Alcohol and its effects on our bodies

Some of the diseases caused by excessive alcohol consumption and the parts of the body it affects

A friend asked me how she could help the husband of another friend realise that his drinking is up at the wrong end of the scale.

He is not an alcoholic but, like many of us, he has learnt to relax with a drink or two in the evening and is unaware of the impact this could have on his health.

Sorry about the sombre tone of this post – there is nothing good to say about alcohol when it comes to our bodies. As you can see from the word picture, excessive consumption of alcohol is responsible for many ills.

Despite what we hear about binge drinking in the UK, constant heavy drinking is just as likely to rob you of your health.

Myth buster – only those over 60 benefit from drinking red wine every day and then only in ‘moderate amounts’.

Every day that we drink we are:

  • Dehydrating – which can lead to permanent damage for our brains and other organs.
  • Failing to metabolise fat – which piles up on our bodies and around our liver.
  • Damaging our liver – the body can repair small amounts of light damage but constant drinking means that we never give our livers a chance to recuperate (did you know that our livers perform over 500 functions?).
  • Lowering our mood – alcohol disturbs neurotransmitters and that stops us feeling good.
  • Sleeping badly – you may have noticed that the need for 7-8 hours sleep every night in the news a lot at the moment. Alcohol reduces the amount and sleep quality.
  • Taking in ‘empty’ calories – no nutrients, but lots of energy – drinking four strong pints of lager (or Real Ale) equates to troughing down a hot dog, followed by a burger, followed by a doughnut.

As we build up our daily consumption in excess of the recommended daily amounts – in medical terms moving from low to increasing risk – the likelihood of experiencing alcohol related cancers, vascular diseases increases.

For men this is more than 3-4 units a day, for women 2-3 units a day (I once knew someone – a ‘new man’ – who felt these amounts were sexist; the truth is that women deal with alcohol differently and more of it reaches our fragile organs).

Once you get up to eight units a day for men or six for women the risk of serious disease is high.

What is a unit?

  • ½ pint of ‘normal beer’ (4%)
  • There are two units in a 50ml serving of ‘dark spirit’ at 40%
  • There are 1.7 units in a small (125ml) glass of 13.5% red wine

Both the drinkaware and NHS websites have unit calculators (links below) – even if you think you are okay, check out your consumption just to be sure.

For my friend, the advice is to get the drinker to see his GP or attend a well man clinic – this will put alcohol in the spot light and, hopefully, help him to kerb his drinking before it directly affects his health.

‘info graphic’

The NHS website provides guidance

You have seen the drink aware logo on adverts and alcohol bottles – now visit the drinkaware website


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