We’re all familiar with recent studies that attribute the antioxidants found in a single glass of red wine to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, but what happens when the single glass turns into a bottle? Over time, excessive alcohol consumption begins to weaken the heart muscle resulting in blood flow irregularities. Alcoholics and binge drinkers are often plagued by a condition known as cardiomyopathy where the heart stretches and droops. People diagnosed with cardiomyopathy caused by alcohol tend to experience shortness of breath, arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), fatigue, enlarged liver, and a persistent cough. Alcohol can also increase the risk of a heart attack, stroke, and hypertension.
Beyond that initial feeling of euphoria, alcohol can have a detrimental effect on the brain. By slowing the relay of information between neurotransmitters, the ethanol found in alcoholic drinks can cause damage to multiple areas of the brain. Prolonged damage to the brain’s neurotransmitters can result in behavioral and mood changes such as depression, anxiety, memory loss, and seizures. Alcoholism combined with poor nutrition can also trigger Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, “Wet Brain.” Alcoholics with “Wet Brain” experience a form of depression characterized by memory loss, confusion, hallucinations, loss of muscle coordination, and an inability to form new memories.
We tend to underscore the importance of the human liver, however, many alcoholics can tell you with certainty just how important liver function really is. Our livers are essential when it comes to proper food digestion, nutrient absorption, controlling infections, and ridding the body of toxins. There are over two million people in the U.S. who suffer from liver disease caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Liver cirrhosis ranked as the 12th leading cause of death among Americans in 2009. Out of the 31,522 deaths reported that year, 48.2 percent were considered alcohol related. Around one out every three liver transplants in the U.S. is the result of liver disease caused by alcohol consumption.
A lot like the brain, large amounts of alcohol can confuse the pancreas causing it to secret enzymes internally instead of sending them to the small intestines. The buildup of enzymes in the pancreas will eventually cause inflammation. This inflammation, also known as pancreatitis, can either occur as a sudden attack (acute pancreatitis) that includes symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, increase heart rate, diarrhea, and fever or chronic pancreatitis which slowly deteriorates the pancreas, leading to diabetes and even death.
The effect alcohol has on the liver can also spread to the kidneys. Due to the diuretic effect alcohol has on increasing the amount of urine the body produces, the kidneys are not able to do their job of regulating the flow and makeup of body fluids including the distribution of sodium, potassium, and chloride ions. This can in turn disturb our balance of electrolytes. Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to high blood pressure, the second leading cause of kidney failure. >>>. HOW ALCOHOLISM DEVELOPS>> Many of us have a drink with dinner, or a few when going out with friends or at family gatherings. But for some people, the occasional drink is not occasional at all, but habitual and excessive. Alcoholism is a disease where the body becomes physically addicted or dependent on alcohol. For many alcoholics, as with other substance abuse disorders, drinking becomes a compulsion rather than a choice. This means alcoholics continue to drink despite the deleterious effects on personal relationships, everyday life and overall health. Many suffering from alcoholism may not even recognize that they have it, and can’t recognize the symptoms that they display. About 8% of Americans are diagnosed as alcoholics. Some signs of alcoholism are high tolerance for large amounts of alcohol, drinking alone, being unable to control your drinking habits, and feelings of sickness or withdrawal without alcohol. Regular, and/or excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to symptoms like:
· Numbness or a painful feeling in your arms or legs
· Erectile dysfunction
· Leaking urine
· Urine retention
· Bleeding from the stomach or esophagus
· Swelling and damage to the pancreas
· Damage to the liver
· Nutritional deficiencies
Over time, the above symptoms worsen and lead to serious health conditions. Some of the major risks posed to your health are several types of cancer, liver disease, heart disease and depression. Let’s evaluate how alcohol can damage your body:
1. Cancer: Excessive amounts of alcohol have been linked to mouth, esophageal, liver, breast and colon cancer. The risk of cancer increases because the body converts alcohol into acetaldehyde, a potent carcinogen.
2. (Especially) Liver Cancer: If an individual consumes 3 or more alcoholic drinks per day, they are at high risk for developing liver cancer. This is important at liver cancer kills 746,000 people globally per year.
3. Liver Cirrhosis: Alcohol abuse can lead to inflammation and scarring of the liver tissue. This condition can become lethal when the liver is so heavily scarred that it is unable to function.
4. Anemia: Lowers red blood cell count
5. Heart Disease: Heavy drinking, especially bingeing, makes platelets more likely to clump together into blood clots, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.
6. Pancreatitis: Drinking inflames the pancreas, causing this condition. Chronic pancreatitis interferes with the digestive process, causes severe abdominal pain and persistent diarrhea.
7. Dementia: Alcohol abuse can speed up this process of age-related brain shrinking. This results in marked memory loss and other symptoms of dementia.
8. Depression: Studies have shown that heavy drinking can lead to depression and that depression can likewise lead to heavy drinking.
9. Gout: Alcohol abuse can aggravate existing joint pain, and worsen cases of gout which affects the joints.
10. Seizures: Heavy drinking can trigger seizures and be a cause of epilepsy.
11. Nerve Damage: Heavy drinking can cause a form of nerve damage known as alcoholic neuropathy. This condition produces pain and numbness in the muscles, can cause erectile dysfunction, incontinence and constipation.
12. Infection: Excessive amounts of alcohol can weaken the immune system, leaving the body most susceptible to infection.