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  • Joanne Toller

The Devastating Effects of Alcoholism on Physiology

Alcoholism can have serious physical effects on the body and, in some cases, can even be deadly. Learn more about the physical damage alcohol abuse can cause and how to recognize the signs of alcoholism so you can get help if needed.


Compromised Cardiovascular System

Chronic alcohol abuse can contribute to a wide range of cardiovascular issues, including high blood pressure, heart muscle thickening, stroke and irregular heartbeat. Additionally, alcoholism is a significant risk factor in the development of heart disease. It increases the risk of congestive heart failure.


Repercussions on Liver Health

Alcohol affects the liver in a variety of ways. Consistent heavy drinking can lead to inflammation, which can cause fibrosis or hardening of the liver over time. The risk of developing alcohol-related cirrhosis is significantly higher when people continue drinking heavily despite being diagnosed with liver disease. In some cases, those who suffer from severe liver conditions and don't abstain from alcohol completely may die if they don't receive a liver transplant.


Signs of a Sluggish Liver include:

• Elevated cholesterol levels

• Weight gain

• Heart disease

• Digestive problems

• Skin rashes or allergies

• Blood sugar problems

• Signs of hormonal imbalance

• Intolerance of alcohol

• Intolerance of coffee

• Easy bruising

• Dark urine or stools


Impact on Kidney Function

Alcohol affects the kidneys in a variety of ways as well. It can cause dehydration, which leads to electrolyte imbalances that make it difficult for the kidneys to filter out toxins from the body. Additionally, alcohol is toxic to kidney cells and can impair their ability to regulate blood pressure and other processes properly. Chronic drinking can also lead to a condition called alcoholic nephrosis—the buildup of fibrous tissue in the kidneys that disrupts normal function.


Damage to Digestive System & Nutritional Deficiencies

Long-term alcohol consumption also puts tremendous strain on the digestive system. It can cause a wide range of health problems, such as ulcers, pancreatitis, and liver disease. Alcohol causes damage to the lining of the stomach and intestines, which makes it more difficult for the body to absorb nutrients. This leads to nutritional deficiencies that can harm the digestive organs and lead to issues like anemia, bone loss, and immune system dysfunction.


Adverse Effects of Alcoholism on Hormone Production

Alcohol interacts with hormones in several different ways. For example, it can decrease luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone production in the pituitary gland. This leads to decreased estrogen levels in women and reduced testosterone levels in men. Additionally, alcohol consumption can lead to increased cortisol production, which can suppress other hormones like insulin, leading to even further health complications like hypoglycemia.


One of the most serious consequences of alcohol consumption is its effect on testosterone production. Studies have found that excessive and long-term drinking can decrease testosterone levels, as well as other male hormones like dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Lower testosterone levels can cause physical issues like impotence and infertility. Still, it may also increase the risk of psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia.


In addition to testosterone, alcohol consumption can also affect estrogen levels. Studies have found that alcohol can decrease estrogen metabolism in the liver, leading to higher concentrations in the blood. This may lead to several health issues, such as an increased risk for breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and ovarian cancer. Additionally, these high concentrations of estrogen can cause hormonal imbalances, which could lead to mood swings, acne, and infertility.


Increased Risk of Cancer

The level of alcohol consumption, not just whether it is present or not, often determines how much risk is involved. Even in moderate amounts, alcohol has been found to increase the likelihood of developing certain cancers, specifically in the liver, throat, esophagus, colon, pancreas, and breasts. Beyond that, alcoholism can also lower an individual's defence against fighting cancer cells which can cause these cells to spread throughout the body more quickly. These risks should be taken very seriously and treated with immense caution by anyone who struggles with alcoholism.


Weakening of the Immune System

Alcoholism is a serious problem that can significantly weaken the immune system, making it harder for individuals to fight off infections and illnesses. Long-term use of alcohol suppresses the body’s ability to produce white blood cells, thus significantly reducing the body’s ability to resist invading bacteria and viruses. Regarding immunology, studies have shown that regular alcohol consumption causes a significant weakening in both cell-mediated and humoral immunity. With these two types of immunity compromised, an individual would be more vulnerable to catching an infectious disease.


Effects of Alcoholism on Physiology
Effects of Alcoholism on Physiology

As outlined, the effects of prolonged alcohol use on the body can be severe. We can give the body a hand at improving these things by eating a balanced and healthy diet rich in brain-healthy fats and nutrients, exercising, getting proper sleep, and making healthy social connections. All these factors are evidence-based ways of helping the brain and body recover from the damage caused by alcohol. The sooner one starts, the longer the body has time to heal.


If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction problem, now is the time to seek professional help before further damage occurs. With proper care from experienced professionals specializing in addiction recovery services like Nōmina Wellness, you or your loved one can get back on track toward healthier lives free from substance abuse issues!

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