How Does Alcohol Affect Your Body?
Consuming alcohol can become a dangerous habit that may have many adverse affects on the human body. Alcohol releases toxins as it is being broken down by the liver; these toxins destroy liver cells and can eventually cause liver disease and failure. Once the liver is badly damaged, it cannot effectively break down the alcohol. When this occurs, the alcohol is sent to different areas of the body where it will do more damage. It is important to be educated about the affects of alcohol on the human body. If people are aware of the dangers of alcohol they might drink less or not at all.
Chronic alcohol consumption is the basis of disruption in brain neurotransmissions which can cause drowsiness, mood swings, changes in behavior, agitation, depression, loss of memory and seizures. Long-term drinking will cause further impairment of brain function by altering changes in the brain such as shrinking brain mass as the brain’s inner cavity grows bigger. Problems arising from this type of damage involve many altered and impaired functions. Some of these problems affect memory and learning, mood changes, sleep, motor function, temperature regulation and various cognitive functions. Alcohol affects glutamate, one of the neurotransmitters of the brain that regulates memory.
When glutamate action is disrupted it may cause the individual to blackout and not remember anything that occurs during the blackout. When the liver has been damaged by alcohol, it will begin to release toxic alcohol by-products into the body. Ammonia and manganese, among other toxins, causes damage to brain cells and leads to developing hepatic encephalopathy. This disease is serious and can be fatal. Some of the adverse symptoms of hepatic encephalopathy are anxiety, depression, short attention span, sleep disturbances, mood and personality changes, coordination problems, coma and death. Alcohol can also affect a fetus causing the baby to be born with a wide array of physical and mental problems.
Another problem caused by alcohol is a weakened heart that droops, stretches and cannot contract properly. This condition is called cardiomyopathy and it causes a shortage of blood flow to the body. Symptoms of cardiomyopathy include fatigue, swollen feet and legs, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Binge drinking and long-term drinking both affect how quickly and effectively the heart beats. Alcohol use also leads to arrhythmias, causing the heart to beat too quickly or irregularly. Binge drinking and long-term drinking can also cause strokes. Binge-drinkers are at a risk of 56% more than non-binge drinkers to suffer an ischemic stroke over a ten year period. Prolonged alcohol use and binge drinking also cause high blood pressure and adversely affect the muscles and blood vessels of the heart.
More than two million Americans suffer from liver disease due to alcohol consumption. The liver is essential to our health and performs over 500 different functions. The liver’s main function is to purify our blood and remove toxins from the body. It stores excess blood sugar, produces enzymes to break down fat, regulates blood clotting, helps to digest food, absorbs and stores vitamins and minerals and controls infections. Heavy drinking causes damage to the liver and leads to disease of the liver and liver failure. Moderate liver damage may be reversed with the abstinence of alcohol and a healthy diet. Severe liver damage cannot be reversed but symptoms may improve with abstinence and a healthy diet.
The role of the pancreas is to send enzymes to the small intestine to metabolize food. When the pancreas is damaged by alcohol, the enzymes remain in the pancreas instead of moving to the small intestine. The build-up of enzymes is harmful to the pancreas and over time the host will develop acute pancreatitis. The adverse symptoms of acute pancreatitis are diarrhea, sweating, nausea, vomiting, fever, rapid heart rate, abdominal pain, a reduction in pancreatic and digestive function, and blood sugar problems. Chronic pancreatitis will eventually destroy the pancreas and may lead to diabetes and death.
Other areas of the body that are adversely affected by alcohol are the lungs, kidneys, immune system, stomach and more. Chronic alcohol consumption may also cause cancer and can affect every area of a person’s body. The moderate use of alcohol is recommended for those who wish to drink, with abstinence being the ideal. If you have an alcohol-use problem it is important that you get help now before you begin to develop disease and a break-down of your body. Speak with your physician or reach out to a licensed drug and alcohol rehabilitation center near you.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the White Sands Treatment Center at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.