Alcohol is the second most commonly used drug after tobacco. It is widely used throughout the world. Even in developed countries, people consume it frequently. Despite alcohol working to elevate our mood and can make us happy, it has severe health implications for our bodies when used for long periods.
Alcohol has both short-term as well as long-term effects on our bodies. Short-term impacts on our health include headaches, vomiting, nausea, gastrointestinal upset, drowsiness, change in taste, loss of decision power, and memory loss. These impacts do not occur for a long time but might create other problems such as a traffic accident and injury to self.
Effects of Alcohol on the Body
You may not feel the effect of alcohol immediately, however, the body will be affected as soon as the first drink is taken. If you have ever drunk alcohol, you have probably had a little exposure to the effects. Because such effects last very long they may seem like a minor problem, especially for those who drink regularly.
Some people assume that drinking beer or wine during dinnertime is not an issue, however, alcohol consumption could cause unintentional adverse health effects. In the long-term, alcohol severely damages our major organs such as the liver, heart, kidney, blood vessels, and stomach. This article refers to the hidden effects of alcohol consumption on the body.
Effects of alcohol on the body continued
All people have different experiences with alcohol. While some people limit drinking, many struggle with controlling their drinking. To properly consume alcohol, you should first understand its consequences. The impact on an individual can vary by several risk factors, such as the amount and frequency of consumption. You may be dealing with alcohol withdrawal symptoms and need help.
Alcohol and traumatised injuries
Alcohol has dangerous physical and mental health risks and can lead to serious mental and emotional damage. Alcohol reduces the inhibition level so it can cause more of you to act hastily or irresponsibly. Moreover, there is a possibility of serious injuries if these actions are taken. Alcohol causes approximately 60% of fatal burns, drownings and murders, 50% of fatal traumatic injuries and sexual assaults. 20. Furthermore, they will be given a certificate of completion.
How does alcohol affect your physical health?
All alcohol is detrimental and risks start when one takes a gulp. Around 92,700 people die of the alcohol-related disease every year, nearly half of them because alcohol causes heart or liver damage.
Short-term effects of alcohol on the body
When you consume a few drops of alcohol, the brain can react in many directions. Drinking too much in one day can cause you headaches or a hangover after an excessively heavy alcoholic beverage. What makes alcohol so harmful to one's health is that it can be absorbed through a person's system which leads to headaches and dehydration and may cause other complications.
Long-term effects of alcohol on the body
If you rely heavily on alcohol and drink for long periods it may damage the organs in your body and inhibit their functioning.
According to the NHS, there were 358,000 hospital admissions in 2018/19 where the primary reason for hospitalisation was related to drinking alcohol. In 2018, 5,698 alcohol-specific deaths occurred in the UK. See more statistics on the NHS website.
Top 10 unseen effects of alcohol
Impact of alcohol on the liver
After ingestion, alcohol is metabolised in the liver. As a result, chronic alcohol intake can cause hepatitis, cirrhosis, and fatty liver. The liver can tolerate alcohol in small amounts. However, excessive intake can lead to permanent illnesses. The clinical findings in such conditions can range from acute ailment to end-stage cirrhosis. Cirrhosis of the liver results in the secretion of harmful toxins into the bloodstream, negatively affecting the brain. In addition, it creates extra fluid called ascites in the abdomen, which leads to kidney failure. Around 15 to 20% of consumers of alcohol suffer from cirrhosis.
A liver function test is performed to find out the liver condition. The serum level of liver enzymes rises when there is any abnormality in the liver. This enzyme is usually elevated to a higher number in case of cirrhosis. Treatment for cirrhosis includes symptomatic treatment, and abstinence from alcohol is essential. The end-stage of this disease can also require a liver transplant.
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- Impact of alcohol on the heart
Excessive alcohol intake speeds up the heart rate, which leads to increased blood flow and enlargement of the blood vessels. Cholesterol levels increase in the alcoholic, accumulating in the heart vessels, and as a result, the oxygen supply declines. Cardiac muscles are then stretched to meet the heart's oxygen demand, hence leading to angina and myocardial infarction. Regular use of alcohol results in high blood pressure and thickens the arterial walls, which puts the heart at risk. There is even a risk of stroke and heart failure.
See our Heart Disease Risk Health test here.
- Impact of alcohol on pancreas
Alcohol is the leading cause of pancreatitis. The pancreas swells up and becomes inflamed to the point where the patient presents with severe pain in the abdomen. The acinar cells present in the lumens of the pancreas secret pancreatic juice, which is helpful in the digestion of food. The toxin is produced as a by-product of alcohol, damages these acinar cells and decreases the flow of pancreatic juice, which can eventually affect the metabolism of food.
- Impact of alcohol on kidneys
The kidneys play an essential role in regulating water and electrolytes in the body. Therefore, the water and minerals remain balanced when the kidney functions correctly. However, frequent alcohol intake creates harmful toxins which damage the kidney and disturb its functioning, resulting in oedema. Alcohol also affects the hormones of the kidney, which leads to acute infection. Similarly, alcohol can cause kidney stones which are present with severe pain.
See our Kidney Health Test here.
- Impact of alcohol on the brain
The brain is the control house of the body. It arranges and coordinates the organs of our body with one another. Any harmful effects on the brain can derange this coordination and result in a severe outcome. Alcohol influences our brain by diminishing its function. Examples include memory loss, slow response, impaired speech, and dim vision. In addition, studies found that the brain reduces in size in those who use alcohol.
- Impact on the immune system
Alcohol impairs the immune system and brings down the defensive power of our body to fight against the infection. In addition, it causes vitamin and mineral deficiency, which are needed to improve our body's immune system.
- Increases the risk of cancer
Alcohol and its by-products generate cancer-causing substances called carcinogens. These carcinogens develop cancer cells in the breast, liver, prostate, oesophagus, and head and neck region. A study suggests that alcohol increases the chance of head and neck cancer at least 3 to 4 times.
- Impact on muscle and bones
As discussed earlier in this article, alcohol intake causes a deficiency of vitamins and minerals in the body. These vitamins and minerals are the core substances of bone and muscles. In the case of mineral deficiency, the bone structure becomes less dense and more fragile. Fragile bones are prone to fracture. In addition, alcohol elevates uric acid in the blood, which deposits in the joints and causes severe pain and dryness. The addict feels tired and finds it difficult to complete his daily task due to muscle weakness.
- Impact on the digestive system
The liver secretes bile juice for the metabolism of food. Excessive alcohol intake reduces the secretion of bile juice from the liver and, therefore, disturbs the metabolic and absorption process of the body. In addition, it increases bowel movement resulting in diarrhoea. Some cases have also reported rectum carcinoma in alcoholics.
- Impact on senses
Alcohol reduces the function of our senses both in the short-term and long-term. Our bodies become unable to perceive an external stimulus of taste, hearing, smell, and touch. It diminishes the nervous system, which cannot respond appropriately to stimuli.
There are many adverse effects relating to alcohol consumption - the more serious effects, being in the long-term. These effects are mostly unseen and may require a doctor's diagnosis, however, you can make a change by monitoring your daily alcohol intake.
If you feel that you do need help, contact your doctor or refer to the NHS who can advise you on getting support.
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