The Truth Revealed
It is often said that alcohol affects the body and drinking too much is unhealthy. This information alone is rarely enough to convince anyone to stop drinking. The statement is so vague that it does not get to the core of what alcohol really does to the brain and the body when it is consumed. Is it really that bad? The short answer is yes. Alcohol affects almost every single body system that there is. It is basically a poison that is altering the way the body was meant to work.
The Key is Moderation
The good news is that in moderation, alcohol does not have near as many adverse effects. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, men are allowed up to four drinks in any given day and up to 14 drinks per week to stay low-risk. For women, they can stay low-risk by consuming up to three drinks on any given day and up to seven drinks in a week. People over 65 should also follow these same guidelines. Both the weekly and daily allowance both need to be met for the person to stay low risk. Of course, anyone with certain medical conditions or pregnant women need to avoid alcohol altogether. For the intents of this study, one drink is comprised of 12 fl oz of beer OR 8-9 fl oz of malt liquor OR 5 fl oz of wine OR 1.5 fl oz of hard liquor.
So what exactly can alcohol do to the body if more than this amount is consumed? First off, it is important to realize that alcohol affects each person differently. The following findings are just general statements on how alcohol affects the majority of people. For some, the effects are much worse, while others get lucky and don’t experience them at all. Here are effects that alcohol will have on the average person.
How Alcohol Affects the Brain
When alcohol is consumed, it always has an effect on the brain in one way or another. The quickest result is that it slows down the neurotransmitters in the brain. This results in slurred speech, slowed movements, and clumsiness. In other words, the symptoms most people associate with being drunk. These symptoms are temporary and the brain can go back to functioning normally after just a few hours of being sober.
However, long-term use of alcohol can have much more detrimental effects on the brain. In fact, it can completely change the brain structure and shrink the brain cells. The results of this are astounding. The main parts of the brain that are damaged with long-term alcohol use are the cerebral cortex and the cerebellum. When the cerebellum is damaged, the user will experience problems with memory, which can affect the ability to learn. Emotional responses will be jeopardized and long-term problems with motor coordination may occur.
When the cerebral cortex is damaged, a person will struggle with thinking clearly. They will struggle with planning or acting intelligently. The user will also struggle with problem solving. Shrunken brain cells can affect temperature regulation, sleep, mood, and cognitive functions. While most of these effects will only occur with long-term use, too much alcohol at any one given time may also contribute to them. The good news is that many of the effects are reversible with abstinence.
The Effects on the Heart
While short-term drinking has very few negative effects on the heart, long-term drinking can be quite severe. The alcohol actually weakens the heart, making it too weak to pump the amount of blood that is needed to the vital organs, such as the brain and lungs. This can result in shortness of breath, fatigue, and even heart failure.
With binge drinking or long-term alcohol use, the heart may also change the way it beats. It will either beat too fast or irregularly. This can lead to blood clots, which can result in a stroke.
The good news is that in minimal amounts, alcohol has been proven to be beneficial to the heart. If men consume less than two drinks per day and women stay under one, alcohol may actually reduce the buildup of fat in the arteries, which can help prevent heart attack and stroke. However, people should not start drinking just for these benefits, and people with pre-existing medical conditions may not experience this perk.
How the Liver is Affected by Alcohol
It is common knowledge that excessive alcohol use can lead to liver damage; however, the effects of alcohol on the liver can be much more profound. For starters, when the liver breaks down the alcohol in the body, an even more harmful toxin in generated. These toxins damage the cells of the liver and weaken the body’s natural defenses.
Heavy drinking, even only on occasion, can also lead to fat buildup in the liver that makes it difficult for the liver to function the way it is supposed to. Since the liver is responsible for removing harmful substances from the blood and absorbing nutrients, if it is not working correctly, the results can be detrimental.
For many people, they are either born with the cancer gene or they are not. This gene can sit dormant for a person’s entire life if they never consume any triggers. That being said, alcohol is a known trigger for cancer. For that reason, many people who end up with cancer are alcohol drinkers. In fact, the National Cancer Institute believes that alcohol is a known risk factor for several types of cancer, including cancer of the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, liver and breast. These risks are intensified if the user also smokes.
Even just one drink a day can raise the risks of a person developing cancer. That is because the toxins that are created when the body breaks down the alcohol can damage the genetic material on cells. It can make the cells struggle with repairing damage and can make the cells grow too fast.
Alcohol can greatly reduce a person’s natural immunity after they drink. That is because alcohol makes white blood cells function at a subpar level. They are not able to fight off infections as well as they should be. This makes users susceptible to everything from the common cold to more severe conditions, such as pneumonia and tuberculosis. Even the chances of contracting HIV are higher when alcohol is consumed. With binge drinking, immunity is greatly impacted for up to 24 hours after consumption, so people need to use extra precaution during this time.
When it enters the body, it spreads through the blood and alcohol affects every part of the body. While some results can be seen immediately, others are more gradual. Since these gradual effects cannot be seen, they are often left undiscovered until they are much more difficult to treat.
The best way to avoid these detrimental effects is to limit oneself to the recommended amounts of alcohol that were mentioned earlier. If this can be accomplished, the feel-good short-term effects of alcohol will still be experienced, but the potentially fatal long-term effects can be avoided. Alcohol can be a fun part of life, and it can enhance special occasions and social events. However, if at any point the suspicion of an addiction is present, that person should seek treatment immediately.