It’s not uncommon to see alcoholic beverages available at restaurants, sporting events, grocery stores, and of course, at liquor stores. Most people are aware of the side effects that alcohol can have on their bodies in the short term. However, frequent use and binge drinking can lead to myriad health-related issues in the longer-term.
Effect on the Central Nervous System
Your CNS (central nervous system) is responsible for controlling your comprehension, emotion, and ability to think. These facets of your body are typically the first to be affected by the short-term consequences of drinking alcohol.
Alcohol acts as a depressant to your CNS, which can cause fluctuations in your mood. Feelings can be intensified, or memories that have been repressed might re-emerge.
Alcohol also helps your brain use up serotonin. Your serotonin is finite, and alcohol consumption will generally deplete it quicker than it can be generated.
Behavior is also affected by alcohol use. You may experience motor skill impairments, mispronounced or slurred speech, decreased inhibitions, as well as many other issues after increasing your blood alcohol content. Just about any visuospatial aspect of a consumer’s cognitive ability will become impaired with increased levels of drinking.
Effects on the Digestive System
The digestive system is composed of a multitude of organs including the stomach, mouth, liver, throat, intestines, and esophagus. These organs work in cohesion to metabolize food and beverages, so that you receive nourishment from what you consume. Alcohol can impact each of these organs, as it usually comes into contact with each of them during some point in the digestion process.
Stomach acid production is directly affected by alcohol. This can cause increased production of acid as well as limit your ability to get rid of bacteria. At the same time, the lining of your stomach can be damaged by the acid it contains, causing abrasion and swelling.
Alcohol is known to contribute to acid reflux, as it interacts with your stomach and esophagus on a variety of levels. Symptoms of reflux diseases can be significantly amplified by the consumption of alcohol as it makes direct contact with both your stomach and esophagus. Most researchers have agreed that consuming large quantities of alcohol increases the intensity of GERD symptoms . If you have been diagnosed with GERD it may be advisable to consult a physician before consuming alcoholic beverages.
After passing through your body, the alcohol will reach your liver, where it will be converted into acetaldehyde, which is very poisonous to cells. This can lead to tissue damage as well as an increase in the inflammation of the liver and skin cells. It has been known that extended periods of excessive alcohol use increases the risk of developing alcohol-related liver diseases such as cirrhosis and alcoholic hepatitis. Repeated usage in this fashion can cause permanent damage to the liver and potentially lead to jaundice in adults, damaging the liver to the extent that it is unable to filter out blood waste.
Effects on the Circulatory System
Without your circulatory system, you wouldn’t be able to pump blood, oxygen, or nutrients to the vital areas of the body that need it the most. Many people may not know about the damage that alcohol can do to the circulatory system; primarily the heart and lungs.
There are quite a few discrepancies concerning how alcohol affects the heart, how much is too much, and whether or not it directly leads to heart disease. It appears as if moderate drinking (one or two drinks per day) isn’t too bad for the heart. However, some people should probably avoid drinking in its entirety due to risks such as heart failure.
Excessive consumption of alcohol, on the other hand, is correlated to numerous heart conditions. It is proven that overindulgent drinking can lead to things such as stroke, high blood pressure, and even cardiomyopathy. Alcohol can even be a cause of obesity, which is definitively not good for circulation and sometimes leads to heart failure.
Alcohol is known to suppress the immune system, which directly affects the lungs’ ability to keep infections at bay. It also kills many of the normal bacterias contained within the nasal passages and mouth, allowing foreign bacterias to grow in their absence. Excessive use often corresponds to pulmonary infections, as a result of compromised immune responses.
Damage can also be caused to the surface cells of the airway. Not all of the alcohol can be absorbed into the bloodstream, and a portion makes its way back into the lungs in the form of vapor. Individuals that overuse alcohol are more likely to develop infections such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, and respiratory syncytial virus.
Effect on the Immune System
Chronic alcohol consumption is often the cause of immunodeficiency, though even those who binge drink may not feel the effects of alcohol on their immune system. Antibodies can become confused, marking the wrong cells for your B and T cells to attack. This, in effect, is an autoimmune response to healthy cells. It can also cause deficiencies in your immune responses by reducing your white blood cell’s ability to fight off illness. A chronic consumer of alcohol is far more susceptible to illness due to these issues.
Additional conditions may arise, such as infectious bacteria leaking from the bowels, stomach, and intestines leaking into other areas of the body. Damage to the immune system can be reversed in some cases, but it is always advisable to stay within moderation when consuming alcohol.
Effects on Sexual and Reproductive Health
There are a few ways that alcohol can affect your sexual and reproductive health. Drinking can increase your desire for intercourse, as well as the confidence that you have in your sexual partners.
At the same time, it can also cause problems with fertility. Abusing alcohol can result in a range of effects caused by nutrient deficiencies. Drinking too much can thus deplete the nutrients used by your body for various functions, such as reproduction.
In men, it can cause sexual dysfunction, and even decrease the size of genitals. The presence of alcohol interferes with the production of testosterone, and lowered testosterone can lead to decreased libido and sperm count.
In women, alcohol can both increase and decrease arousal, and higher concentrations of alcohol may cause the impediment of lubrication production. Extended overuse may interfere with reproductive functions, menstruation, and hormone levels. Drinking while pregnant puts women at a higher risk for stillbirth, miscarriage, and the child having developmental disorders.
Effects on the Renal System
The more a person drinks, the more likely they are to cause damage to their organs or cause the escalation of the disease. Your kidneys are responsible for filtering out toxins and other substances from your body, as well as maintaining a normal amount of water in your body.
When someone drinks alcohol, it has two main effects on the kidneys. The first is that, because alcohol is a liquid, its consumption increases the ratio of fluid to particles inside your body. When this occurs your kidneys will regulate the particle-to-fluid ratio by releasing the liquid and causing you to urinate. The second is that alcohol suppresses a hormone called vasopressin, a hormone that tells kidneys to hold onto liquids. When it is suppressed by alcohol, there isn’t enough vasopressin to tell your body to hold onto the liquids, causing you to potentially dehydrate yourself.
Overusing alcohol can also cause damage to the kidney’s function. Kidneys filter out the substances from your blood, which happen to include alcohol. Extended overuse can cause the kidneys to become less able to filter out these substances. Too much alcohol can also increase your blood pressure, and alcohol usually doesn’t mix too well with kidney medication. In the U.S. most of the people affected by kidney and liver disease are also alcohol dependent.
Alcohol dependency is typically characterized by tolerance as well as withdrawal symptoms. It is usually developed by routinely drinking heavily over an extended period of time. When you consume alcohol, it causes changes to the neurotransmitters in the brain. When this happens, you might experience changes to your behavior, and those changes usually wear off as the body breaks the alcohol down. To counteract the slowing effect of alcohol, the brain increases certain neurotransmitter activity.
Over time, the brain will start requiring higher levels of alcohol to reach the same level of intoxication; this typically leads to even more drinking. Chemical changes will begin to take place in the brain as it starts becoming more and more reliant on alcohol to get the neurotransmitters going. As this happens, users may start to develop physical symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia as their bodies start to rely on alcohol.