Drinking alcohol has long been a part of our culture of socialising, and is also widely enjoyed during celebrations to mark significant events in our lives, such as weddings and birthdays. Although drinking alcohol can be a great way to relax, socialise and to celebrate, the effect that it has on the body over time should not be ignored.
When you drink alcohol it will be absorbed into your bloodstream and can have an effect on every part of the body. If you have eaten prior to consuming alcohol, or you eat whilst you are drinking, then alcohol will be absorbed much slower than if you drink on an empty stomach. This means that eating can help to prevent the physical and emotional effects of alcohol. Foods that are high in fat are best for slowing down the rate of absorption.
A small amount of alcohol will exit your system through your urine and also through your breath. When you drink more alcohol than your body can process then you are going to get drunk. The rate at which this happens will depend on your weight, as well as your gender, and a few other contributing factors.
Let’s take a closer look at how the different systems in the body are affected by the presence of alcohol.
Your excretory system processes and eliminates waste from your body - including alcohol! A pivotal part of this process is when the pancreas secretes digestive enzymes. These enzymes mix with bile produced by the gallbladder in order to digest food.
When consumed in excess, alcohol can cause substances produced by the pancreas to become toxic, causing it to malfunction. This can cause inflammation which can lead to pancreatitis - a condition that can prevent the pancreas from functioning well, or at all.
Another essential component of the excretory system is the liver. The liver breaks down harmful substances, making it possible for the body to deal with them. Regularly consuming too much alcohol can cause a condition known as alcoholic hepatitis. It can also cause cirrhosis of the liver. Both of these things can ruin this essential organ, resulting in toxic substances being left loose in your body. This can soon have fatal consequences. Furthermore, the presence of alcohol can heighten your risk of developing liver cancer.
All parts of your digestive system can be affected by the presence of alcohol. Even isolated incidents of heavy drinking can be enough to cause damage to your digestive tract. You may also experience stomach ulcers, as well as ulcers in your esophagus. Heartburn and acid reflux are also likely to occur.
When you damage your digestive system in this way you are more likely to experience irregular bowel movements, as well as gas and a feeling of fullness in the abdomen.
The glands in your mouth and in your tongue can be damaged by frequent exposure to alcohol. The knock on effects of this can be tooth decay and gum disease.
Just one incident of heavy drinking can be enough to take a toll on your heart. However, those who frequently drink more than recommended are of course more at risk.
When you drink alcohol in excess you run the risk of poisoning the cells in the heart muscle, increasing your blood pressure, increasing your risk of having a stroke and also of creating an irregular heartbeat. You will also put yourself at a heightened risk for failure of the heart.
Central Nervous System
Even a small amount of alcohol can have an effect on your central nervous system. You may notice that when you drink it is harder to talk normally, or that your speech becomes slurred and incoherent. Alcohol will also affect your coordination, making it more difficult for you to walk and balance as you usually would be able to.
Your ability to think clearly can also be impacted when you drink, and this is due to the effect that this substance has on your central nervous system. You can also observe your impulse control to be affected, as well as your ability to remember what has happened.
If you drink more than is recommended then you run the risk of damaging your central nervous system. This can lead to strange sensations in your extremities, as well as pain and numbness in other areas of your body.
Being aware of how much you are drinking is the best way to limit the potential ill effects of alcohol. If you do not want to cut alcoholic drinks out of your life completely then make sure you always know how many units of alcohol you are consuming in each sitting.
The official advice is that you should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week. Being aware can help you to enjoy yourself as well as avoiding the ill-effects that alcohol can have on the body!