Here at Flexible Workout, we believe that your fitness is not only a condition, but it’s a statement about how determined, disciplined, and focused you are.
With that being said, just as there is a time to be focused and disciplined, there’s also a time to celebrate and enjoy yourself. For many adults, celebrations include (and even encourage) alcohol consumption.
Now we’re not here to tell you it’s right or wrong to drink (responsibly, of course), but we do think it’s important to discuss how alcohol affects the body, since it does have both short-term and long-term effects on your health.
What is Alcohol?
Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is the sedative hypnotic ingredient found in beer, wines, and liquors. It comes from the fermentation of grains, fruits, and other sources of sugar.
Alcohol belongs to a class of substances known as depressants.
Depressants slow down body processes, reaction times, and decrease inhibitions. Because of the relaxing effect it can have on users, alcohol is often a staple beverage at social gatherings.
In fact, there have been studies that have shown a positive association with wine consumption and lower risk of heart disease; however, these studies aren’t strong in evidence as they base their observations on association, not causation.
How does alcohol affect the body first?
If you guessed the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) is affected first, you would be correct. Your brain has three main divisions that are affected by alcohol.
- First, alcohol affects the forebrain, which is responsible for coordination and decision-making. Heavy drinkers become clumsy, slow in their speech and cognition, and lose their inhibitions and ability to make sensible choices.
- Second, alcohol affects the midbrain, causing drinkers to lose emotional control and increase the risk of losing consciousness.
- Third, it affects the hindbrain, including the cerebellum and brainstem which control balance, appetite, body temperature, and heart rate. This area is responsible for vasodilation, which increases blood flow and may make a person look more flushed (similar to how your skin looks after an intense workout).
This effect shouldn’t be confused with the alcohol flush reaction (AFR), which is very common in East Asians. This is a syndrome where the body is unable to process alcohol properly, and the symptom of this reaction is a very red blotchy face, neck, and other body parts.
Heavily drinking alcohol can be dangerous as people may do things they would not usually do. They are unable to judge risks and make reasoned decisions, and ultimately other aspects of their lives can become less important. Consuming large amounts of alcohol over long periods of time can damage brain cells.
How else does Alcohol Affect the Body?
Since the circulatory system is affected (vessels dilating), you can imagine that the rest of the body follows suit.
Lungs are also affected, since bodies end up breathing out up to 8% of the alcohol consumed; this is why police officers use breathalyzer tests to determine how intoxicated a person may be. If a person consumes a large amount of alcohol, they are at a higher risk of aspirating (breathing in) vomit while they sleep, which can lead to pneumonia (a serious lung infection), or at worst can be fatal.
Digestive organs are put into overdrive to try and clear the alcohol out of the person’s system; this includes the stomach, intestines, and liver. Kidneys also have to work harder to filter out the alcohol which is considered by your body to be a waste.
What is Alcoholism?
Alcohol is an addictive substance, and therefore can take over a person’s life which makes it difficult to focus on other aspects of their health or life in general.
Addiction often stems from the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that is associated with pleasure and happy feelings. This is the feeling many alcohol consumers chase since dopamine is released when alcohol is drunk. When this “chase” becomes out of the person’s control, this is what the world knows as alcoholism.
What are the Effects of Alcoholism?
Heavy alcohol consumption can have serious consequences for not only the consumer, but for the people around him or her, too. It’s linked to increased instances of domestic violence, and can impair a person’s ability to drive due to slower reaction times and cognitive processing.
The long-term effects of drinking on the body can also be severe. Alcohol robs the body of vitamin B complex, a vital group of nutrients which a deficiency in can cause skin damage, diarrhea, and depression.
The enzyme processes in the liver that removes alcohol from the bloodstream produce byproducts that can be toxic in large amounts. The byproducts damage the liver, and over time, this leads to cirrhosis. They can also lead to hepatitis and liver cancer.
Stomach ulcers can also form after long-term use because alcohol irritates the stomach lining. Heavy drinking can cause heavy and irregular periods in women, and also affect fertility in both sexes.
Is drinking alcohol okay for Pregnant Women?
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can have negative consequences on the fetus. In the first three months of pregnancy, drinking alcohol increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight. Drinking heavily throughout pregnancy can cause the baby to develop a serious condition called fetal alcohol syndrome.
Babies with fetal alcohol syndrome, have poor growth, facial abnormalities, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems.
|Impaired Judgement||Vitamin B Deficiency|
|Slurred Speech||Liver Disease|
While alcohol itself is not a bad thing, how alcohol affects the body can be very negative. Since it’s an addictive substance, it can be easy to lose control of the urge to consume it.
It’s up to you whether or not you consume alcohol, but we hope this article helped you learn more about the effects it can have on the body. A good workout routine and diet can help to eliminate the compulsion to consume alcohol as you learn focus and discipline your mind and body.
If you or someone you know suffers from a drinking problem, please reach out for support.
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To your success,