What Does Alcohol Do to Your Body? Alcohol’s Effects on Physical Health

What Does Alcohol Do to Your Body? Alcohol's Effects on Physical Health

Alcohol is a common yet harmful substance. While it is most notorious for causing damage to the liver, it can harm numerous other organs. Alcohol use plays a significant role in more than 200 diseases and injury-related circumstances. [1] Although occasional alcohol use may not be dangerous to one’s body, those who may struggle with excessive or long-term alcohol consumption may be at risk for significant health concerns. It’s critical to understand alcohol’s effects on physical health before the complications become life-threatening.

What are Alcohol’s Effects on Physical Health?

Alcohol has several detrimental effects on a person’s physical health. Unfortunately, much of this damage can occur without any apparent symptoms – one may not know the extent of the damage until it is too late. Sometimes, it is possible to repair the organ destruction caused by alcohol; however, one cannot reverse the effects in many cases. Consider the following systems of the body and how they can be negatively affected by continued alcohol consumption:

Gastrointestinal System

The gastrointestinal tract is the first place that alcohol interacts with when consumed. This system includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines, and colon. Alcohol can seriously and quickly damage any of the delicate tissues associated with the digestive tract. Excessive or long-term use can lead to:

  • dental problems (like tooth decay, weakened enamel, and gingivitis)
  • weakened esophageal sphincter
  • esophageal ulcers
  • stomach ulcers
  • gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining)
  • impaired intestinal absorption of nutrients 

Symptoms of these complications can include mobile teeth, heartburn, nausea, vomiting blood, decreased appetite, abdominal pain, or diarrhea. 2

Also, alcohol can increase your risk for cancers associated with the digestive system, including esophageal and colorectal cancer. According to a recent study, those who consume more than 3.5 alcoholic beverages per day are at 1.5 times the risk of developing cancer of the colon or rectum than those who only drink occasionally or not at all. 3

Excretory System

Organs included in the excretory system work to eliminate toxins from the body, including alcohol. These detoxifying organs are the liver, pancreas, kidneys, and bladder.

When alcohol enters the system, the detoxifying liver works incredibly hard to eliminate the substance from the body. This burden can cause damage to the vital organ, called ARLD, or alcohol-related liver disease. 4 ARLD is categorized into three stages based on severity:

  1. Hepatic steatosis. The first stage of liver disease, hepatic steatosis, is also known as fatty liver. Over 90% of those who consume alcohol excessively experience fatty liver. If caught early, it can be reversed. 4
  2. Hepatitis. If left to progress, fatty liver will become hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver. Some people with hepatitis experience no symptoms, while others may note jaundice (yellowing of the skin and membranes), abdominal pain, vomiting, fever, or weight loss.
  3. Cirrhosis. The final and most advanced stage of ARLD is cirrhosis, characterized by significant scarring of the liver. The function of the liver is impaired at this point in the disease and can be life-threatening. Unfortunately, a liver transplant is sometimes the only form of treatment.

Alcohol use can result in inflammation of the pancreas or pancreatitis. This is caused by alcohol’s interference with the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin. Pancreatitis is incredibly painful and dangerous. The urinary system’s organs (kidney, bladder, and prostate) can also become inflamed with alcohol use.

Continued after infographic:

What Does Alcohol Do to Your Body? Alcohol's Effects on Physical Health

Alcohol’s Effects on Physical Health – Your Cardiac System

Unfortunately, excessive alcohol use can have unfavorable if not life-threatening effects on one’s heart. 5 Even those who may refrain from drinking for extended periods then over-consume in one episode are at risk for heart-related complications. Damage to the vital organ can lead to:

  • Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats)
  • Cardiomyopathy (stretching or dilated of the heart muscle)
  • Stroke
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Blood clotting issues

Skeletal System

Alcohol consumption can place you at higher risk for broken bones and osteoarthritis. 6 This affects not only growing young people but all adults, regardless of age. With continued or heavy alcohol use, new bone formation becomes disrupted, vitamin absorption impaired, and hormone regulation interrupted. These complications mean that a harmless fall could result in a painful and/or life-altering fracture.

Reproductive System

Alcohol use can negatively affect the reproductive systems of both men and women. It commonly leads to erectile dysfunction, low testosterone, and infertility in male alcohol consumers and can cause irregular menstrual cycles, disrupted hormone levels, and infertility in women. 7, 8

Take Control of Your Health with Clear Life Recovery and Stop Alcohol’s Effects on Physical Health Today

If you are worried about the effects of alcohol on your physical health, act before it’s too late. To protect yourself from long-term damage, it’s critical to first halt the introduction of alcohol into your body.

By taking the first step toward recovery, you can start down the path toward a healthier and longer life. The compassionate professionals of Clear Life Recovery can provide you with the medical and emotional support you need to care for your body. Take control of your health today. Contact our experienced specialists to begin living the healthy life you deserve.

 

Sources:
[1]: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/alcohol
[2]: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh21-1/76.pdf
[3]: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body
[4]:https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/liver-and-gallbladder-disorders/alcoholic-liver-disease/alcoholic-liver-disease
[5] https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh21-1/21.pdf
[6]: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-3/190.pdf
[7] https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-4/282-287.htm
[8] https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh26-4/274-281.htm

About Benjamin Hogan

Over the years, Benjamin has held positions in many different areas of alcohol and drug addiction services all over the country. He made a name for himself as an interventionist and has held certification as a Certified National Drug and Alcohol Interventionist (CNDAI-II). Benjamin specializes in helping support families of people struggling with addiction by focusing on education and instilling healthy boundaries to ensure lasting changes. Addiction is a progressive disease, but using an evidence-based approach, an intervention, when done correctly, can help to increase the willingness of a loved one to seek sobriety faster.

"In my experience, by helping families make necessary changes, they not only get their lives back, but they also help change the mind of their loved one more quickly. In an intervention, family and other loved ones take a proactive approach, instead of waiting and being stuck between fear and (false) hope. I realized in my own recovery, that when my family changed, I had to change in response. That is where I found sobriety. This is why I believe in what I do!"