An increased risk of cancer, lung issues and damaged skin: What REALLY happens to your body when you drink more than two glasses of wine a night
- Every day 15 Australians will die due to alcohol related causes and injuries
- An Australian GP has spoken about how alcohol can impact the body over time
- He says those wanting to remain healthy should not exceed the set weekly intake
- From how it affects mental health to the ways it damages organs, we take a look
With the festive season just days away, a boozy blowout is on the cards for many.
And while a hangover is par for the course, if you’re blowing out in this kind of way on a regular basis you could be doing some serious harm to your health.
Although there’s a recommended weekly alcohol allowance of 14 units per week (or two standard drinks per day) overshooting the mark is often far more common.
Australian Medical Council spokesman and GP, Dr Richard Kidd, told FEMAIL that alcohol alone is responsible for 15 deaths a day in Australia and is causing damage to many parts of the body.
Over time you body and your health can be affected in potentially serious ways through excessive drinking
Australian Medical Council spokesman and GP Dr Richard Kidd (pictured)
Brain and nervous system
You might not think a few drinks at the end of a long day could do any damage, however, even minimal alcohol use can, and does, affect mental health.
Even if you are not binge drinking on a regular basis, alcohol can trigger anxiety and depression, even after just one or two drinks, Dr Kidd said.
‘Alcohol is a depressant and it can aggravate anxiety and depression in people who suffer from these conditions or have such vulnerability.’
Heavy drinkers may experience longer-term effects such as alcohol-related brain damage or a type of dementia known as Korsakoff’s syndrome.
Anyone who has hit the bottle too hard will be familiar with how alcohol can lead to blurred vision – a problem that generally rights itself after the booze has left your system.
But Dr Kidd said over time, excessive alcohol consumption (especially when coupled with a diet low in Vitamins B1 and B12) can cause permanent damage to your sight.
And he continued, in more extreme situations, excessive alcohol can have vision-altering effects.
One such issue, perceptual or inattentional blindness (a type of psychological problem) is understood as the failure to notice fully-visible objects and has been found to be related to excessive alcohol consumption.
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Mouth and throat
While a dry mouth after a night of drinking isn’t an uncommon side effect, if you’re regularly downing more than you should, alcohol can potentially cause serious mouth and throat issues.
This is because alcohol is a carcinogen, a substance that causes cancer in the body. Regular drinking can lead to an increased risk of cancers of the mouth, throat and voice box.
Drinking around 50 grams of alcohol a day (five standard drinks) increases the risk of these cancers by two to three times compared with non-drinkers, Alcohol.org.nz advises.
While the recommended weekly alcohol allowance is 14 units per week (or two standard drinks per day) it’s easy to overshoot this (stock image)
Because alcohol is a toxin, and the body struggles to process it, it can impact on your skin leaving it damaged, dry and dehydrated.
Dr Kidd explains that as well as having a dehydrating effect of on skin, over time can cause more permanent damage.
Skin problems associated with heavy drinking can range from facial flushing through to inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea (a condition that causes redness on the nose, chin, cheeks, and forehead).
As time progresses rosacea can become more severe and can cause the nose to take on a bulbous, swollen appearance called rhinophyma.
Alcohol doesn’t just affect the skin on your face, it’s collagen-stripping properties also damages all areas of your body including the breasts.
Dr Kidd added the long-term use of alcohol can also increase the risk of breast cancer, and, he noted a significantly elevated risk can be seen even from having one or two drinks of alcohol a day.
Long-term and excessive drinking can increase your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, weakening of the heart muscle and heart failure.
Alcoholic cardiomyopathy (an enlargement of the heart muscle) and alcohol-related arrhythmias (abnormal heart beats) are due to alcohol poisoning of the heart muscle, Dr Kidd explained.
These issues disrupt the normal pacemaker functions and rhythm of the heart and in alcoholic cardiomyopathy cause the heart muscle to weaken, stretch and fail.
Although you might bounce back from a binge-induced hangover, over time blowing out on a regular basis can take its toll (stock image)
Alcohol can break down the immune system in the lungs, making them more vulnerable to infection, and the damage it causes.
Problem drinkers or alcoholics suffering from lung inflammation are more at risk of developing pneumonia and life-threatening acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), for which there is no treatment.
Alcohol can irritate the stomach lining which can lead to nausea, vomiting and sometimes diarrhoea.
‘Alcoholic gastritis (inflammation and ulceration of the stomach) affects one-quarter of the Australian population,’ Dr Kidd said.
‘It is common and can have severe and fatal outcomes.’
Long-term, excessive drinking has also been associated with an increased risk of gastrointestinal cancer including stomach cancer.
Regularly drinking to excess may result in a fatty liver, a condition which can affect how this organ functions.
Dr Kidd also explained an inflamed liver can lead to alcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis (permanent liver scarring).
Liver cancer can also be caused by excessive alcohol consumption and subsequent damage.
Female reproductive system
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle and ovulation, making it difficult to conceive a healthy baby, Drinkwise states.
Dr Kidd said as well as these problems, there was potentially the issue of prenatal alcohol exposure – a condition which can cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
FASD can encompass a range of neurodevelopmental impairments (including difficulties with physical activities, language, memory, learning and behaviour) caused by alcohol exposure before birth.
‘Women may not even be aware they in the early stages of pregnancy when they drink,’ Dr Kidd advised.
‘Alcohol is a deadly poison to unborn babies, and no amount can really be considered safe.’
Is alcohol a problem? If it’s harming you, or someone you know, it may be time to seek advice from a professional. Visit DrinkWise for support services or speak to your GP, local health service or call a helpline.
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