What is Alcohol Really Doing to Your Body?
This week is one of the biggest party weeks of the year for a lot of people. All over the country, students are heading off to celebrate Spring Break. St. Paddy’s Day also falls on Thursday of this week. I think we all know what the common denominator that links these two festivities is – alcohol! We don’t want to bash on alcohol too much. A few drinks are a great way to celebrate a happy occasion or even to unwind after a busy week. However, more than a few of us will experience the negative effects of alcohol at least once in our lives. The bad side of alcohol is pretty well known (who hasn’t had a hangover they’ll never forget?) but what is alcohol really doing to our bodies?
What is alcohol?
Despite what some say, alcohol consumption is not unique to the modern age. People have drunk alcoholic beverages since pre-historic times. Because alcohol has been consumed for such a long period of time, we have plenty of research and evidence to prove the negative side of alcohol and health. Alcoholic drinks contain a high percentage of ethanol which is a psychoactive drug. Alcohol is amongst the most used recreational drugs worldwide. It is also a carcinogen which means that it is a known cause of cancer. Unfortunately, the damaging effects of alcohol are not limited to cancer and alcohol can cause harm to many parts of the body.
Alcohol and Cancer
Cancer has been linked to a number of cancers including:
- Throat cancer
- Breast cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Mouth cancer
- Liver cancer
- Larynx cancer
As the body breaks down an alcoholic drink, the ethanol turns into a poisonous chemical called acetaldehyde. This chemical is what scientists believe is the carcinogen which causes damage to the human body. Alcohol also prevents the body from absorbing vitamins and nutrients which can help protect against cancer. Finally, alcohol increases the level of estrogen present in the blood which is directly linked to breast cancer. This can affect men and women.
Alcohol and Organ Damage
Alcohol, especially excessive consumption of alcohol, causes damage to many of the body’s organs and leads to impaired organ function. The brain and liver are particularly badly affected by alcohol. Alcohol can lead to brain shrinkage as well as hallucinations, memory loss and impaired muscle control. That alone is enough to put us off booze for a while!
Your liver is one of the most vital organs you have. It helps to clear your body of toxins and helps you digest food and absorb nutrients. Too much alcohol causes fat to build up in your liver which leads to inflammation. Plus a damaged liver can’t perform all its duties that help keep you healthy at the level you need.
Alcohol also causes damage to your heart, kidneys and pancreas. And let’s not forget about the biggest organ of all – the skin. Alcohol dehydrates your skin causing you to look puffy and bloated. It can also lead to accelerated skin aging meaning you will look older than your years and not many of us want that!
Alcohol and Mental Health
Alcohol is a known mood disruptor which means it can trigger mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and compulsivity. For people who already have these conditions, alcohol can exacerbate their symptoms. It is a well-known fact that alcohol is addictive so people with addictive personalities are also at risk of developing alcoholism.
Alcohol Tolerance: Men vs. Women
In general, men can consume more alcohol than women before they start to feel the negative effects such as feeling drunk or hungover. Men tend to have a larger blood volume and lower body fat level than women which means it takes their bodies longer to feel the effects of alcohol. A higher level of dehydrogenase, which helps breakdown alcohol, is also present in males than in females. Women also experience more hormonal changes than men. This means ladies are more vulnerable to the bad side of alcohol. When drinking with men, women should be careful to drink at their own pace and not feel forced to keep up with the guys. Your body will thank you later.
What to Drink?
Not all alcoholic drinks were created equally. If you must have a boozy drink, some options are better than others. Some are not as harsh on the body’s organs and some contain fewer sugars than others. Drinks served on the rocks tend to take longer to drink so you should end up consuming less. Red wine contains tanins which have benefits for the heart. Sweet drinks like pina coladas and margaritas should be skipped as they contain too much sugar. Similarly, beer is a carb-heavy drink which can lead to excess bloating.
Whether you are enjoying Spring Break or celebrating your Irish ancestry or just hanging with friends, be sensible and drink in moderation. Take some time to consider the impact of alcohol on your health. And make sure to drink plenty of water between drinks!
Feeling better about your health or fitness shouldn’t be a chore. If you ever need some extra support, come by BEFIT to speak with one of our trainers or simply fill out a Free Consultation Request by clicking the link and a fitness professional will reach out to you within 24 hours.