We’ve heard it before, too much alcohol is bad for you but what is that really about? Alcohol and your liver, do the two really go together? The truth is the human liver is quite sturdy and can cope with a small amount of alcohol.
What is Alcohol?
Alcohol although classified as a depressant, the amount of alcohol consumed determines the type of effect. Most people drink for the ‘stimulant’ effect but if a person consumes more than the body can handle they then begin to experience alcohol’s ‘depressant’ effect. It begins to slow down the Central Nervous system reducing motor coordination or your ability to control your movements (a vision of ‘Klint da drunk’ comes to mind). It reduces your reaction time and intellectual performance. The liver can only handle a certain amount of alcohol at any given time but if you drink too quickly or too much, the liver cells will struggle to process it. When alcohol reaches the liver, it produces a toxic enzyme called acetaldehyde which can damage liver cells and cause permanent scarring as well as harm the brain and stomach lining.
The liver requires water to work effectively. When alcohol enters the body, it acts as a diuretic, dehydrates you and forces the liver to find water from other sources. Severe Dehydration is part of the reasons why after a big night of drinking, you might wake up with a whooping headache. Dehydration is also one of the causes of mouth odor because when there is a decrease in saliva production it leads to an increase in odorous bacteria build up at the back of the mouth.
*Extra tip: A simple glass of water after every meal will not only prevent bad breathe but loosen and remove particles of food trapped between the teeth…. well that and a little dental floss never hurt anyone.
Regular and heavy drinking over time can strain or upset the way alcohol is metabolised within the body and this can lead to alcoholic liver disease. Drinking gives your body work to do that keeps it from other processes. Once you take a drink, your body makes metabolising it a priority — above processing anything else. Unlike proteins, carbohydrates and fats, your body doesn’t have a way to store alcohol, so it has to move it to the front of the metabolizing line. This is why it affects the liver because it’s the liver’s job to detoxify and remove alcohol from the blood.
Experts say that when you’ve ingested too much alcohol for your liver to process in a timely fashion, the toxic substance begins to build up and take its toll on the body starting with the liver.
Some recommended guidelines for both men and women exist like drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day to reduce your risk of harm from alcohol related disease or injury over a lifetime. Drinking consistently within low limits is called “lower risk” rather than safe because drinking alcohol is never completely safe. Also bear in mind that alcohol can have varying effects on you depending on age, gender; mental health, drug use, medical conditions.
Tips to help you limit your alcohol intake:
- Switch to low-alcohol or alternate an alcohol-free drink with an alcoholic one
- Mix your favourite wine with plain mineral water
- Mix beer or stout with lemonade
- Avoid situations where there is peer pressure to drink in rounds
If you’re having difficulty cutting back, talk to your doctor about getting professional help to reduce your alcohol intake.
A few benefits
- Deeper sleep: the quality of your sleep improves giving you a deeper restorative slumber.
- Brighter mood: that doesn’t sound right, you’re thinking “happy hour” when you’re drinking yeah, but then here comes the ‘down in the dumps mood’ the morning after. So basically drinking too much interferes with the neurotransmitters in our brains so alcohol can affect your mental health so drinking less can mean that you feel happier more of the time.
- More Energy: Alcohol can interfere with your immune system making it harder to fight off bugs. And with its negative effects on your sleep and mood, drinking too much can make you feel tired, sluggish and a bit under the weather. When you drink less, before long you notice that you have more energy.
- Better Concentration: Regularly drinking above the alcohol unit guidelines (no more than 14 units per week for men and women) will affect your concentration and ability to work. When you start to cut back, you may spot you work a little bit smarter, which can do wonders for your stress levels – and your career.
- Better Skin: Alcohol dehydrates your skin making it appear dull and grey. Thankfully, the skin is quick to react to changes so it could be looking better after just a couple of days of drinking less.
- Slimmer Waistline: Don’t you just love the sound of that? Alcoholic drinks are high in calories and can be fattening. Pure alcohol contains almost as many calories as pure fat. Switching to safe low calorie drinks can help beat a beer belly.
- Better long-term health: Cutting down on alcohol will reduce your risk of developing cancer, liver or heart disease and could lower your blood pressure.
- A happier stomach: By drinking less you could get rid of complaints such as diarrhoea and indigestion because alcohol irritates the stomach and makes it produce more acid than usual, which can in turn cause gastritis (the inflammation of the stomach lining).
- More time and money: Everyone likes the sound of more time and money. If you tend to drink in the same place, or at the same time, or with the same people, cutting back may mean you change your routine. By doing something different with your time you could discover other interests and meet new people. Keep a note of the money you save on alcohol and use it to treat yourself.
Most importantly “Love your Liver- drink in Moderation “