing more blood flow and leaving visible veins – and it can become permanent.
Your liver’s job is detoxify and metabolize. If you drink a small amount, your liver has no problem coping. If you drink a large amount on a constant basis, your liver starts to suffer. Fat cells build up in your liver, the tissue becomes scarred and eventually, the end result is usually liver cancer. Liver cancer survival rate for 5 years is around 11%.
In men, drinking can cause a reduction in testosterone levels, which also means it can shrink the testicles. Over long periods of time, habitual drinking can result in infertility and impotence. Secondary sexual characteristics can be affected, such as a reduction in chest and facial hair, and fat accumulating around the abdomen rather than the hips.
Women have received the worse end of the deal when it comes to the effects on the reproductive system. Chronic drinking can cause abnormal menstrual cycles, failure to ovulate, spontaneous abortions, early menopause and a higher risk of breast cancer.
Both men and women have a higher risk of contracting an STD because of lowered inhibitions from alcohol.
Your body does not like excessive amounts of alcohol. Your brain may tell you that you enjoy the feelings that you get (for the first little while), but alcohol is an irritant to your organs. Vomiting is your body’s way of letting you know. Drinking can lead to gastritis, inflammation of the stomach and ulcers. Your risk of cancer is increased. Particularly mouth, tongue, lip, throat and stomach cancer.
If you do vomit while drunk and aspirate it into your lungs, your body might not be aware enough to cough it up. This can lead to death.
If you are a heavy drinker, there are two types of pancreatitis you can develop. One is acute pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis’ cause isn’t quite known, but if you get acute pancreatitis on a constant basis, this becomes chronic pancreatitis. Chronic pancreatitis can lead to damage to the heart, lungs and/or kidneys and lead to visits to the ICU and, in some cases, death.
There are studies that indicate that too much alcohol can take a toll on the heart. Drinking raises blood pressure, increases the levels of certain fats in the blood and increases caloric intake. All of this put together means that your heart has to work hard to keep itself going. If it can’t, then you run into problems.
Without a doubt, drinking too much alcohol can lead to alcoholism. Some people may drink for long periods of time, months on end and find that even although they thought they would be able to quit when the time came – they were unable. This is when the issue of addiction becomes a problem.
Help Your Body Perform It’s Best
Your body’s task is to function as best as it can for as long as it can. Our habits and behaviors, for better or for worse, have an incredible affect on how it does that job. In order to give your body the best chance at a long, healthy, meaningful life, consider how much alcohol you’re drinking and how it might be affecting your body.
The best part of drinking less? You’ll get to be truly present for all those life experiences.