First, the good news: a bit of alcohol like wine can be beneficial to the body. It is rich in an antioxidant called resveratrol that helps reduce harmful cholesterol levels. In effect, it protects the heart.
The problem is most Brits drink a lot of alcohol. The data show they consume nearly 10 liters annually. Older adults, especially the baby boomers, tend to chug even more than their young counterparts.
As the Spice Girls say, too much of something is bad. But how can excessive alcohol damage the body? Why is an essential to your well-being?
How the Body Handles Alcohol
The dangers of alcohol lie on its harmful effects on the body, especially to the liver and brain. To understand this, it’s best to know how you break it down.
- Once it enters the body, it goes straight to the stomach, but only a small portion of it stays there. The rest proceeds to the small intestines. It then passes through the walls and enters the bloodstream.
- In the bloodstream, it passes through the liver, the biggest internal organ. The liver is responsible for dozens of functions, including metabolizing substances like alcohol. It breaks it down into toxic substances. One of these is acetaldehyde, a known carcinogen. It explains why alcohol increases the risk of liver cancer, among others.
- The chain reactions that alcohol goes through include further breaking it down into carbon dioxide so that the body can eliminate it.
But there’s more.
1. Alcohol Is a Diuretic
It increases urine output. Within 20 minutes, your urine flow already rises. If you’re binge drinking, then you secrete of this waste product.
While that sounds like good news, it isn’t in the long-term. It could lead to an electrolyte imbalance, harming the kidneys, heart, and brain.
2. Alcohol Is Also a Depressant
It affects the central nervous system, particularly the brain. It slows down your cognitive function, which impairs your speech or language and everyday tasks such as driving.
Although it could relax you, it could also make you sleepy fast. That can be dangerous if you still need to be behind the wheel.
Lastly, because it hampers the communication of nerve cells, your memory suffers. That’s why you cannot remember what happens after you drink heavily.
3. Alcohol Damages the Pancreas
The pancreas is a small organ that also helps in metabolizing alcohol. The toxic by-products then slowly damage the tissues, leading to inflammation.
Alcohol, which can contain loads of sugar, can also compel this organ to produce insulin. It is a hormone that helps deliver glucose to cells for their metabolism. Chronic drinking, therefore, raises the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Why You Need Alcohol Detox
Alcohol detox programs offer plenty of benefits for chronic alcohol drinkers. One, they can help kick the habit for good or decrease the odds of relapse.
Second, they may improve your relationship with alcoholic beverages. This way, you can enjoy a wine or two without falling off the wagon.
However, these programs can also get rid of the toxic substances that may still be in your system, damaging the organs slowly but surely. They can help you cope with withdrawal symptoms, which can be severe for long-term binge drinkers.
Some facilities can develop outpatient programs. Patients need not leave their jobs for an extended period, and they can schedule their treatments along with their daily activities. This boosts compliance, boosting the chances of being treated correctly.
A sip or even a glass a few times a month can be great. But if you’re drinking more, perhaps it’s time to seek help. The sooner you do, the faster you minimize the risks that alcohol gives to your body.