Alcohol Diseases: 14 Health Problems That Come from Heavy Drinking
Alcohol Diseases 101
When you start looking into your drinking and the alcohol diseases you are risking, it’s a slap around the face.
About 88,000 deaths result from alcohol abuse each year in the United States. Individuals with alcohol diseases die 30 years earlier than expected.
Alcohol touches every part of your work, school, and social life. Every part of your body also feels the impact of alcohol. If your alcohol habits are causing problems with your life and health, it is time to get help.
If you are worried about your drinking and are here because you are ready to do something. The Stop Drinking Expert website may be a very important find. The online ‘how to stop drinking‘ course is highly rated by independent review sites and Craig Beck‘s live Quit Drinking Bootcamp’s always sell out.
How is Alcohol Metabolized in the Body?
Time for a little anatomy and physiology lesson. Understanding how the body processes alcohol helps explain why alcohol affects certain organs.
Metabolism describes a set of chemical reactions that breakdown food. One part of the process, called catabolic reactions, allows the body to get energy from the food.
Anabolic reactions create molecules that make new cells and tissues and revitalize organs. Hormone regulation also depends on healthy catabolic and anabolic reactions. Life ends if these two reactions don’t work.
Once you take a drink of alcohol, it travels through your stomach to the small intestines. Tiny blood vessels absorb the alcohol and move it into the bloodstream. About 20% of alcohol enters the bloodstream from the stomach and 80% enters through the small intestine.
The liver metabolizes the alcohol by using an enzyme to break down the alcohol molecules. On average, the liver can metabolize one ounce of a standard alcoholic beverage per hour. If you drink more than this, your body becomes overloaded and alcohol must wait in the blood and body tissues for metabolism.
14 Health Problems Caused by Alcohol Diseases
Many media articles tell you to drink a glass of alcohol every day to improve your health. However, when you continue to study the growing list of alcohol diseases and the drug’s effects on the body, this may prove false. The benefits of not drinking alcohol exceed the health and wellness risks for you.
Heavy drinking of alcohol over a long period of time harms the body in many different ways. Once severe damage occurs in some organs, they can’t repair themselves. This results in organ failure often leading to death.
#1 Liver Disease
The liver metabolizes most of the alcohol that you drink. This puts the liver at higher risk for damage.
The alcohol changes into acetaldehyde, a substance that is toxic and a cancer-causing agent. This affects the whole body.
If you continue heavy drinking, fat builds up followed by swelling and scarring. This leads to alcoholic hepatitis, meaning inflammation of the liver. When the liver is swollen and full of fat it isn’t able to function normally.
Over time, cirrhosis develops. At this stage, the liver becomes hard due to scarring. Toxins build up in the body and many other organs fail ultimately causing death.
Pancreatitis describes the painful swelling of the pancreas. Enzymes in the pancreas become activated too soon when exposed to acetaldehyde. This damages the pancreas.
About 70% of people diagnosed with pancreatitis drink large quantities of alcohol on a regular basis.
Your risk of developing cancer increases when you drink alcohol on an ongoing basis. The alcohol itself and the acetaldehyde cause your increased risk of developing cancer.
Alcohol-related cancers occur in the:
If you smoke tobacco and drink alcohol, your risk of the respiratory tract and upper gastrointestinal tract cancers increase.
But you don’t smoke. At least that’s one good thing, right? Well, that may not be true.
There is evidence that drinking one bottle of wine a week can raise your chance of developing cancer cells as much as smoking 5 to 10 cigarettes.
#4 Problems in the Digestive Tract
Heavy alcohol abuse doesn’t only result in alcoholic fatty liver. It also causes problems in the digestive tract. You can get alcohol diseases of the stomach. Including ulcers and swelling of the lining of the stomach called gastritis.
Increased acid in the stomach can lead to heartburn, a symptom of acid reflux. With acid reflux, stomach acid moves out of the stomach and back up the esophagus. Increased acid in the esophagus causes damage to the esophageal lining.
The esophageal blood vessels can get bigger due to liver disease. Holes can form in the blood vessels causing serious bleeding. If treatment can’t stop the bleeding, death results.
Alcohol also changes gastric acid secretion. This can cause slow the emptying of stomach contents.
You can also have changes in the muscle movement, called peristalsis, in the bowels. Peristalsis provides the motion needed to move bowel contents along the intestines.
#5 Decreased Immune System Function
The immune system defends the body against infectious organisms and foreign materials. This helps prevent infection and disease.
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol decreases the immune system’s functionality. You become sick more easily when exposed to the disease. You also increase the chance of getting pneumonia, tuberculosis, HIV, and other serious infections.
Alcohol changes your red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. These are the key factors used by the body to fight infection and heal injuries. A simple cut can become infected and lead to sepsis, an infection in the bloodstream.
#6 Brain Damage
The brain continues to develop until the age of 25. Alcohol consumption during this developmental period can cause long-term damage.
Heavy alcohol intake affects the brain by interfering with receptors and neurotransmitters. This means that messages aren’t sent and received in the brain as they should.
Cognitive function, emotions, and responses on many levels may change. You can experience blurred vision and gaps in memory or “blackouts”.
Alcohol has a depressant effect on the central nervous system. This causes difficulty in thinking and problem-solving. Work and school productivity and interpersonal relationships can suffer.
It also interferes with serotonin and GABA receptors in the brain. Loss of natural fear or understanding the consequences of your actions may occur. This leads to risky and/or violent behavior causing injury to yourself or others.
Impairment of muscle function can result in trouble speaking, decreased gag reflex, and loss of balance. This could lead to falls or aspiration pneumonia, a lung infection caused by stomach contents entering the lungs.
Chronic, excessive drinking speeds up the brain’s aging process. As a result, many alcohol abusers end up with dementia earlier in their life. You can’t reverse this process.
#7 Malnourishment and Vitamin Deficiencies
Alcohol abusers often fail to eat a nutritious diet. They don’t get the nutrients and vitamins needed to maintain health and fight disease.
Digestive tract damage prevents normal absorption of nutrients and vitamins even with a healthy diet. Bleeding can occur in the stomach and other parts of the gastrointestinal system causing anemia.
Alcohol impacts bone marrow production of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body. A decreased number of red blood cells called anemia and can result in the failure of many organs.
Another one of the key alcohol diseases is Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis describes the condition of losing bone mass. This normally occurs later in life. If alcohol drinking begins early in life, especially during the teenage and young adult years, this process can begin much earlier.
When you have decreased bone mass, you increase your risk of fractures. Serious breaks can happen in the vertebra that makes up the spine and the femur (thigh bone) part of the hip joint. Treatment of these injuries requires surgery.
Alcohol changes the normal balance of Vitamin D and calcium production and affects cortisol levels. Your bone structure is weaker when this balance is not maintained.
#9 Disease of the Heart
High blood pressure, often seen in alcohol abusers, results from the stimulation of hormones that cause blood vessels to constrict. This makes it harder for the heart to pump the blood out.
When the heart has to work harder, it may not be able to keep up. This can lead to muscle exhaustion and heart failure.
Muscles need more oxygen to work harder. If the heart can’t get enough blood through the lungs so that red blood cells can absorb oxygen, your whole body’s oxygen level drops. That includes the oxygen level to your heart muscle.
Angina is heart pain felt when your heart muscle does not have enough oxygen. A heart attack happens when part of the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen too long and causes tissue death.
The constriction of blood vessels affects the oxygen supply to all parts of the body including the brain.
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a brief interruption of the oxygen supply to part of the brain. The does not result in permanent damage because the oxygen supply returns.
If the oxygen supply does not return, the muscle dies causing a stroke. Strokes can cause severe disability or death.
Binge drinking causes variations in blood pressure and activates platelets. This combination increases your chance of having a stroke.
#11 Kidney Disease
The kidneys serve as filters to remove harmful materials from your blood. Alcohol is one of the harmful substances removed by the blood but at a cost. The kidneys themselves are harmed by the alcohol.
It interferes with the kidneys’ ability to function. The kidneys not only have difficulty regulating harmful substances, but also the amount of water in your body. Dehydration can result in causing problems throughout your body.
Decreased function of the kidneys also causes high blood pressure. High blood pressure contributes to kidney disease. The consequence of this circular process can be the death of the kidney.
More than 2 drinks every day can raise your chance of high blood pressure and kidney disease.
#12 Skin Problems
Did you know that drinking alcohol makes you look older?
Dehydration associated with alcohol consumption dries out the skin making it flaky, itchy and creating more wrinkles. Increased size of tiny blood vessels in the skin leads to flushing, the reddish color often seen on the nose, palms, and cheeks.
You can also develop skin problems such as psoriasis, hives, and blistering and fragile skin when exposed to sunlight
#13 Mental Health Problems
Many people drink because they have mental health problems. Conversely, drinking alcohol causes changes in moods and emotions.
Alcohol may provide temporary relief from anxiety and depression. This can lead to ongoing use to feel better. In people who already have mental health disorders, regulating drinking may prove difficult.
Drinking alcohol also lowers inhibition and makes you feel more confident. However, this may lead to poor judgment and risky behavior.
While individuals often turn to alcohol to relieve feelings of depression, this can fuel the fire. Alcohol depresses the nervous system and causes increased mood swings. It can, in fact, increase depression, guilt, and shame after the effects wear off.
Drinking alcohol may also bring up traumatic memories or intensify underlying feelings. This can cause overwhelming anxiety and shame.
#14 Risk of Self Harm and Suicide
Alcohol interferes with decision making, understanding the consequences of actions taken, and alter feelings and moods.
Driving a car after drinking too much alcohol can cause injury or death to you or others.
Individuals may engage in dangerous sexual behavior. This can result in sexually transmitted diseases including hepatitis and AIDS. Rape and unwanted pregnancies may also occur.
Violent moods can lead to domestic violence, assault, and homicide.
Alcoholic behaviors can mean unemployment, failure in school, and loss of support systems and relationships. In an effort to make the physical and emotional pain go away, some people may turn to suicide.
Fatal Risks of Alcohol Diseases
This drug is not just a cause of alcohol diseases it’s a leading cause of preventable death and disability.
It ranks fifth worldwide. In the United States, it ranks 3rd behind tobacco and poor diet and lack of physical exercise. For individuals between the ages of 15 and 49, this ranks number one.
It’s Time to Get Healthy
Our website contains pages of information to help you learn more about alcohol abuse. It will help you identify unhealthy habits and ways to turn your life around.
Sign up today for our quit drinking bootcamp to learn more about alcohol diseases and treatment.
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