You might love a brunch outing with mimosas, a beer at lunch, or a glass of wine at dinner, but these small indulgences just might spell death by a thousand cuts for your wellbeing. Alcohol affects the whole body, and daily drinking can cause serious health problems if it turns into alcohol abuse.
It causes liver damage
Over time, alcohol abuse causes severe liver damage. Cirrhosis happens as the healthy liver becomes scarred from excessive alcohol abuse. Eventually, the scar tissue slows blood flow resulting in liver failure.
The symptoms of cirrhosis include fatigue, decreased appetite, nausea and vomiting, and unexpected weight loss. As cirrhosis worsens, patients develop more severe symptoms. These include:
- Dark urine
- Edema (swelling) in the lower extremities
- Jaundice in the whites of the eyes
- Memory difficulties
- Itchy skin with spider veins and more bruising
- Abdominal fluid buildup
- Menstruation pauses unrelated to menopause
- Male breast enlargement and diminished sex drives due to atrophied testicles
If you’re exhibiting any of the above symptoms or you’re concerned about your liver health in general, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your concerns.
It disturbs regular sleep cycles
You may not be drinking at night, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be pulling an all-nighter. Because alcohol is a diuretic, many people who drink during the day find themselves waking to use the restroom at night. People who drink regularly also have problems staying asleep, as alcohol encourages sleepiness but blocks deep-cycle, REM sleep.
It upsets the stomach
The acids in alcohol can cause problems in the gastrointestinal tract. Because it irritates the stomach lining, many people have diarrhea after lunch at the bar. The artificial sweeteners in adult beverages can also upset the stomach. Binge drinkers often end up destroying their beneficial gut bacteria so that only harmful strains are left.
Because the body is not designed to store alcohol, it begins metabolizing the beverages before other nutrients. The liver has to work overtime while other systems slow down to compensate.
It encourages headaches
Researchers found that alcohol can trigger migraines and headaches. Rather than drinking away the pain, people with headaches should avoid drinking altogether. Alcohol-related migraines happen within a few hours of drinking or the next day in a hangover.
While researchers are still studying why alcohol exacerbates migraines, the consensus is that histamines and sulfites in wine and other alcoholic beverages are at the root of the problem.
It encourages memory and cognitive problems
Day drinking and alcohol abuse can encourage cognitive problems. In a 2017 study, researchers found that after three drinks, people begin to have memory problems. As alcoholism takes time to develop, it is easy to see how prolonged alcohol abuse negatively affects thinking and memory.
Some people will even develop a problem called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, where alcohol crosses the blood-brain barrier and creates a toxic environment for the neurons that help with memory recall.
It weakens the immune system
People who drink frequently tend to catch more diseases. Alcohol weakens the immune system, so the body succumbs to infection more rapidly. The immune system and the liver are connected, as the liver helps thin and clot the blood.
Drinking too much alcohol forces the body to make more blood platelets, which form more clots. Since alcohol affects healthy gut bacteria, it reduces that bacteria’s ability to support the immune system.
It affects the mood
Alcohol negatively affects the brain and its mood centers. It changes the way the body develops and releases serotonin and endorphins, altering how people experience happiness and joy. Someone might feel good while drinking, but once they stop, the sudden drop in those chemicals can increase feelings of depression and anxiety.
Research shows that alcohol abuse has a link to major depressive disorder. People who have depression might self-medicate with alcohol, but alcohol abuse can trigger depression and suicidal thoughts, leading to a vicious cycle.
It increases weight
Because alcoholic beverages have so many calories, many people end up gaining weight from drinking too much. The calories in an alcoholic beverage are “empty,” meaning they offer little to no nutritional value. As empty calories, they also do not help people feel full, so they continue to drink and eat more while consuming alcoholic beverages.
Since the body cannot store alcohol, it metabolizes alcohol first while ignoring everything else. Thus, drinking causes metabolic problems, which result in excessive weight gain, diabetes, insulin problems, and liver toxicity.
Being overweight affects the body in other ways. For example, many overweight people struggle with sleeping through the night. Overweight people can also develop fat around their livers, which presents with symptoms similar to cirrhosis.
Alcohol abuse and day drinking create many interconnected health problems. Having an adult beverage with lunch or winding down each day with a glass of wine might seem harmless. But over time, the effects of drinking alcohol wreak havoc on several systems in the body, including the endocrine, nervous, digestive, and circulatory systems.
Rather than succumbing to the immediate happiness of drinking alcoholic beverages, consider what the long-term effects can do to the body. Consider ordering water next time you go out with friends.