ALCOHOL IS PART OF OUR SOCIAL DYNAMIC
It can add an element of fun, silliness or sophistication to our experiences. However, it is helpful to be aware of the benefits and risks behind anything we choose to put into our body.
ALCOHOL CAN ADD HAPPINESS AND ENHANCE OUR EXPERIENCES
It is fun to have a cocktail with friends. It can help us relax and unwind. Spending time with friends and family is good for the spirit. Of course, it is possible to take things a little too far. Getting a little carried away and having a few too many might make your next morning a bit of a challenge, but how much harm can a few drinks really cause?
YOUR LIVER HAS MANY RESPONSIBILITES
The liver performs hundreds of functions, including metabolizing the fats, carbohydrates and proteins in our diet. The liver’s primary job is to filter toxins from the blood. Drinking alcohol gives your body extra work to do which keeps it from performing other jobs, like removing other harmful toxins and metabolizing your fats, carbohydrates and proteins.
ALCOHOL IS HIGH PRIORITY FOR YOUR LIVER
Once you have a drink containing alcohol, your body makes metabolizing it a priority because, unlike fats, carbohydrates and proteins, your body doesn’t have a way to store alcohol.
YOUR LIVER WORKS HARD TO GET IT ALL DONE
When you have a cocktail, beer or wine, your liver detoxifies and removes the alcohol thru a process called oxidation. The liver first converts the alcohol to another toxic substance called acetaldehyde. When oxidation is complete, acetaldehyde becomes water and carbon dioxide, which is excreted from the body.
A healthy liver can metabolize one alcoholic drink per hour. Have more than that, and the toxic acetaldehyde builds up in the body, causing a hangover. Drink too much too often, and the liver suffers damage.
FAT CONSEQUENCES OF TOO MUCH ALCOHOL
When you drink alcohol, the liver must choose to burn acetaldehyde for fuel instead of fat. If you drink too much too often, damage can result. Acetaldehyde damages the liver, and fat is stored in the liver instead of elsewhere in the body or being burned off altogether. This can lead to a condition called fatty liver disease. This is an early stage of liver disease and can typically be completely reversed in a month or two from simply abstaining from drinking alcohol and supporting your liver. Once liver damage has progressed beyond the fatty liver stage, damage typically becomes irreversible.
ALCOHOL’S EFFECT ON THE REST OF YOUR BODY
Alcohol can weaken the immune system. If you drink every day, or almost every day, you may notice that you catch colds, flu or other illnesses more frequently than people who don’t drink.
Drinking can upset the balance of the microorganisms in your digestive system. It can also damage the tissues in your GI tract and prevent you from digesting food and from absorbing nutrients and vitamins. Drinking alcohol can also lead to gassiness, bloating, and diarrhea.
Alcohol can affect your heart and lungs. Chronic use of alcohol puts you at higher risk for heart related issues including: high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, stroke, heart attack and heart disease.
SKELETAL AND MUSCLE SYSTEMS
Long-term alcohol use may prevent your body from keeping your bones strong. Thinner bones may increase your risk for fractures if you fall and these fractures may heal more slowly.
Drinking alcohol may also lead to muscle weakness and cramping.
CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM
Slurred speech is one of the first signs you’ve had too much to drink. Alcohol can reduce communication between your body and your brain, impairing coordination.
THE GOOD NEWS: KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Your liver is very resilient and capable of regenerating itself. It can develop new cells, but prolonged alcohol use over many years can reduce your liver’s ability to regenerate. Be kind to your body and support it in the best ways you can.
Empowered with this knowledge you can make your choices. “How much is too much?” is ultimately up to you.