Rethink That Drink: 5 Ways Alcohol Harms Your Body
It is an understatement that Filipinos love their alcohol, whether it be a can of beer after a stressful work day or a shot of liquor during a celebration. While it is not wrong to enjoy a sip of alcohol every now and then, it can be harmful if done excessively.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one standard alcoholic drink contains 0.6 oz. of alcohol, equivalent to 14.0 grams or 1.2 tablespoons. To be more specific, this much alcohol can be found in:
- Beer: 12 oz. with 5% alcohol content
- Wine: 5 oz. of wine with 12% alcohol content
- Spirits or liquor: 1.5 ounces of drinks like gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey with 40% alcohol content
As such, excessive alcohol consumption can be classified into:
- Binge drinking: Consumption of five or more drinks in one occasion for men, or four or more drinks in one occasion for women
- Heavy drinking: Consumption of 15 or more drinks in one week for men, or eight or more drinks in one week for women
Frequent binge or heavy drinking can be detrimental, since research has linked high amounts of alcohol to many health problems. In particular, the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that 3 million deaths are recorded annually in connection to excessive alcohol consumption.
So before you take a swig of that drink, you may want to rethink that decision. Here are just five of the negative effects of having too much alcohol.
- Significant decline in driving abilities that can lead to accidents and injuries
Studies have shown that drivers under the influence had decreased hand steadiness and reduced ability to control brakes and the steering wheel. Drivers under the influence were also most likely to pay less attention to their positions in their current lanes, line crossings, and vehicle speed.
As such, if you plan on driving during a night out, do not drink at all. This reminder is even more important if you are the designated driver, because you would not want to risk the lives of your passengers.
- Increased risk for alcohol poisoning
Alcohol poisoning occurs when your body is unable to effectively process the high quantities of alcohol that enter your system. Your alcohol poisoning risk greatly rises if you drink too much in just a short span of time. During this period, your breath and heart rate and gag reflex can all be negatively affected.
Common symptoms of alcohol poisoning include confusion, slow or irregular breathing, vomiting, seizures, low body temperatures, unconsciousness, low body temperature, and/or blue or pale skin. Immediate medical attention is needed once these symptoms manifest since they can be severe and life-threatening.
- Increased risk for liver-related problems
Your liver is largely responsible for the breakdown and metabolization of alcohol, filtration and removal of waste in the body, production of bile that aids with food digestion, and creation of proteins necessary for body functions.
Drinking too much alcohol can negatively affect your liver and raise your risk for diseases like fatty liver or steatosis, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, liver cirrhosis, or liver cancer.
- Increased risk for cardiovascular or heart-related problems
While alcohol does not directly affect your heart, it can cause high blood pressure levels that will strain this very important organ. If left untreated over time, this increased strain can put you at risk for heart problems.
Higher cholesterol levels, cardiomyopathy (a condition affecting the heart muscles that lead to difficulty pumping blood to the rest of the body), arrhythmias (irregular heart beats), high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke have all been linked to increased alcohol consumption.
- Increased risk for mental health problems
Some people turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism because it can make them feel good. However, this can be detrimental since excessive alcohol use can also worsen your mental health. In fact, once the effects of alcohol wear off, it may cause symptoms of depression or anxiety to worsen., Results of a 2017 study conducted on Australian university students showed that those who consumed excessive amounts of alcohol struggled with moderate or high “psychological distress” and were at risk for academic-related problems.
Furthermore, constant abuse or intake of too much alcohol may result in alcohol use disorder (AUD), commonly known as alcoholism or alcohol addiction. People struggling with AUD are advised to seek the guidance of a mental health professional.
Try These Substitutes for Alcoholic Drinks
The next time your body is signaling you to down some alcohol, resist the urge to drink. Instead, opt for these substitutes that will not have as devastating of an effect on your body:
- Combination of soda and fresh fruits: This looks like a simple combination, but the addition of fresh fruits gives so much flavor to soda. Just remember to drink soda in moderation since it is still high in sugar that can negatively affect your health in the long run.
- Berries in iced water: Just like the combination of soda and fresh fruit, good-quality berries combined with ice-cold water can hit the spot and make you feel refreshed.
- Kombucha: For those unfamiliar with this, kombucha is made of yeast, sugar, and black tea. It usually undergoes a week-long fermentation process, allowing the formation of bacteria, acids, and small amounts of alcohol.
Kombucha is said to be fizzy and have a sweet-and-sour flavor, and contains health-boosting probiotic bacteria and B vitamins.
The next time you are offered a glass (or two) of alcohol, think twice and remember these potential negative effects. If you notice severe side effects or symptoms after consuming alcohol, seek medical attention immediately. You can also consult a doctor once you are sober to know more about why these appeared and how to properly address them.