• The Effects of Alcohol

    Alcohol is a colorless, volatile, flammable liquid that is the intoxicating portion of wine, beer, and liquor. It is also used as an industrial solvent and as fuel. Alcohol affects all parts of the body in different ways. The majority of alcohol is absorbed into the liver, which is responsible for breaking it down. Alcohol that is not broken down by the liver goes to the rest of the body, including the brain. About 20% is absorbed directly into the blood through the stomach and the other 80% is absorbed through the small intestine into the bloodstream. People who drink heavily for a long time may develop diseases such as: Liver inflammation (alcohol hepatitis) or severe liver scarring (Cirrhosis) and a variety of other problems such as fatty liver (Steatosis) and thickening/scarring of connective tissue (Fibrosis). Many of these diseases become chronic and could ultimately cause death.

    How does alcohol affect the liver?

    One of the liver’s most important functions is to break down food and convert it into energy when you need it. Your liver also helps the body to get rid of waste products and plays a vital role in fighting infections, particularly in the bowel. The liver breaks down alcohol so it can be removed from your body. Your liver can become injured or seriously damaged if you drink more alcohol than it can process.Fat can build up in the liver when people drink heavily, even after a short period. Over time, this problem can build to cause serious liver-related disorders. In the same way, drinking can also cause scar tissue to develop in the liver, an issue that can cause health problems as well.
    How does alcohol affect the heart?
    Drinking alcohol can affect the heart in good and bad ways. Studies have shown that moderate drinking (up to two drinks a day for men and one drink for women) can lower the chances of developing heart disease. The recommended limit is lower for women because of their generally smaller body size and slower metabolism of alcohol. Heavy drinking, either all at once or over time, can damage the heart. Long-term alcohol use can also result in high blood pressure, which increases a person's risk of heart disease. However, blood pressure can go back to normal within a few months after drinking stops IF there is not a lot of damage to the heart. Drinking too much in one sitting, or a lot over a long time can damage the heart causing problems such as: Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and enlarging of heart muscle, Arrhythmias – Irregular heart beat, Strokes, and High blood pressure.
    How does alcohol affect your immune system?
    Drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease. Chronic drinkers are more likely to develop illnesses like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink as much. Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections – even up to 24 hours after getting intoxicated. Too much alcohol deprives the body of needed immune-boosting nutrients like Vitamin A and can weaken white cells (your body’s defense against illness/disease). Damages increase as you increase your intake of alcohol.
    How does alcohol affect the pancreas?
    It causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to Pancreatitis, which is a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevent proper digestion. Alcohol is the second highest cause of Pancreatitis. In some cases, it can become severe and persistent, which is called Acute Pancreatitis and can be life-threatening.
    Does drinking increase your risk of cancer?
    YES. Unusually high levels of oestrogen increase the risk of breast cancer. Drinking lots of alcohol can damage the cells of the liver, causing a disease called cirrhosis. Cirrhosis can make you more likely to develop liver cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, a toxic chemical called Acetaldehyde, which the body makes when it breaks down alcohol. Acetaldehyde can affect normal cells by damaging DNA, which can lead to cancer.
    Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of developing certain cancers, including cancers of the: Mouth, Esophagus, Throat, Liver and Breast cancer. In 2007, a working group of experts convened by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reviewed the scientific evidence on alcohol and cancer risk for 27 different anatomic sites. They found sufficient evidence linking alcohol drinking as a cause of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and female breast. And for cancers of the mouth, larynx, and esophagus, when people drink and use tobacco, the risks are combined to be greater than either tobacco use or alcohol use alone!
    How does alcohol affect the brain?
    It affects the brain by altering the level of neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that transmit the signals throughout the body that control everything. There are two types of neurotransmitters, excitatory, meaning they stimulate brain electrical activity, or inhibitory, which decreases brain electrical activity. Alcohol increases GABA, the inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA causes the sluggish movements and slurred speech that occur when drinking alcohol. Alcohol suppresses the excitatory neurotransmitter Glutamate that results in a similar type of physiological slowdown. Alcohol increases the amount of dopamine in the brain, which is what causes the feeling of pleasure when you take a drink. Each part of the brain has different functions. The Cerebral cortex processes your information, thoughts, and controls majority of your voluntary muscle movements. Introduction of alcohol in excess affects your thought process leading to poor judgment and memory loss. The limbic system is made of hippocampus and the septal area of the brain, which control emotions and memory. Alcohol affects the memory power, and also makes the person very vulnerable. Cerebellum in the brain controls muscle movement. The cerebral cortex and cerebellum work as a team by sending signals through the spinal cord for the smooth functioning of muscles. When excess alcohol comes in contact with the cerebellum, muscle movements become uncoordinated. The Hypothalamus is responsible for many important functions of the brain. It regulates the release of hormones through pituitary gland. Alcohol interferes with the function of the hypothalamus that coordinates sexual desires. Excess alcohol increases sexual desire, but decreases sexual performance, which in many cases leads to erectile dysfunction. Alcohol stops the secretion of Anti-Diuretic Hormone (ADH) from the pituitary gland, and interferes with the digestive system. ADH helps the kidneys to absorb water. When alcohol minimizes the absorption of ADH, the kidneys are unable to absorb the required quantity of water, and as a result, they produce more urine. Medulla controls involuntary functions of your body, like, heartbeat, body temperature, and breathing. Alcohol disrupts the smooth functioning of the medulla, which makes the person feel sleepy. Alcohol in excess amounts can induce sleep.

    Some effects of drinking to excess are not reversible and can cause permanent damage to your health. Alcohol can contribute to:
    •raised blood pressure
    •Liver disease
    •Cancers, particularly breast cancer and cancer of the Esophagus
    •Mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety
    •Heart disease
    •Stomach ulcers
    •Damage to an unborn child
    •Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones)
    •Brain damage

    Alcohol affects each part of the body in different ways and has a different effect depending on the intake consumed. Although this may not state all the effects of alcohol, it covers important ones and the organs you need the most to function so be aware of what you’re doing to them! I hope you enjoyed my article and remember not to drink and drive! Please leave your feedback! Thanks for reading!