Are you drinking too much, and how much is too much? How does one resist a happy hour invitation to their favorite local bar on the way home after a tumultuous 9-5 day at work?
The need to unwind and get our minds off the looming, burning, smoldering questions, doubts, to-dos, and hypothetical tomorrows, finds its outlet in a shape of a well-cooled glass with our favorite liquor in it. And, finally, there’s some much-needed quiet of the mind.
Yes, it is true; alcohol is a friend in need. But to what extent? And, how do we define moderate drinking while remaining objective? Where do we draw the line? And when do the health benefits from alcohol consumption become potentially detrimental?
It’s a thin line. Like any other tangible topic, alcohol also has its positives and negatives; abuse vs. enjoyment. Welcome to 7 ways alcohol affects your health. Cheers!
Definition of “Moderation”
From a scientific angle, moderate drinking for women means no more than a drink per day, while for men, it means no more than two drinks a day (if it needs some stretching – one and a half for women, three for men).
According to science, yuppie weekends are exceptionally harmful; having more than 6 drinks in one day after not drinking the rest of the week proves to be detrimental to our overall health.
Even though it averages to the same level of moderate drinking consumption (combined, weekly), it’s the shock factor that can take a dramatic turn and punish our bodies.
Still, it is essential to take a couple of days off each week when it comes to moderate drinking.
7 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Health
1. Reproductive system
Alcohol hits below the belt. Pun intended. In men, it can interfere with the testes, the anterior pituitary gland, and the hypothalamus – all the significant components of male fertility. It can cause reduced male secondary characteristics, impotence, and infertility if abused. In women, alcohol use can negatively affect female puberty and disrupt the reproductive cycle and regular menstrual cycling in adults. Indeed, it does sound daunting. If you’re planning on becoming a parent, start living by the 10 commandments of health. Reducing your alcohol intake ensures a long, prosperous future for yourself and your loved ones.
2. Sleep quality
R.E.M. is the gateway to our mental health. Indulging in a nightcap, as relaxing and worry-free as it may seem, can also interfere with our sleep quality. If we’re being honest, yes, absolutely, alcohol helps people fall asleep; it’s a “natural Xanax,” the right remedy for troublesome, sleepless nights. But how good is it? Having more than one drink before bed makes you more prone to waking up in the middle of the night, as alcohol affects our sleep patterns. (inviting nightmares, as well) Try to cut caffeine and alcohol and see where it gets you. If you’re feeling jittery, try Chamomile instead.
3. Digestive system
Love goes through the stomach; so does alcohol. And it invites fire and mutiny. Our digestive system is the most vulnerable target; its gates are not as impenetrable as one might think. On the contrary, it’s where the alcohol-induced riot starts. As Johnny Cash would say:” And it burns, burns, burns, the ring of fire, the ring of fire!”. Digesting alcohol is a tumultuous, burdensome task for a human (or any other) stomach. If you’re consuming alcohol on a regular basis, know this: over-indulging in alcohol can lead to malnutrition, as our intestines struggle to absorb all the necessary nutrients and guide the bacteria the right way due to all the toxins. The over-indulging symptoms include:
- Acid reflux
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
4. Immune system
Our immune system is our invisible blanket; it protects us from all ungodly health dangers – and there are plenty. It’s there to fight off infections, viruses, curious germs, and other potential looming health risks – a nature’s shield of intricate design and versatile use. Needless to say, we shouldn’t be that keen on destroying it. The bubbly stuff we enjoy sipping (if not following the moderate consumption rules) can lead to slowing down our immune system. Heavy drinkers are more prone to illnesses as their health is more fragile (due to lethargic white blood cells). If you’re worried about whether you or your loved one are becoming addicted to alcohol, look for these signals. In case you recognize signs of alcohol addiction, it would be best to seek professional help.
What do all diuretics have in common? They dehydrate the body. In particular, alcohol encourages and stimulates your body to eliminate all the excess liquid. – Especially you, beer lovers. “It’s good for my kidneys” won’t cut it. The reality is a tad bit different. Hangover memories, anyone? Fatigue, headaches, and unquenching thirst. Yes, alcohol drains your body. Worried about the ways alcohol affects your health? Here’s your antidote: water. Mix your liquor with water. Less alcohol, more water; either that or feel regret in the morning.
6. Social interactions
Well, this one’s a plus, sort of. If consumed moderately, alcohol can enhance our social skills. Alcohol is a master of human brain rewiring, meaning introverts become social butterflies, and edgy minds become warm butter. Although it can enhance cognition and make interacting easier or more fruitful, it has drawbacks. In all fairness, it’s a psychoactive substance; it changes people’s moods. Alcohol can cause irritability, anxiety, edginess, hostility, and all the dark shades of the emotional spectrum. So, count your orders. Stay moderate.
7. Heart matters
Another gray area. Increase/decrease debate. If consumed in recommended doses, alcohol can reduce high blood pressure. But, again, it’s a fine line. Overdo it, and you’re in trouble. Although proved efficient in clearing arteries and potential clots, excessive drinking can lead to cardiomyopathy (a condition affecting the heart muscle), high blood pressure, stroke, and heart failure. If, and only if consumed moderately, it lowers the risk of heart disease by encouraging a smoother blood flow. If your goal is longevity, do one glass of red wine and include fitness. Daily. (emphasis on fitness)
The Bottom Line
There are myriad ways alcohol affects your health. The upside? You’re in charge. What’s it going to be?