Alcohol: a complete guide about negative effects on body

negative effects of alcohol

Alcohol is largely consumed all over the world. Most countries in the world are facing alcohol related health issues. Because of various negative effects of alcohol. Their healthcare system have an extra burden because of alcohol. Most developing countries have low efficiency in their workforce. Alcohol it self causes varies health problems like heart diseases, stroke, cancers, liver, neuro and psychological disorders. And also it associates with nutrition deficiencies as well.

How alcohol acts on our body ?

Alcohol’s main ingredient is ethanol. Ethanol is broken down in to Acetaldehyde in our stomach. This acetaldehyde is then converted to Acetate. 90% of this conversation happens in liver. The produced acetate is released into blood stream. Then acetate broken down to carbon dioxide and water in other tissues in our body.

What is the calorie value of alcohol ?

Alcohol doesn’t have any nutrients. Ethanol itself can produce 29.3 kJ/g means 7 kcal/g. But most of the alcoholic drinks contain extra sugar. This increases their calorie values. As an example,

Calorie value of alcohol
Calorie value of alcohol

And heavy alcoholics are unable to lose their weight if they continue to drink.

What is an unit of alcohol ?

Each unit of alcohol is defined as 10 ml ( 7.9 g ) of pure ethanol. It corresponds to,

Unit of alcohol
Unit of alcohol

What is safe consumption of alcohol ?

An intake of less than 21 units per week in men and 14 units per week in women is normally considered to be safe. But recent UK guidelines suggest 14 units per week are better for both men and women. But guidelines also recommend never to use whole 14 units at once. It says use this amount with alcohol free intervals.

What is binge drinking in alcohol ?

This is a pattern of drinking that taking more than 5 drinks for men and more than 4 drinks for women on a single occasion. Generally within about 2 hours. Binge drinking causes rise blood alcohol levels more than 0.08%.

Does alcohol harmful to everyone ?

The long term effects of excess alcohol consumption are not related to the type of alcohol. Not everyone who drinks excess alcohol get physical harms. Only 20% of people who drink heavily develop cirrhosis. And the organs affected by alcohol are differ from patient to patient. Some may affect liver and others brain or muscles. This all determined by their genetics.

What means getting drunk and its health effects ?

Consuming alcohol excessively is getting drunk. Alcohol intoxication is the same. Intoxication causes,

  • Impaired brain function causing poor judgement, reduced reaction time, loss of balance or slurred speech.
  • Feeling of warmth causes by dilation of blood vessels, but it results rapid loss of body heat.
  • Increased risk of certain cancers.
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome causing mental retardation
  • Increased motor traffic accidents, violence.
Getting drunk
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What is sensible drinking in alcohol ?

Susceptibility of different organs to damage are variable. Because of that WHO recommends a concept called sensible drinking. It says,

  • Daily maximum limit is 3 units for men and 2 units for women.
  • Achieve this by using standard measures, avoid drinking during daytime, have alcohol free days each weeks.
  • Health can be affected without being ‘ drunk ‘.
  • Regular heavy intake is more harmful than occasional binges.
  • Never drink to ‘ drown your sorrows ‘
  • Drink before driving limit of alcohol in the blood is 800mg/L ; UK practice this.
  • Spread the drinking time because 1 units of alcohol is eliminated per hour.
  • Foods can decrease alcohol absorption, therefore it results lower blood alcohol level.
  • 4 -5 units of alcohol are enough in a man less than 70 kg to put him blood alcohol levels over legal driving limits.

What is high risk alcohol drinking ?

The effects of a given intake of alcohol is worse in women. Following risk levels of drinking is given for men. These levels should be reduced by 30% for women.

  • High risk – 160 g ethanol per day (20 single drinks)
  • Medium risk – 80 g ethanol per day (10 single drinks)
  • Little risk – 40 g ethanol per day (5 single drinks)

What is the effect of caffeine with alcohol ?

When use caffeine with alcohol it can mask the effects of alcohol. This feels more alert in drinkers. And this causes them to drink more and more. But caffeine never sober you up. It never reduces the impact on your body.

Caffeine with alcohol
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What is the effect of energy drinks with alcohol ?

People who take alcohol mixed with energy drinks are more tend to engage in danger activities, unprotected sex than people who don’t mix energy drinks. And young age population are more likely get involved in this behaviour. Study among Michigan high school students shows that binge drinking is more than twice than others who don’t.

Negative effects of alcohol in pregnancy

WHO recommends not to drink alcohol at all during pregnancy. Because even a small amount of alcohol can cause harm. Like small babies and increased risk of miscarriage. Alcohol dependent women are at a high risk. They have tendency to have babies with mental retardation, dysmorphic features and impaired growth.

What are the negative effects of excess alcohol consumption ?

  • Neurological problems
    • Seizures
    • Wernicke – Korsakoff syndrome
    • Polyneuropathy
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Metabolic problems
    • Excessive uric acid collecting in body leads to Gout arthritis
    • High lipid levels in body
    • Low blood sugar levels
    • Obesity
  • Hormone related problems
    • Cushing syndrome
  • Respiratory problems
    • Chest infections
  • Gastrointestinal problems
    • Gastritis
    • Bleeding into stomach
    • Bowel cancers
    • Pancreatitis
    • Liver diseases ( fatty liver, hepatitis, cirrhosis )
  • Blood related problems
    • Macrocytosis ( the size of red cells become larger than normal )
    • Reduced platelet levels in blood
    • Reduced white blood cells in blood
  • Bone problems
    • Osteoporosis
    • Osteomalacia ( Reduced bone density )

Who are the people shouldn’t use alcohol at all ?

According to guidelines some group of people shouldn’t drink at all. They are,

  • Pregnant women and who may be pregnant
  • Age younger than 21
  • People who have medical conditions
  • People who are taking medications that can interact with alcohol
  • Heavy drinker who are unable to control their habit
  • Who are recovering from alcohol use
  • Drivers like people who are doing things that require coordination and alertness
  • Breastfeeding mom should get advice from their healthcare personnel before start drinking
Uncontrolled drinking
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What is problematic drinking and how to know ?

Problematic drinking means when you have relationship issues, school issues and problems with social activities. It’s better to seek medical advice if you or your loved ones have drinking issues.

Because earlier the better !!!

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Dr. Sapumal Edirisinghe

MEDICAL DOCTOR (mbbS)

I am a medical doctor who is passionate about the new medical knowledge and spread those to the world to make the world a better place.

Sapumal Edirisinghe

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