Alcohol is known for changing the way we perceive the world around us. Sure, we’re not necessarily thinking about this when we’re drunk, dancing on a bar while singing “I Want To Break Free” at the top of our lungs, but this is basically what it does. However, we’re not often aware of just how we’re affected by alcohol when we drink it. It might seem unnecessary to know exactly how our bodies are affected by alcohol according to science, but it’s actually something that we really need to know.
Alcohol affects our bodies in a lot of ways. We often don’t even see what alcohol does to our bodies until we’re cutting it from our diets. It’s one of those things we consume but we never actually think about what it’s doing to us. If you’re a regular drinker, or even if you’re not, this is something you need to read. Here’s what you need to know about what alcohol does to your body, and the top 15 things to look out for.
15. HORRIBLE Sex
Chronic alcohol drinking can do a lot more than mess with your teeth and liver, it can also mess with your penis. Alcohol affects men and women in different ways, but men who are heavy drinkers often have to deal with erectile dysfunction, no matter their age. If you’re a woman, lots of alcohol can mess with your fertility and make it less likely for you to conceive. Unlike a lot of these other effects, this doesn’t go away immediately after you stop drinking. Even after years of sobriety, erectile dysfunction due to chronic alcohol drinking can still hang around, and it can even be permanent.
You don’t really realize it when you’re drinking, but you can gain a lot of weight. Anyone with a beer belly knows this particularly well, but even if you don’t seem to be gaining weight, you might find yourself doing so in the long run. Alcohol is basically a ton of empty calories, since there isn’t anything in alcoholic drinks that our body can use for anything besides getting drunk.
13. Muscle Loss
While you’re gaining all that weight, you can rest assured that none of it is good weight. When you quit drinking, you end up losing weight and gaining muscle mass. So when you drink alcohol over a long period of time, it stands to reason that you might find yourself losing muscle mass over time, too. If you’re a person who likes to drink, and also likes to go to the gym, you might be canceling out all the effort you’re putting in.
12. Cholesterol Drama
This isn’t quite backed up by science, so this is why I’m bringing up both points at once. While quitting drinking can lower your cholesterol, it turns out a glass of red wine a day for a month can actually increase your good cholesterol by around 16%, according to research. That being said, if you’re drinking a lot, you’re not doing your cholesterol any favors. One study done on mice showed that when they were given the equivalent of two drinks a day, their bad cholesterol fell. However, when they basically drank twice a week, their bad cholesterol went up by 20%. Sure, mice aren’t humans, but I’d err on the side of caution.
11. Blood Sugar Problems
Alcohol is basically filled with sugar, so when you drink it and it goes through your body, you’re basically mainlining sugar. Drinking alcohol is like drinking a ton of sugar all at once, so it makes sense that your blood sugar ends up going all over the place. On top of that, you get all the cravings that come with a huge increase in sugar intake, complete with headaches, dizziness, bad concentration, and much more. You’re not dizzy and craving sugar because you’re drunk, but because you’ve drank much more than your daily intake of sugar.
10. Unhappy Liver
As we all know, your liver is never happy when you decide to drink. Research has shown that drinking alcohol over a long period of time makes your liver stiff, which greatly reduces when you stop drinking. Drinking lots of alcohol over a long period of time means that you’re at a higher risk of fatty liver disease, cirrhosis and liver cancer, none of which are particularly fun.
9. Higher/Lower Risk Of Disease
Weirdly enough, when you drink alcohol, you end up with a higher risk of some diseases and a lower risk of others. When you drink a lot, you’re more likely to develop cancers in your mouth, liver, breasts, colon, and rectum. That’s not all that pleasant to think about, but it’s definitely something worth considering if you’re making drinking a habit. However, if you’re drinking red wine, you’re drinking something that’s scientifically proven to reduce blood pressure (if you’re drinking it moderately).
8. Less Reliable Sleep
A lot of people think you sleep better after you drink, but according to years of research, you’re really not sleeping all that well after all. Sure, it works in the short term, but over a long period of time, it’ll really mess up your sleep cycle. A review of 27 studies proved that drinking alcohol over a long period of time reduces the amount of time you spend in REM sleep, which is the deep sleep that you actually need to function properly, that allows you to enjoy the benefits of restorative sleep. One drink before bed every night can actually make your sleep worse, or exacerbate sleep apnea if you have it.
7. You’re Less Happy
Remember when I said giddiness doesn’t equal happiness? I meant that. While alcohol might leave you feeling giddy, it certainly doesn’t make you happy in the long run. Keep in mind, alcohol is a depressant. People who drink alcohol as a habit have far less serotonin in their bodies than people who don’t drink or at least drink occasionally. This is a pretty extreme effect too: chronic drinkers have a similar level of serotonin than people with depression.
6. Your Depression Doesn’t Have Much To Do With It
If you’ve actually got depression and drink because of it, you might not have the right view of things. A study recently came out in 2013 proving this, but the study had gone on for something like thirty years. It turns out that many people who drink because they’re depressed might actually be depressed because they drink. This means that drinking isn’t an effect of depression, it’s a because of it. For many people, if they’re depressed and stop drinking, the depression might go away along with the habit.
5. More Stress
Many people drink to unwind after a long, stressful day. Unfortunately, if you overdo it on the alcohol, you might actually be causing yourself more stress over time. Stress is linked to low serotonin, which we’ve talked about before as being the thing that keeps us happy. Generally, the less happy you are, the more stressed you are, so this makes sense. However, alcohol also raises your cortisol levels. Cortisol is basically the stress hormone, but it also makes you want alcohol more. Basically, when you’re stressed, you end up drinking, which only makes you more stressed, which makes you drink more. See the vicious cycle yet!
4. Worse Memory
Drinking alcohol, over time, can make your memory worse. You probably knew that if you’ve ever had an alcohol induced blackout, but evidently, there are more far reaching consequences. One study looking at 5,000 men and 2,000 women discovered that heavy drinkers end up experiencing major drops in memory. Everyone’s memory eventually goes, but for heavy drinkers, their memories go up to six years sooner than people who drink less. This doesn’t just go over time either, another study looked at university students and the same effect was seen in them as well. There’s good news, though: if you don’t drink for a while, your memory and thinking skills go back to the way they were, more or less.
3. Immune System Issues
When you drink regularly, you’re a lot more susceptible to colds, sore throats, and other annoying infections on a regular basis. That’s because alcohol has a way of really screwing with our immune systems. One study found that one night of binge drinking messes with your immune system as soon as twenty minutes after ingesting alcohol. Research has found that when you consume alcohol in large amounts, you’re depriving your body of nutrients it needs to make white blood cells, which means that small infections can more easily get through to your body.
2. Teeth And Gums Issues
Remember the sugar I was talking about earlier? That has some pretty horrifying effects on your body, but it especially has awful ramifications for your teeth. You know how you’re always thirsty after a night of drinking? That’s because the alcohol is decimating your ability to produce saliva, which is your body’s way of protecting your mouth from bacteria and other infections. Without saliva, you can get plaque build up, bacteria, bad breath, and other sorts of awful mouth issues that are totally unnecessary. Alcohol can even make your gum disease worse.
You definitely knew this one if you’ve been drunk before, but when you drink, you tend to get a bit giddy. Note that I didn’t say “happy” because that’s definitely not what’s happening. However, what is happening is that the chemicals in the alcohol are working to dull your senses, so to speak. This is why people can do a ton of things that they might not be physically capable of doing sober. Alcohol alters your mood, and ironically, it’s a depressant that can make you smile.