Alcohol and Your Body
We all know that drinking too much alcohol is not good for you but everything in moderation is just fine. Is this really true about alcohol? Let’s take a look at the effects alcohol has on our body and you be the judge.
One reason people choose to drink is that it alters their mood, they feel less inhibited or more invincible than usual allowing a more enjoyable time. How can that be such a bad thing, right? That may be how you feel but here is what really happens to your body.
Alcohol keeps you from the ability to think clearly. It goes straight to your brain and after thirty seconds of the first sip, it begins slowing down the chemicals and pathways used by your brain cells to send messages. This not only alters your mood but will slow down your reflexes and throw off your balance.
Over time, alcohol changes the chemistry of the brain by causing the cells to shrink. It affects the ventral striatum and prefrontal cortex which control the brains reward system and regulates impulsive behavior. It also affects the hippocampus, this is where memories are stored, making it difficult to recall past events.
Do you ever wonder why you feel warmer than usual? Alcohol actually widens your blood vessels bringing more blood flow to your skin giving you that blushing look. Soon after, the heat from that extra blood will pass right out of your body causing your temperature to drop. This makes it more difficult for your body to keep a steady temperature and control your movements.
Meanwhile, heavy drinking boosts your blood pressure by releasing stress hormones that narrow your blood vessels causing your heart to pump harder to push the blood through. It can literally wear out your heart causing your muscles to droop and stretch similar to an old rubber band. If your heart is unable to pump efficiently this will affect every part of your body.
Alcohol irritates the lining of your stomach causing digestive juices to flow. Once enough acid and alcohol build up you become nauseous. It’s common for the long-term drinker to receive painful sores and ulcers in their stomach.
Have you ever experienced diarrhea or heartburn after a night out? This would be due to your colon and small intestine becoming irritated. Alcohol will throw off the normal speed that food moves through them causing diarrhea. Heartburn occurs because the alcohol relaxes the muscle that keeps the acid out of your esophagus.
The pancreas makes insulin as well as other chemicals that help your intestines break down food. Alcohol affects this process by keeping the chemicals inside the pancreas along with the toxins from the alcohol causing inflammation. You will also not be able to get the insulin you need. Not only are you causing serious damage to the pancreas that can lead to pancreatic cancer but you also run the risk of getting diabetes.
It’s very common for drinkers to get cirrhosis of the liver. This happens because the liver breaks down most of the alcohol you drink. This causes the liver to become enlarged and allows thicker tissue to build up limiting blood flow. Less blood flow means the liver cells will die off causing scarring and works less efficiently.
Aldosterone is sent from your brain to keep your kidneys from making too much urine. Alcohol tells your brain to wait which causes you to urinate more often. Drinking often can lead to dehydration and the extra workload from the toxins can wear your kidneys out.
Alcohol throws your hormones out of balance. Your hormones are quite powerful since they manage how fast you digest food to even your sex drive. For women, this can throw off your cycles and cause fertility issues. For men, it can cause lack of erection, shrinking testicles, and even a lower sperm count.
Besides the changes in your hormone levels, it also affects your calcium levels preventing your body from building new bone. Your bones become thinner and can lead to osteoporosis. Alcohol also limits the blood flow to your muscles and blocks proteins from building them up, giving you less muscle mass.
With all that havoc that alcohol does to the body, it’s no surprise that your immune system suffers. Your body is unable to make a number of white blood cells necessary to fight germs making it more likely that you can get sick within just twenty-four hours of drinking. Heavier drinkers are more apt to get pneumonia and tuberculosis.
So now you can understand what causes a hangover. Alcohol causes dehydration giving you the cotton mouth. It then causes the blood vessels in your brain and throughout your body to expand giving you a headache. Your stomach is trying to get rid of the toxins causing you to become nauseated so you will expel all those toxins out of your system. Your liver is working so hard to process the alcohol that it doesn’t release enough sugar into your blood causing you weakness and shaking. Even though it slows down your brain making you drowsy you won’t be able to get the REM sleep your body needs.
Now you know what happens to your body during and after drinking alcohol and it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth the risk. If you or anyone you know has a drinking problem there are groups out there that can help such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Addiction Recovery Rehab Centers, and your local churches offer counseling and can help guide you through the recovery process.