How does alcohol affect your body? – 7-Things You Should Know

    4October 2020

    woman drinking a large beer


    Finally Julia managed to reduce her alcohol intake to one drink a day…

    Party season is closing in fast so whether you’re considering quitting alcohol temporarily to fit into that slinky cocktail number, or whether your intention is more long term, then it might be helpful to find out how alcohol affects your body.

    How does alcohol affect your body?

    Every day people decide to quit drinking alcohol. At the moment it seems that every celebrity is admitting that they no longer drink, and that’s a good thing for everybody.

    Just like smoking was once promoted as representing the glamorous jet-set lifestyle and being good for you, alcohol is promoted as the same. Yet both are as equally damaging to your health, wealth and wellbeing.

    women enjoying a glass of red wineEven the common paradigm of drinking in moderation (one drink a day or less for an adult female, and two drinks a day or less for an adult male) is now being challenged by the scientific community. In a recent study it was proved that no amount of alcohol can claim to improve your health, not even the coveted glass of red wine which was hailed as improving heart health.

    Of course, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t enjoy a glass of wine, just don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s good for your health, because that’s sheer nonsense. Drink wine because you enjoy it and it’s a social experience, but be aware that like a lot of other things we consume, it’s not particularly beneficial to your overall health.

    The only healthy choice is not drinking at all, and that’s the buzz that is catching on throughout the world.

    So you’ve decided to stop drinking

    woman with a hangover

    People have many personal reasons to stop drinking such as “it’s affecting my family”, “I need to lose weight”, or “I’m just tired all the time”.

    There are also practical reasons such as financial – “I spent the equivalent of a car payment on wine last month”, or career -“I need to up my game at work”, “alcohol is holding me back” etc.

    If you’ve decided to stop drinking, whether for personal or practical reasons, even a temporary break from alcohol will have major effects on your body, your mind and your productivity.

    Whether you choose to withdraw from alcohol for a week, a month, or forever, there will not only be definite noticeable changes in your body, but also in your bank account as well.

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    Here are 7 beneficial reasons why you should take a break from alcohol.

     

    1. You Get a Powerful Jolt of Brain Boost

    Brain getting a boost of energyAlcohol messes with your hippocampus, and therefore your mental ability. It affects the part of your brain that creates memories. This not only means that you can’t remember what you did yesterday, or the name of the resort you stayed in on your annual break, but you become much less able to learn and retain important information. Additionally, as we know, alcohol causes dehydration. Therefore, it’s a double-edged sword as dehydration also impairs mental clarity.

    In essence, your brain is getting battered all ways round from alcohol limiting your brain power generally, and the degenerating effects of dehydration.

    The message here is stop drinking and become super clever!

     

    2. Your Skin and Complexion Gets a Detox.

    woman-looking-good-and-healthyOn the subject of dehydration, alcohol is a very effective diuretic, which causes water to be flushed out of your system at a much quicker rate than other liquids. Also, it has the ability to prevent your body from readily re-absorbing fluid. To add to the problem further, urinating excessively takes more fluids and essential vitamins out of the body increasing the effects of dehydration and damage to your skin, hair and eyes.

    After a heavy night it’s no wonder we wearily look in the mirror and comment on how old we are looking. When your are drinking your skin may look dry and stretched, and your eyes might look dull and slightly yellowish.

    However, be assured that once your system is clear of alcohol, you will see a more fresh and youthful appearance in your skin as it becomes plumper and hydrated. Your eyes will become clearer and sparkle white and bright, and your hair will become less brittle and more glossy.

     

    3. Your Quality of Sleep Improves And You’ll Get More Energy.

    woman feeling fit and healthyFor people who quit drinking – even for a short period – a very common benefit is improved quality of sleep. Sure, we all know that drinking before retiring to bed sends us off to sleep as soon as we hit the pillow, but it’s the wrong kind of sleep.
    Research indicates that consuming alcohol before bed leads to an increase in the alpha wave patterns in the brain, which in turn leads to restlessness and poor quality sleep.

    Giving up alcohol will dramatically improve your quality of sleep once the brain pattern returns to normal, which will increase your feeling of wellness and energy. Plus, the following day you won’t be battling against the effects of the alcohol the night before.

     

    4. Your Body’s Glucose Regulates and Normalises.

    woman feeling good about herselfEven if your diet is otherwise sensible, drinking alcohol can cause your blood sugar levels to spike and fall dramatically affecting your energy levels.

    For people already living with diabetes this can be extremely dangerous causing a coma like condition if glucose levels fall too low. Constant surges the other way can create consistently high blood sugar levels leading to type-2 diabetes in people who would normally be diabetes free.

    Quitting drinking, or bringing it down to a very moderate level whereby your body can cope with the rush of sugar will allow your glucose to normalise leading to improved health and wellbeing.

     

    5. Your Mood and Positivity Will Improve.

    woman feeling happyIt’s well documented that heavy or consistent alcohol consumption is associated with depression and anxiety.

    Drinking alcohol affects the brain’s chemistry creating feelings of being low and isolated.

    For people already suffering from depression it’s a double-edged sword. Often people will drink alcohol to relieve the feelings of depression, (which it will do temporarily). However, the alcohol is a depressant in itself which leads to further depression once the uplift wears off.

    If you are, or you think you may be suffering from depression then do not seek the solution in alcohol. It will always make the matter worse. It’s far better to see your doctor and reach out for professional help.

    It’s an undeniable fact that alcohol does not promote better health or better mood. Certainly for many people it gives them that slight confidence to socialize, and that in itself makes people feel better, but it’s a temporary cloak that masks the real person.

     

    6. Your Liver Rejuvenates Itself.

    woman's liver and pancreasA study published in Alcohol & Alcoholism in 2018 found that stopping drinking for just one month made a significant difference to fat levels in the liver. The accumulation of fat in the liver is a sign of early liver damage. The liver is a very forgiving organ, however you can only push it so far. Once scarring takes place then this is when cirrhosis sets in, which is a one way trip to lifelong dialysis.

     

    7. You Lessen the Risk of Hypertension and Strokes.

    woman suffering a strokeBy reducing or quitting alcohol completely you can also dramatically reduce the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure).

    In the United Kingdom alone hypertension contributes to over 50% of cases of stroke.

    However, that’s not the whole story. Strokes can also be caused by other conditions such as diabetes, liver disease and atrial fibrillation. The liver produces substances which make the blood clot, so damage to the liver can increase the risk of bleeding in the brain.

    Information courtesy of alcoholchange.org.uk.



    And There’s More…

    Of course we’ve listed only 7 conditions that can be improved or avoided by cutting out or cutting back on alcohol.

    These are chosen because they are easy to relate to and you can see results by stopping drinking even for a short while such as during Recovery Month.

    woman recovering from excess alcohol

    Other more complicated conditions might include:

    Brain damage.

    Dementia.

    Foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) – Caused by drinking while pregnant

    Pancreatitis.

    Reproduction problems.

    Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones).

    Stomach ulcer.

    Rosacea ( a blotchy red skin disorder)

    If you’re thinking of stopping drinking, particularly if your alcohol use is high or prolonged, then you need to discuss it with your G.P first. It’s important to determine how to stop drinking safely so it’s important to discuss it with somebody who knows your medical history.

    You may even want to approach one of the registered and approved self-help organisations such as Change Grow Live who can discuss your options in total confidence, and if required work with your G.P to create a safe detox and abstinence plan.

    Whatever you choose though, help is out there.



    Alcohol and Liver Damage

     

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    Further Reading

    World-renowned Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology David Nutt breaks down the science and effect of alcohol on our health, mood, sleep and productivity and how it travels through our bodies and brains and explains on a practical level how we can make changes to positively impact our relationship with it and understanding of it, thereby improving our quality of life for the long-term.

    The new science of alcohol and your health
    He examines what the future holds for this normalised drug that governs our society and lives but is becoming increasingly unpopular due to its detrimental impact on our well-being. Drink? will do what Matthew Walker did for sleep, and Giulia Enders did for our Gut, and help us make informed choices, at the very least. David will illuminate our minds on this important and timely subject.

    >>> View an example of Professor David Nutt’s powerful insights, or listen to the audible on Amazon <<<



    2 Replies to “How does alcohol affect your body? – 7-Things You Should Know”

    1. Hi

      I enjoyed reading your 1st week of recovery. Well done. The key to is that you have to want to stop and change things.

      Your story has some similarities to mine. 15 years old and finding I liked it, even though the night ended up with me vomiting in the bushes of the local park. But drinking at that age was rare due to me having no money. I started work, on low pay, and the goal of the weekend binges became an immediate necessity, above anything else. I always found a way of scraping some money together, even if I had to borrow some off my mother. Luckily I could no way afford to drink during the week back then, if I had the money I would been out every night. As I approached my mid 30s I split with my long term partner, but also got a decent promotion and a big pay rise. I then start getting in an extra session, Wednesday I picked. Then the weekend would I also throw in Sunday at times. Always a binge, I never saw any point in going out for a couple, or staying in with a couple for glasses of wine. The concept of putting a cork back in a bottle was alien to me. 1 bottle never enough.

      I started getting pretty bad hang overs that would last 3 days sometimes and my stomach would feel bloated and sore. I just put this down to age and dismissed it, it was normal etc. I was still having 3 or 4 days without alcohol a week, so couldn’t be my lifestyle/booze I opined. So I carried on and then Football World Cup 2014 started, a great excuse to drink. Ended up getting very sloshed with Brazil getting beat 7-1, we had a shot with every goal and we were already well oiled. The next morning I felt like I was dying. My stomach was bloated to the point I thought it was going to pop, it was painful too. My stools turned yellow/gold, I had no energy and ended up having a 2ltr empty Coke bottle to urinate by my bed. Going the 12ft to bathroom was like a marathon, I had to empty the bottle in a huge effort. I didnt eat for days, drank plenty of water and some green tea. Started Googling what the hell was going on, Liver damage kept coming up, bad Liver damage. This had me bouncing off the walls in terror ! The condition Cirrhosis is horrendous, really horrendous, never knew much about it before. I tried eating, but it would just come out the other end the same as it went in. I lost 2 stone within a week and I looked like shit. Studying Liver disease frantically, I decided I had to get to the doctors for tests. After 2 weeks I went to the Docs and told them my concerns, we added up the units per week which was about 40-60, Doc wasnt too concerned, but ordered Liver tests anyway. They came back as normal, so I paid for an Ultrasound to be extra sure. That came back normal too, but I still felt like shit. Docs only diagnosed me with Gastritis and an infection, never told me what infection though. Some more study on the Liver forums suggests I should be OK, but Ultrasound isn’t that good and normal bloods don’t always mean you are in the clear. After 6 months not drinking and feeling some what better I went for a Fibroscan which is a special Liver test. No scaring, but I showed a slight above normal fat content, even after 6 months of sobriety. Must have been worse when I was drinking. In all it took 18 months for me to start to put weight back on and get full energy back, aswel as fearing what had happened to my insides, it was a terrible time and I had 2 months off work. Still not quite right down there, odd gurgles and twinges even to this day.

      Looking back my body was giving me plenty of warning I was binging too much, I just didnt listen. Also, with me studying alcohol it seems some people are just born to like it too much, passed on genetically. Recently found out my Uncle drinks 2 bottles of red every evening, has done for 10 years and thats when he slowed down ! God knows how much he was drinking previously. He is 60 years old now. My Dad liked it too, but was a couple of pints of Bitter man. You might want to warn your kids, they could slip into your habit due to genes.

      1. Hey Bart,
        Thanks for sharing that frank and amazing story. It sort of puts things into perspective when you are fearing for your health and wondering why you ever put your body through it in the first place. But like you say, it creeps up on you and becomes a habit, especially when you start at an early age like we both did.
        That was a great story and I really appreciate you sharing it with me. In the near future I’m looking to get a section published on life stories as a few people have said they’d like to share theirs if it helps others. With your permission I’d like to include this one (no names attached, maybe just initials). Let me know.
        Cheers
        Paul

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