What happens to the body when we drink alcohol?
Leading into the weekend, many of us look forward to that first glass of wine after work on a Friday, or that beer after footy is over on a Saturday.
But it can be so easy for that glass of wine to lead to a bottle, or that beer turns into a 6 pack, plus a scotch and coke or two…
Current Australian Guidelines recommend no more than one alcoholic drink per day for women, and no more than two for men. But, consuming alcohol above these quantities is very common.
So, what happens to your body when you drink alcohol?
Here are 5 things that may make you reconsider reaching for that extra glass.
Drinking alcohol doesn’t directly cause weight gain, chances are if you are a regular drinker, there will be a few extra kilograms being carried. The liver needs to process alcohol before it can be burned off. As a result, alcohol stops your body from burning fat.
Furthermore, whilst alcohol is high in calories, it can increase feelings of hunger and reduce those of satiety. Plus, having that extra drink will often lead to poor food choices; that stop off at the local takeaway store on the way home is a common occurrence on a big night, and chances are that choosing the healthiest option won’t be front of mind.
Alcohol can affect our skin in a number of ways. Alcohol it is a diuretic. This means it increases the rate we lose fluid, or in other words, it dehydrates us.
Those tiny fine lines that are hidden when we are well hydrated suddenly become much more pronounced after a big night. Secondly, it can result in break-outs (especially if you’re prone to forgetting to take off your makeup) due to the sugar content of many alcoholic drinks.
A dull complexion and bloated, puffy face are other common signs of overindulging, an appearance most of us want to avoid!
CANCER, HEART DISEASE
Excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of a number of different diseases, including heart disease, liver disease and cancer, particularly mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, stomach, bowel, liver and breast cancer.
Slurred speech, difficulty walking in a straight line, impact on vision and even blacking out are all well known (and scary), short-term effects of alcohol consumption.
But the effects aren’t just short term. Alcohol’s impact on the brain can also be long term as well. Drinking six drinks in a sitting can result in damage to memory, especially for those under the age of 25, due to the vulnerability of the brain at this age.
Furthermore, the longer heavy drinking has occurred, the more likely it is those memory problems will occur. And ladies take note – you are more vulnerable than men to many of the medical consequences of alcohol use.
BUT, it’s not all bad news. Our brains are great at repairing themselves. Alcoholics with cognitive impairment show at least some improvement in brain structure and functioning after a year of no alcohol. And, whilst some people take much longer, this means that the damage may be reversible.
I couldn’t write an article about drinking alcohol without writing about the short-term impacts of over-consumption; the hangover. The smell of the alcohol coming out of your pores; nausea; vomiting; headaches… The wasted days spent in bed.
High intakes of alcohol increase pressure on the immune system. Sleep patterns are disrupted, stopping you from moving into REM (aka deep) sleep. Add to that the depressive effect of alcohol and overdoing it ain’t pretty!
SO WHAT TO DO?
- Alternate your alcohol with water
- Eat something before you go out
- Avoid skipping meals
- Avoid getting into rounds
- Be mindful of how much you’re pouring into your glass when at home
- Ensure to include alcohol-free days
- Plan something for the next morning that you don’t want to do hungover, to help deter going over the top the night before