What indeed are the consequences of drinking alcohol? You wake up in the morning and the house is quiet. Everyone else has started their day. Your eyes feel heavy and puffy, your head feels heavy and puffy, and your body? It’s a huge aching sea lion beached on the bed!
Then you start to piece your memory together: what time did I go to bed? How much wine did I drink? What did I make for supper, and did I eat it? Was I aggro again? Did I fall asleep on the couch again?
You look in the mirror and you see puffy, red watery eyes, dull skin. You see a bloated tummy and you feel a furry mouth. Oh no! I did it again! Then you live with that guilt and shame all day. You are irritated and short-tempered with the pets, the cashier, the kids when they rock into the house after school. You can only think about that 5 o’clock drink that will make it all rosy again.
These are the immediate consequences of drinking alcohol. The long-term effects of alcohol on body, mind and spirit are damaging to say the very least! Alcohol impinges on the natural workings of your immune system. Alcohol impinges on your thoughts and on your desires. Alcohol can deplete your spirit and your beliefs in you and a higher power!
Let’s look at 10 consequences of drinking alcohol:
One of the biggest impacts of drinking is the damage to the neural pathways in the brain. Ever had blackouts? This is a sign that your brain is under strain. Listen to the podcast with Dr Loretta Breuning and how our brains become dependent on alcohol. Yes, alcohol affects the workings of the brain, changing moods and behaviour and making it harder for you to give it up, to think clearly and to even move with purpose.
Most of you know that a hangover is a word that refers to the symptoms that result from drinking too much: fatigue, weakness, headache, muscle ache, thirst and hunger, stomach ache, dizziness, sweating, irritation, high blood pressure… The Alcohol Rehab Guide reminds us that Prolonged and excessive alcohol use can interfere with how the brain functions, as well as how it’s structured. Damage to different regions of the brain, especially the cerebellum, limbic system and cerebral cortex, can significantly impact the body’s communication pathways. For example, the cerebellum handles your body’s motor skills. When alcohol affects this area of the brain, you’re more likely to experience a loss of balance, as well as memory and emotional response issues.
Your heart is your engine, keeping everything functioning at healthy optimum in your body. Your heart pumps your blood around your body. If you drink a lot, your blood is full of alcohol. Heavy drinking weakens the heart, which means that less oxygen and nutrients get to the rest of your body, especially your vital organs.
The Alcohol Rehab Guide reminds us that “excessive alcohol consumption can increase triglyceride levels – a type of fat in your blood. High levels of triglycerides contribute to the risk of developing dangerous health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Some of the early cardiovascular effects, like high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat, can lead to a host of problems down the road. Long-term consequences of excessive drinking may include cardiomyopathy, stroke and sudden cardiac death.”
My father died of a defective heart and there were many symptoms of his high alcohol intake at that late stage in his life! I mean, I think my dad could count the alcohol-free days on his fingers for his entire life!
The liver has a very important job to do in our bodies: it breaks down and filters out the harmful things in the blood that the heart is pumping around our bodies. The liver also makes proteins, enzymes and hormones which the body uses to fight infection. The liver converts any medications you take into substances that the body can use.
Did you know that liver processes 90% of the alcohol you consume and the other 10% is excreted through the urine, sweat and breathing? Too much alcohol means that the liver gets sick. It develops fatty deposits, inflammation (inflammation is the first sign of disease in any part of the body) and pain. Signs of a compromised liver include yellowish skin and eyes, pain in the abdomen and swelling, swelling in ankles and legs, dark urine, nausea and vomiting, itchy skin, fatigue and more. A fatty liver is linked to obesity, Diabetes 2 and liver failure. The end of the line is cirrhosis.
Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion. The pancreas is another vital organ that regulates body blood sugar levels and helps with digestion. Many doctors miss symptoms which go untreated until it is too late. Pancreatic cancer is dangerous and rapidly infects the rest of the body.
By now, most people reading this blog will know that alcohol causes cancer. It is a fact. Alcohol is linked to cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box, oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast. Janet Gourand can attest to this and a few more members who have had to come to terms with cancer-related to alcohol intake.
According to cancer.org, “Overall, the amount of alcohol someone drinks over time, not the type of alcoholic beverage, seems to be the most important factor in raising cancer risk. Most evidence suggests that it is the ethanol that increases the risk, not other things in the drink.” Please do your own research about cancer and alcohol, the internet is full of information.
Drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease. People who drink chronically are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much. Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections – even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.
We are currently enduring the mopping up of the Covid 19 pandemic which claimed millions of lives globally. Drinkers severely compromised their immune systems which then battled to fight harmful germs and ward off disease. A strong immune system, built on fresh fruits, vegetables and wholesome natural foods will fight disease.
The first sign of illness is inflammation in the body and a cold is a sign that the immune system is struggling. Alcohol actually triggers inflammation in the gut and the gut is a vital source of good bacteria. So the gut then weakens and the body struggles to fight disease. A healthy gut bacterium is the foundation of all health.
Alcohol use disorder causes lung infections and injury. The alcohol reduces antioxidant levels in the body and the upper and lower airways are negatively affected. Can you believe that researchers have found a link between alcohol intake and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)? Think of Covid and the respiratory distress many people suffered?
“Chronic alcohol ingestion constantly subjects the drinker’s airways to high concentrations of alcohol vapor, as best evidenced by the use of alcohol breath tests (i.e., Breathalyzer),” notes a research paper in the Alcohol Research Journal.
Alcohol damages nerve tissue. If you are starting to feel tingling or pain in your arms and legs, take note. Alcoholic neuropathy is when the peripheral nerves get damaged by the alcohol – these essential nerves are the ones that transport messages between the body, spinal cord and brain! Drinking depletes the essential vitamins needed for brain and spinal health, namely thiamine, folate, niacin, B6, B12 and vitamin E. Increase these vitamins when you stop drinking.
Peptic ulcer disease is a symptom of old age, overuse of anti inflammatory drugs, heavy smoking and heavy drinking. Think about it – healthy gut bacteria are the bottom line for all health. So, if we damage that bacteria, our immune system takes a beating and so too does everything else! When an ulcer forms, it is a sign that the gut is under dangerous strain.
Doctors are saying that ulcers are a physical sign that there are enormous mental and emotional problems in the patient. Ulcers can be extremely painful and the direct connection between alcohol and ulcers means that the pain will worsen, and long-term health issues will arise.
The American Addiction Centers website notes that people who drink alcohol are hiding a much bigger problem in tehri lives. Drinking is a form of self-medication caused by things like low self-esteem, poor working conditions, poor relationships, lack of resources and more. “Alcohol abuse can contribute to a painful sore in the stomach.”
Social, spiritual, emotional, mental and physical repercussions
Drinking alcohol is a sign of much bigger issues. It is a form of self-medication when life gets tough. It becomes a bad habit that is hard to break. Look deeply at your own life if you are a drinker:
- How are your relationships?
- How is your self-esteem or self-belief?
- Do you work or are you bored?
- Do you have a home, food to eat, and clothes to wear?
- What is your social history? What is your family history?
Drinking is a social issue, especially in South Africa. Alcohol does not solve mental and emotional issues; it makes them worse. Get help if you have a propensity for drinking.
Contact Tribe Sober and do one of their fantastic challenges. Make new friends and connect with a new sober tribe!