Healthline has a very informative article on the terrible effects of alcohol on the body.
The Effects of Alcohol on Your Body
Alcohol’s impact on your body starts from the moment you take your first sip. While an occasional glass of wine with dinner isn’t a cause for concern, the cumulative effects of drinking wine, beer, or spirits can take its toll.
|Shrinking Brain||Long-term exposure to alcohol can shrink the frontal lobes of your brain.|
|behavior changes||Alcohol can change your typical behaviors and leave you without the mental clarity to make smart decisions.|
|blackouts||Alcohol can interfere with how your brain makes memories. It is possible to wake with no recollection of what you did while your drinking, or even before.|
|hallucinations||For people with alcohol dependence, a sudden withdrawal may cause serious complications, including hallucinations.|
|dependence||Alcohol dependence varies from person to person so it’s hard to define. You may become physically dependent on alcohol if drinking alcohol starts to affect your ability to perform well in school or work. Or when it affects your relationships.|
|Cancer||Chronic drinkers of alcohol are more likely to develop throat, mouth, or esophagus cancers. Breast cancer is also more common in women who drink excessively.|
|Heart Damage||Chronic heavy drinking is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease.|
|Lung Infections||People who drink frequently have a hard time fighting off bacteria and viruses. They are also more susceptible to illnesses like tuberculosis and pneumonia.|
|Liver Damage||Chronic alcohol use can damage the liver and prevent it from properly removing harmful substances from your body.|
|Diabetes Complications||Excessive alcohol consumption may prevent your organs from properly balancing your blood sugar levels.|
|Pancreatitis||Excessive alcohol consumption or abuse is a leading cause of chronic pancreatitis.|
|Frequent diarrhea||Alcohol consumption can damage your intestines, which may lead to bouts of diarrhea or stomach pain.|
|Stomach distress||Drinking too much can lead to bloating, gas, and painful ulcers.|
|Malnutrition||Alcohol prevents your body from properly absorbing the vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat.|
|Fatigue||Fatigue or feeling tired may be a sign of anemia, which is a possible complication of alcoholism.|
|infertility||Over a long period of time, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol may cause infertility.|
|Birth Defects||A pregnant women’s heavy drinking can increase a baby’s risk for several conditions, including fetal alcohol syndrome and issues with mental development.|
|sexual dysfunction||Men who have alcohol use disorder are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction.|
|thinning bones||Drinking increases your risk of osteoporis or thinning bones.|
|Central Nervous System|
|Slurred Speech||Slurred speech is one of the first symptoms of excessive consumption.|
|Changes in coordination||Too much alcohol can interfere with your coordination and your ability to balance or walk.|
|Numbness||Tingling, numbness, or pain in your hands and feet may be a sign of damage to your central nervous systems.|
|Muscle cramps||People who drink often experience muscle cramping, weakness, and eventual muscle death.|
Digestive and endocrine glands
Drinking too much alcohol can cause abnormal activation of digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas. The buildup of these enzymes can lead to inflammation known as pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can become a long-term condition and cause serious complications.
The liver is an organ that helps break down and remove harmful substances from your body, including alcohol. Long-term alcohol use interferes with this process. It also increases your risk for chronic liver inflammation and liver disease. The scarring caused by this inflammation is known as cirrhosis. The formation of scar tissue destroys the liver. As the liver becomes increasingly damaged, it has a harder time removing toxic substances from your body.
Liver disease is life-threatening and leads to toxins and waste buildup in your body. Women are at higher risk for developing alcoholic liver disease. Women’s bodies are more likely to absorb more alcohol and need longer periods of time to process it. Women also show liver damage more quickly than men.
The pancreas helps regulate your body’s insulin use and response to glucose. When your pancreas and liver aren’t functioning properly, you run the risk of experiencing low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. A damaged pancreas may also prevent the body from producing enough insulin to utilize sugar. This can lead to hyperglycemia or too much sugar in the blood.
If your body can’t manage and balance your blood sugar levels, you may experience greater complications and side effects related to diabetes. It’s important for people with diabetes or hypoglycemia to avoid excessive amounts of alcohol.
Central nervous system
One of the easiest ways to understand alcohol’s impact on your body is by understanding how it affects your central nervous system. Slurred speech is one of the first signs you’ve had too much to drink. Alcohol can reduce communication between your brain and your body. This makes coordination more difficult. You may have a hard time balancing. You should never drive after drinking.
As alcohol causes more damage to your central nervous system, you may experience numbness and tingling sensations in your feet and hands.
Drinking also makes it difficult for your brain to create long-term memories. It also reduces your ability to think clearly and make rational choices. Over time, frontal lobe damage can occur. This area of the brain is responsible for emotional control, short-term memory, and judgment, in addition to other vital roles.
Chronic and severe alcohol abuse can also cause permanent brain damage. This can lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a brain disorder that affects memory.
Alcohol can affect your heart and lungs. People who are chronic drinkers of alcohol have a higher risk of heart-related issues than people who do not drink. Women who drink are more likely to develop heart disease than men who drink.
Circulatory system complications include:
- high blood pressure
- irregular heartbeat
- difficulty pumping blood through the body
- heart attack
- heart disease
- heart failure
- Difficulty absorbing vitamins and minerals from food can cause anemia. This is a condition where you have a low red blood cell count. One of the biggest symptoms of anemia is fatigue.
The connection between alcohol consumption and your digestive system might not seem immediately clear. The side effects often only appear after there has been damage. And the more you drink, the greater the damage will become.
Drinking can damage the tissues in your digestive tract and prevent your intestines from digesting food and absorbing nutrients and vitamins. As a result, malnutrition may occur.
Heavy drinking can also lead to:
- a feeling of fullness in your abdomen
- diarrhea or painful stools
For people who drink heavily, ulcers or hemorrhoids (due to dehydration and constipation) aren’t uncommon. And they may cause dangerous internal bleeding. Ulcers can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated early.
People who consume too much alcohol may also be at risk for cancer. People who drink frequently are more likely to develop cancer in the mouth, throat, esophagus, colon, or liver. People who regularly drink and use tobacco together have an even greater cancer risk.
Sexual and reproductive health
You may think drinking alcohol can lower your inhibitions and help you have more fun in bed. But the reality is quite different. Men who drink too much are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction. Heavy drinking can also prevent sex hormone production and lower your libido.
Women who drink too much may stop menstruating. That puts them at a greater risk for infertility. Women who drink heavily during pregnancy have a higher risk of premature delivery, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
Women who drink alcohol while pregnant put their unborn children at risk. Fetal alcohol syndrome disorders (FASD) are a serious concern. Other conditions include:
- learning difficulties
- long-term health issues
- increased emotional problems
- physical development abnormalities
- Skeletal and muscle systems
Long-term alcohol use may prevent your body from keeping your bones strong. This habit may cause thinner bones and increase your risk for fractures if you fall. And fractures may heal more slowly.
Drinking alcohol may also lead to muscle weakness, cramping, and eventually atrophy.
Drinking heavily reduces your body’s natural immune system. This makes it more difficult for your body to fight off invading germs and viruses.
People who drink heavily over a long period of time are also more likely to develop pneumonia or tuberculosis than the general population. About 10 percent of all tuberculosis cases worldwide can be tied to alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol also increases your risk for several types of cancer, including mouth, breast, and colon. Click here to learn the basics of alcoholism. You can also read about the stages of alcoholism and recognizing an addiction.
Some people who drink heavily may develop a physical and emotional dependency on alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal can be difficult and life-threatening. You often need professional help to break an alcohol addiction. As a result, many people seek medical detoxification to get sober. It’s the safest way to ensure you break the physical addiction. Depending on the risk for withdrawal symptoms, detoxification can be managed on either an outpatient or inpatient basis.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- high blood pressure
- irregular heartbeat
- heavy sweating
- Seizures, hallucinations, and delirium may occur in severe cases of withdrawal.