Popped open a bottle of champagne to celebrate a milestone recently? Or raised your glass to make a toast? Concerts, dinner parties, sporting events―all include the option to consume alcoholic beverages. Considering that alcohol has zero health benefits and can be highly toxic and addictive, It makes you wonder: Why keep drinking? April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Fact: alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the U.S., with 17.6 million people either dependent, abusing or binge-drinking regularly. Alcohol affects every bodily system, including your liver, brain, nervous system, heart and emotions. In a 26-year global study on alcohol intake in 195 countries, The Lancet found that no amount of alcohol is beneficial to your body and consuming alcohol lowers immune system function, increases systemic inflammation, wreaks havoc on hormone levels and is a leading risk factor for disease.
At PrimeHealth, we help patients cut back on alcohol or switch to healthier alcoholic options. These changes are built into your Personalized Wellness Plan and your health coach works closely alongside you to implement these changes.
We also perform detailed Functional Medicine tests, which show how your liver and other systems are functioning. We optimize nutrient status and detoxification pathways so that you can maximize your health without compromising enjoyment. Denver (& Colorado in general) offer many alcohol-related activities, with over 300 breweries in Colorado. We are here to help you enjoy Denver without sacrificing your health.
Here are 7 ways consuming alcohol negatively impacts your body:
It Increases Cancer Risk
Alcohol increases risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, breast, liver and colon. The more you drink, the higher the risk. Heavy drinkers (4+ drinks per day) have 5x the risk of developing oral and throat cancers, and 50% increased risk for breast and colorectal cancers. Even one drink per day increases your risk of oral and throat cancers by 20% and elevates risk for breast cancer. Smoking along with drinking heightens risk even more.
It Leads to Weight Gain
Calorie-wise, alcohol packs a punch. Check out the average calories in a single serving of the three main types of alcohol:
- 5 ounces of liquor: 98 calories
- 5 ounces of wine: 120 calories
- 12 ounces of regular beer: 150 calories
Alcohol’s calories can add up—along with any mixers you add. And check your pour level on wine—large glasses hold up to 30 ounces—that’s 720 calories! Further, alcohol stimulates appetite, causing you to eat more. It also lowers inhibitions, so you’re more likely to say yes to poor food choices.
It Causes Liver Problems
Your liver is an amazing organ, carrying out 500+ essential functions. One is detoxification, processing waste from bodily functions and the things we consume, including alcohol, medications and other toxins. Overconsumption of alcohol is a significant contributor to liver disease. Alcohol is toxic to liver cells and can cause the liver to develop excess fat cells. “Fatty liver disease” decreases liver function. If abuse continues, scar tissue, or liver fibrosis, can occur. As this advances, cirrhosis―severe scarring of the liver―can lead to liver failure and death. Cirrhosis is often irreversible, requiring a liver transplant. Quitting altogether is the only way to prevent alcohol-related fatty liver disease from progressing.
Heavy Alcohol Consumption can be Detrimental to Cardiovascular Health
Drinking causes stress on your heart. When you drink heavily, blood platelets are more likely to clump together, forming blood clots, which can lead to stroke or heart attack. Because blood alcohol levels peak 2-3 hours after your last drink, these problems can occur while you’re asleep, raising risk of a cardiac event or stroke in the night. There is evidence that light to moderate drinking can lower blood pressure and decrease the rate of blood coagulation, which would prevent clot formation. But overall, when it comes to booze and your health, less is better.
It Contributes to Depression
In the short term, alcohol depresses the central nervous system, slowing communications between brain cells and impacting the limbic system with lowered inhibitions. You may find yourself doing things you otherwise wouldn’t (i.e. karaoke) and exhibiting dangerous behaviors (i.e. driving drunk). According to WebMD, ~33% of people suffering from major depression also have an alcohol problem. There’s a chicken-or-egg debate on which comes first, but there’s no debate that booze intensifies depression symptoms, lowers the effect of depression medications and contributes to suicidal thoughts.
It Increases Risk for Short-Term Injuries
Consuming alcohol impacts your brain and central nervous system. This causes slurred speech, blurred vision, balance problems, impaired memory and slower reaction times. Lowered inhibitions may lead to make risky decisions. The CDC lists unintentional injuries including burns, falls, drowning, firearms injuries and motor vehicle accidents as problems associated with alcohol consumption. Alcohol can also increase violence and result in spousal abuse, mistreating children― and even murder.
It Impacts Your Brain and Nervous System
Ever suffer from memory loss the next morning? Drinking is associated with memory and learning problems, poor performance in school and can contribute to dementia. Consuming alcohol causes ethanol to build up in your brain, inhibiting the formation of memories. Over time, alcohol can cause your brain’s hippocampus to shrink. The hippocampus is a critical organ in your limbic system that enables memories, long-term memory and spatial navigation. When it shrinks, it is strongly associated with dementia and depression.