A well-known saying from our elders is that a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. Studies have shown that moderate exercise of around 30 minutes per day not only improves our physical health but improves our mental alertness and ability to learn. Our brain health also depends on the food and drinks we consume. Some food items are good for our brain, while others may be detrimental to our brain’s health.
In this blog, we will discuss the effect of alcohol on our brain and body.
An alcoholic drink or beverage is a drink that contains ethanol. We use alcohol as a recreational drink. In many cultures drinking alcohol is of social significance. Most people drink alcohol during social or business gatherings due to peer pressure or social image.
Many people think that drinking alcohol occasionally does not cause any harm. But drinking even a low amount of any alcoholic beverage can cause unnecessary health consequences. Alcohol may start showing its effect from its first sip and cause unpleasant headaches and hangovers the next day. Since these symptoms don’t last long, you don’t worry about them, especially when you drink occasionally.
People who drink regularly and are heavy drinkers are more prone to many health problems. Alcohol consumption can affect your physical as well as mental health. These effects may become more serious when you drink heavily.
Short-term effects of alcohol
A short-term or temporary effect of alcohol appears while drinking or shortly after drinking alcoholic beverages:
- The feeling of relaxed mood and drowsiness
- A sense of happiness and dizziness
- Lowered inhibition means drinking alcohol can make it hard to think clearly and prompt you to do harmful things.
- Alcohol may stimulate you to behave impulsively
- Slow and slurry speech
- Headache and body ache
- Change in hearing, vision, and perception
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of coordination and balance
- Difficulty in focus
- Loss of decision-making ability
- Loss of memory of event while drinking
- Loss of consciousness
These effects may not last very long and disappear within a few hours. But the loss of coordination, blurred vision, and impulsiveness can cause extensive consequences like accidents, verbal or physical assaults, and some acts you may regret later. As per some studies, alcohol consumption is one of the biggest causes of road traffic accidents in India/
Long-term effects of alcohol
According to recent guidelines from CDC, one or fewer drinks per day for women and two or fewer drinks per day for men is considered moderate drinking. There is no safe amount of alcohol, as even a low amount of drinking can negatively impact your brain and physical health. Long term effects of alcohol are:
- The person feels frequent mood changes which can further lead to anxiety and irritability on minor matters impacting social and personal relations.
- Chronic alcohol intake can damage the inner protective lining of the stomach and result in inflammation and swelling of the lining, change in appetite, autoimmune diseases, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), and stomach cancer.
- Alcohol may cause dehydration-like symptoms by decreasing fluids in the body. So to pump the same amount of blood in the body heart has to work more, leading to an increase in blood pressure and irregular heartbeat. Heavy alcohol intake can be a cause of a sudden heart attack.
- Alcohol can also impact the kidneys. Alcohol is a diuretic in nature. So during alcohol intake person feels more urge to go to the bathroom. An increase in urination may lead to a decrease in fluid in the body. This decrease in the fluid concentrates the blood, so the kidney has to filter more concentrated blood that exposes it to more unfiltered toxins. With time these unfiltered accumulated toxins may damage kidneys and other organs.
- Daily alcohol intake also impacts liver health. It can cause fibrosis, fatty liver, or alcoholic hepatitis. With long-term alcohol consumption, the worsening of these conditions may lead to liver failure.
- Daily consumption of alcohol can cause weight gain.
- Alcohol can also weaken your immune system, making you at risk for many infections.
- Drinking alcohol can lower your libido, irregular menstrual cycle, decrease sex hormone production, and increase the risk of infertility.
- Drinking during pregnancy can adversely affect the health of the mother and the unborn baby. Alcohol consumption may result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature delivery.
- Effect on the brain including, but not limited to:
- Alcohol consumption can negatively impact communication between your brain and body that may cause slurred speech, difficulty in coordination, balance problems, and delay in reaction time.
- Long-term consumption can affect your brain health, leading to weak memory, depression, sleep disorder, and adversely impact rational thinking.
- Continuous drinking for a long time can damage your central nervous system causing tingling and numbness in your hands and feet.
- Heavy drinking can cause damage to the frontal lobe and affects your rational judgments, short-term memory, and impulse control.
- Chronic drinking can also cause permanent damage to the brain.
Always remember, it’s never late to think to cut your alcohol consumption. If started in time, we can even reverse physical and brain damage from alcohol.