How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?

How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?

Even though it’s widely available and a major part of western leisure culture,  alcohol is not always the innocent drug some people claim it to be. While the vast majority of people can drink in moderation and never struggle with addiction,  an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. Alcohol also costs our economy $249 billion due to missed work, injury-related health conditions, cancers, liver cirrhosis and more. 

With such detrimental effects, why is alcohol an acceptable drug that is associated with relaxing, having fun and being social? The social acceptance of drinking makes it easy for people to abuse alcohol without anyone knowing. For instance, if you surround yourself with a culture of drinkers and have a tendency to drink, you’ll probably feel okay doing it. 

However, social acceptance is not a good reason to abuse alcohol. Drinking too much too often can lead to severe physical, emotional and social consequences. For some, the only way to quit the habit is to seek  alcohol rehab in Phoenix. In this post, we’re going to focus on how alcohol affects the body and why it can shave quality years off your life. Not sure if you have a drinking problem? Here are 10 signs you may have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol

Your Liver Has to Work Extra Hard 

Once alcohol is in your body, up to 20 percent is absorbed into your bloodstream. The remaining alcohol goes to your intestines and is absorbed with the rest of the nutrients in your body. Only a small amount of alcohol is excreted through sweat, saliva and urine. 

When you start drinking, your body makes metabolizing alcohol a priority. Your body can’t store alcohol like it can proteins, carbohydrates and fats, so it has to metabolize the alcohol before everything else. This is why the liver is most affected by alcohol consumption. 

Alcohol-related liver disease is caused from years of drinking. Over time, the liver becomes inflamed and swollen, leading to diseases like the following: 

  • Fatty liver disease 
  • Alcoholic hepatitis 
  • Liver inflammation 
  • Cirrhosis of the liver 
  • Fibrosis 

Alcohol Goes Straight to Your Head 

Within 30 seconds of taking your first sip, alcohol goes right to your head. It slows down the chemicals and pathways that your brain cells need to send messages, which is why you experience delayed reflexes and poor balance. It’s also difficult to think straight, though you probably won’t realize this while you’re drinking. 

If you drink heavily for a long period of time, the effects on your brain can be even more damaging and longer term. Your brain cells may eventually change and become smaller. In other words, alcohol can shrink your brain. Over time, your brain will have a harder time thinking, learning and remembering information. 

Bacteria Can Grow in Your Gut 

Believe it or not, alcohol can affect your gut, too. Your gut health plays a significant role in your overall health, contributing to a strong immune system, good heart, effective digestive system and much more. Drinking too much alcohol disrupts the good bacteria in your gut and puts you at risk for various health problems. 

Because your digestive system is the first point of contact when you take a drink, it’s at a higher risk for disease. Here are some of the ways that alcohol can compromise your gut health: 

  • Weakens your stomach acid 
  • Causes stomach pain, bloating and indigestion  
  • Damages protective stomach linings 
  • Prevents nutrients from being absorbed into the small intestine 
  • Disrupts healthy gut bacteria 

person pouring a drink

It Affects Your Heart 

It’s not just the liver that takes a beating with heavy alcohol use – the heart does, too. When you drink alcohol, triglyceride levels rise. When combined with high cholesterol, fatty buildup can occur in the artery walls, increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke. Furthermore, drinking alcohol can cause the heart to grow weaker and have an irregular beat pattern. 

So what about all those claims that drinking in moderation helps the heart? Doctors admit that they’re not sure if the so-called healthy effects of alcohol come from the product itself or other healthy lifestyle choices that light drinkers make. So, you shouldn’t use this as an reason to start or continue drinking. The best way to care for your heart is by eating a balanced diet and exercising daily. 

You Can Develop Pancreatitis 

The pancreas is an organ that’s located near the small intestine and stomach. It has two functions: 

  • Produces and releases enzymes in the small intestine to aid in the digestion process.
  • Releases glucagon and insulin into the bloodstream to help the body use energy properly. 

When you drink alcohol frequently, it can damage the pancreas and lead to inflammation, a condition called pancreatitis. Alcohol-induced pancreatitis can be acute or chronic, resulting in symptoms like severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever and tenderness. 

Even though there are many causes of pancreatitis, alcohol abuse is one of the most common. Studies show that roughly one-third of acute pancreatitis cases in the U.S. are caused by alcohol. Even in cases where pancreatitis is not caused by alcohol, doctors still recommend abstaining from alcohol for at least 6 months. 

The Immune System Grows Weaker 

Just as drinking has effects on the brain cells, it impacts the body’s other cells as well. Alcohol makes it harder for the immune system to spring into motion and protect you from harmful germs and bacteria. In an age of coronavirus, we know just how important our immune systems are. 

Specifically, excessive drinking may impair the function of the immune cells in the upper respiratory system, making you more likely to catch colds and viruses and have trouble fighting them off. Alcohol also disrupts the gut barrier, which we mentioned earlier, allowing more bacteria to pass into the bloodstream. 

Alcohol is Not a Safe Drug. Contact Continuum Recovery Center to Start Your Journey.

There are ways to drink safely and responsibly, but this doesn’t mean it’s healthy to do so. Plus, many people abuse alcohol without realizing it, creating a dangerous cycle. Knowing how alcohol affects the body is important, as you can make more informed decisions for your health. 

If you feel that you’re struggling with alcohol abuse or alcoholism, contact Continuum Recovery Center today. You do not have to hit rock bottom to get help – professional alcohol rehab in Phoenix is available for anyone who wants to get better.