Alcohol and Your Body
WHAT DOES ALCOHOL DO TO YOUR BODY?
In Australia, alcohol consumption is widely accepted as part of our culture and way of life. When you think about it, most of our social get-togethers revolve around, or include drinking. It could be a few beers while watching the footy, catching up with the girlfriends for cocktails or the Friday afternoon office drinks. With Dry July fast approaching, it’s a good excuse for those of us in denial about our alcohol intake to take stock and reflect on the role alcohol plays in our social calendar, and what it’s actually doing to our bodies.
Excessive drinking is linked to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and dementia. Men who drink more than six standard alcoholic drinks, and women who drink more than four, seem to be at increased risk of developing alcohol related dementia. But, even moderate drinking is associated with shrinkage in areas of the brain involved in cognition, learning and the part of the brain that regulates emotions and consolidates information from short-term memory to long-term memory.
If you’re regularly drinking to excess, you may develop a fatty liver, affecting its ability to work effectively. A fatty liver may not cause any damage, but excess fat can lead to inflammation of the liver, which leads to liver damage or in the worse case, liver failure. Not only that, when the alcohol in your blood is then slowly broken down by your liver, it produces an enzyme called acetaldehyde to give itself a helping hand. Acetaldehyde is toxic, and destroys liver cells. It’s also linked to cancer.
Your pancreas is a small but very important organ that produces digestive juices to help you break down food, and digestive hormones such as insulin. The more alcohol you drink, the more you increase your risk of developing alcohol pancreatitis, causing it to stop working properly. Chronic pancreatitis is hard to treat and may lead to life-threatening complications like pancreatic cancer. A third of people with pancreatitis develop type 2 diabetes.
After hitting you with all those hard truths about alcohol consumption, let’s talk about what five weeks off the booze can do for your body. Within one week, your quality of sleep should improve, and within two weeks, you may notice you’ve lost a bit of weight and your skin looks healthier. Within 3-4 weeks, your blood pressure stabilises, and after a month off, you may find your cholesterol has decreased, you’ve got improved concentration and better mental health. Often a month off drinking helps to break the habit, so you may find you’re no longer reaching for a glass of red while cooking dinner, or instinctively cracking a beer on a Friday afternoon. Give it a try this Dry July, and let us know if you feel any different once the month is over.