7 Negative Health Effects of Alcohol You Didn’t Even Know About

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Author Name: Beth Rush
Date: Wednesday April 29, 2020

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You’ve had a long day, and you can’t wait to collapse on the couch and have a drink. Fair enough. One alcoholic beverage won’t hurt — but hold off on that second pour. 

Why? Excessive drinking can cause severe health problems. You probably know that hitting the bottle increases your risk of liver and other cancers. However, that’s not the only problem associated with tipping back a cold one — other negative health effects of alcohol prove equally distressing, even dangerous. 

1. It Makes Your Blood Pressure Go Crazy 

Maybe you read that a glass of red wine benefits your heart, and you thought, “If one helps, two must do even better.” However, that’s not how the process works. When you consume a single alcoholic drink, you experience an acute rise in blood pressure. If you stick to only one beverage, you have little cause for concern, as your system reverts to normal in approximately two hours. 

However, continuous drinking over several days creates a sustained rise. Ongoing heavy drinking can lead to chronic hypertension, which increases your risk of heart attack or stroke. Additional evidence suggests that binge drinking can lead to atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. This problem also increases the workload on your ticker and can lead to premature failure. 

2. It Will Age You Prematurely 

Have you ever looked in the mirror after a night out on the town and shuddered? Excessive alcohol use can wreak havoc on your appearance. If health concerns don’t prompt you to quit or at least slow down, maybe vanity will do the trick. Alcohol dehydrates your skin, contributing to fine lines and wrinkles. It also expands your blood vessels, making you look puffy. A quick Google search reveals stunning pictures of people before and after they got sober — the differences will amaze you. 

3. It Can Weaken Your Immune System 

Did you ever come down with a nasty cold after a weekend of partying? Your susceptibility could be due to the impact of alcohol on your immune system. Alcohol disrupts ciliary function in the upper airways and weakens the barriers in the lower part of your lungs. As a result, you’re more likely to get sick, and if you do, you’re more prone to progress to more dangerous pneumonia. You might want to hold off on that hot toddy the next time you feel under the weather.

4. It Can Wreak Havoc on Your Gut 

Another way alcohol impacts immunity — and leaves you racing for the porcelain throne — has to do with its impact on your gut’s microbiome. This term refers to the system of beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion,  keep harmful germs in check and send signals to your immune system. When you drink to excess, the damaging bacteria flourish. Some can leak into your liver, where they eventually cause cirrhosis. In the meantime, you may find yourself with a nasty case of diarrhea. 

5. You Could Get Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome 

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS) is a neurological disorder with both acute and chronic phases. It results from a deficiency in the B-vitamin thiamine, which helps metabolize glucose to provide energy for your brain. Alcohol lowers the levels of this vital nutrient, and excessive consumption can lead to this condition. If caught early, it is treatable, but if the abuse continues, the brain damage can become permanent. 

6. You Can Develop Gynecomastia 

If you like to chug a few brewskis with the boys, you could start to look a little feminine. Researchers found an association between beer consumption and the development of gynecomastia — which is known in slang terms as “man-boobs” or “moobs.” That’s because hops, a primary ingredient in your favorite tipple, contain high levels of phytoestrogens, a female sex hormone. 

Don’t think you can cure the problem if you switch to vodka or gin. All alcohol contains a ton of simple sugars and calories that contribute to weight gain all over, including your chest. 

7. You Could Lose Your Teeth 

No, this warning doesn’t refer to the possibility of taking a sock to the mouth during a bar fight, although that can certainly destroy your pearly whites. People who use alcohol to excess have higher levels of plaque, which contributes to gum disease and tooth loss. Additionally, since alcohol acts as a diuretic, it dries out your mouth. The lack of saliva allows harmful bacteria to flourish, and since wine and margaritas also contain sugars, these germs have plenty upon which to feast. Couple that with the fact that you’re more likely to topple into bed without brushing your teeth when you’re inebriated, and hello, cavities. 

Beware of These Little-Known Negative Health Effects of Alcohol

If you thought that cirrhosis of the liver was the only negative health effect of excess alcohol consumption, think again. Having one too many can disrupt nearly every system of your body, so practice moderation and learn alternative ways to relax while sober. 

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