After decades of research, scientists have found that alcohol can be an unruly and dangerous guest in your body.
Party time is here and a young couple arrive at the beach where it’s happening. She’s a beautiful blonde and he a matching handsome boyfriend. They hurry toward their friends and there’s a rowdy cheer. The beer is here.
As well as the beach bash, the beer will bash too and it will be one wild party – as a guest inside the body. Alcohol offers such immediate party favors as date rape, STDs and car crashes. Researchers are even more troubled about the long term effects of alcohol. Hundreds of thousands of drinking teens now will die eventually of alcohol-related causes. Countless others will suffer from poor health and disability. It’s no wonder. Given enough time, alcohol ravages nearly every part of the body.
Cheers – mouth and throat
Alcohol begins its wild party the moment it hits the mouth. Studies show the drinking increases the risk of cancers of the mouth and throat.
I feel sick – stomach
Most alcohol users have at least once clutched the cool toilet bowl and heaved away. But alcohol can toss up far more troubles. Special cells in the stomach produce a thick mucus coat to shield the stomach from highly acidic gastric juices. Alcohol attacks and weakens this coat. This triggers nausea, vomiting and inflammation of the stomach. In severe cases, alcohol and digestive juices erode and break through the stomach wall and then heavy bleeding and death can occur.
Junked food – small intestine
When food, alcohol and gastric juices finally empty into the small intestine, they churn over the ‘villi’ that help the body absorb nutrients – vitamins and minerals. Alcohol damages these villi and stops the absorption.
Brain bashing – nervous system
Even moderate amounts of alcohol can impair learning and memory. It can affect the structure as well as the function of the brain. Alcohol interferes with normal communication between neurons – the basic processing units of the brain – causing intoxication, hallucinations, seizures and blackouts as well as loss of reason, judgment and self restraint. Research shows the ‘actual physical damage and cell death’ in alcohol treated rats.
Grand prize – liver
The liver is involved with many body functions including the detoxification of such poisonous substances in the blood as alcohol. Injury to this organ can lead to severe illness and death. Damage to the liver – evidenced by a fatty liver, hepatitis, and cirrhosis may result. The scarring that occurs in cirrhosis is irreversible. Liver disease is the No. 1 killer among heavy drinkers, claiming thousands of lives each year.
Indigestion – pancreas
Heavy drinking can trigger severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, and rapid heartbeat – symptoms of pancreatitis. The trapped enzymes, unable to break down food in the intestine, may begin to attack the pancreas itself. Alcohol can depress the ability of the pancreas to manufacture insulin. This may lead to diabetes.
Feel the beat? – cardiovascular system
Alcohol rocks the cardiovascular system. Chronic drinking can lead to high blood pressure, that may rupture blood vessels in the brain, causing stroke. It also weakens the heart. It disrupts the ability of muscle cells to produce energy, weakening the heart even more. As the cardiac muscle fibers lose strength – or even die – the heart attempts to compensate by growing larger. This may help for a while but eventually the heart becomes too flabby to be an efficient pump. Blood backs up in the circulatory system and fluid oozes into the tissues of the legs, causing swelling. Lungs may fill with fluid, making breathing difficult. Alcohol can also cause abnormal, even deadly heartbeats.
Getting wasted – muscles
Like the heart, other muscles of the body waste away under the influence of alcohol. The longer and more a person drinks, the greater the loss of strength.
Don’t touch me – skeletal system
By increasing urinary excretion of calcium and magnesium, alcohol robs bones of minerals needed for strength. Heavy drinking has been associated with brittle bones and osteoporosis in young and middle-aged men.
A losing fight – immune system
People dependent on alcohol are more susceptible to infections. Alcohol use seems to cut production of infection-fighting leukocytes in the bone marrow and the leukocytes that do manage to roll off the assembly line may be defective and unable to resist disease and illness.
Pit stop – kidneys
Alcohol increases urine flow. Prolonged heavy drinking may lead to kidney failure and a buildup of poisonous waste products in the body.
Hey, Babe! – reproductive organs and sex
Alcohol and sex: Do they go to bed together? Plenty of advertisements imply just that. Yet alcohol is neither an aphrodisiac nor a stimulant. Researchers report that the very drug people take to lower inhibitions and increase confidence – actually inhibits sexual function. Short term effects may keep a man from achieving or sustaining an erection. Alcohol can upset the endrocrine system, lowering levels of male sex hormones and raising levels of female sex hormones. When this happens testicles shrink, sperm production decreases and breasts enlarge. Not a nice thought for a man.
Women suffer too – alcohol dependent women can cease menstruation and ovulation.
Alcohol drunk during a pregnancy can risk a baby being born with FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome). Sadly, this is one of the leading causes of mental retardation in the Western world. Children born with FAS may have speech and hearing impairments, lack of coordination, concentration and learning difficulties – problems that continue into adulthood. All totally preventable if a woman says NO to all alcohol during pregnancy.
Finally – In fact, considering the rowdy and dangerous party alcohol throws in the body, saying NO really isn’t such a bad idea – for everyone. You’ll have a safer, more healthful life if you simply cross this poisonous drug off your guest list.
Thanks to The Drug Facts Series, summarized by Joy Butler