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How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?

by | Last updated Sep 14, 2021 at 9:50AM | Published on Mar 30, 2015 | Alcohol Addiction

how does alcohol affects the body

Most people know about the physical effects of alcohol, including slurred speech and nausea. However, when we question how does alcohol affects the body, the reality is much more complicated. After all, alcohol affects significant organs of our body, including our brain and liver, as well as our central nervous system. Let’s take a look at how alcohol affects the body.

Effects on the Pancreas

Chronic drinking can lead to an increase in toxic chemicals released into the pancreas. These chemicals inhibit pancreatic functioning and might lead to inflammation, also known as pancreatitis. Of course, this happens when the amounts of alcohol consumed are high.

When left unattended, the pancreas can stop working, which can cause death. Those with pancreatitis also struggle with other health conditions like high levels of glucose in the blood, diabetes, and others.

How it Affects the Liver

Most people know that alcohol can be detrimental to the liver. Alcoholic hepatitis happens when the liver is saturated with fatty tissue due to alcohol abuse. Over time, a fatty liver can lead to cirrhosis. Chronic cirrhosis cases left untreated can lead to liver disease, which can progress to full-blown liver failure. Once liver failure occurs, it can no longer filter toxic substances, leading to hazardous health problems.

Effects on the Cardiovascular System

The effects on the body and our cardiovascular system can be life-threatening as well. Heavy drinking can lead to high blood pressure, which increases someone’s risk of heart disease. Alcohol abuse can lead to cardiomyopathy, stroke, anemia, cardiac arrest, and heart failure.

Alcohol can change your heart’s rhythm. Long-term alcohol abuse can make these changes permanent and wear your heart out. Alcohol abuse makes heart muscles to droop and stretch. When this happens, your heart can’t pump blood effectively, impacting every area of your body.

Effects on the Immune System

So far, excessive alcohol consumption could lead to a higher risk of various types of cancer. When someone drinks heavily, they have an increased risk of mouth cancer, throat, liver, colon, and breast cancer.

Also, alcohol changes how our body’s immune system fights off infections. These are often the short-term effects of drinking alcohol. Even one night of binge drinking or heavy drinking can decrease our immune functioning for an entire day. This is one reason we often get sick with colds or the flu after a heavy drinking night. Long-term, heavy drinkers are much more likely to get illnesses like pneumonia and tuberculosis.

How it Affects the Stomach & Digestive System

Alcohol abuse and addiction touch almost every area of the digestive system. This is true of the mouth, throat, stomach, pancreas, and liver. Alcohol is very irritating, which is why alcoholics lose their teeth and even struggle with gum disease. It also leads to esophageal ulcers, which can cause internal bleeding.

In the stomach, alcohol causes acid reflux, heartburn, and nausea. Alcohol relaxes the muscle that keeps acid out of your esophagus, the tube that connects your mouth and stomach. It can also cause inflammation of the stomach’s lining and stomach ulcers. Once this happens, the stomach loses its ability to absorb nutrients from foods, control bacteria, and absorb vitamins.

The small intestine and color also get irritated. Alcohol throws off the speed that food moves through them, which is why heavy drinking causes diarrhea.

Possible Effects on the Reproductive System

While alcohol can certainly lower inhibitions and help some people who struggle with low sexual desire, it can also have the opposite effect. Alcohol can cause erectile dysfunction and decreased testicular function in men. For women, the effects of alcohol on the reproductive system can cause hormone irregularities, infertility, higher risk of miscarriage, and even early delivery. On occasions, women with alcohol abuse disorder also experience menstruating issues.

Lasting Effects on the Skeletal System

While the effects of alcohol on the skeletal system are less severe, it can still have an impact. Long-term alcoholism increases someone’s risk of bone fractures and even developing conditions such as osteoporosis. Alcohol abuse can also affect muscle tissue, leading to cartilage problems and other adverse effects.

Alcohol abuse can mess with people’s calcium levels. Beyond the hormonal changes, alcohol can prevent your body from building new bone. Over time, bones get thinner and more fragile. Alcohol also limits blood flow to the muscles and messes up the protein levels that build them up. Most long-term alcohol abusers have lower muscle mass and strength.

Treating Alcohol Addiction

Although alcohol is a commonly approved substance by society, around 14.4 million adults ages 18 and older struggle with alcohol abuse use disorder. Alcohol addiction treatment can help people manage their addictive behavior and find their way to recovery.

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we follow a personalized approach to alcohol addiction treatment. We know no two addiction cases are alike, so we create treatment programs that target individual needs. From alcohol detox programs that might include partial hospitalization treatment to ensure safety and comfort. To a full-time inpatient alcohol rehab program to offer addicts a safe and controlled environment.

Other alcohol addiction treatments include outpatient programs. These are excellent choices for those with mild addictions that can sustain a part-time or flexible rehab program while maintaining their daily responsibilities. Finally, individual and group therapy can help struggling addicts understand their illness better and foster supportive connections through networking opportunities that will help them stay sober in their long-term sobriety.

We also offer aftercare rehab programs and access to 12-step meetings to help people maintain a support system while in recovery to prevent relapse episodes. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction, don’t hesitate to contact us. Your phone call will be one-hundred percent anonymous, and our addiction specialists will guide you through our programs and help you find the right one for you.

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Our editorial team includes content experts that contribute to Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s blog. Editors and medical experts review our blogs for accuracy and relevance. We consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA and NIDA to provide you with the most comprehensive addiction-related content.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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