Your Body on Booze: The Damage Done by Excessive Drinking

Did you go a little overboard with the spiked egg nog over the holidays? Swill a little too much bubbly on New Years Eve?

That’s perfectly alright—according to medical experts, drinking in moderation won’t typically do long-term damage, as long as you don’t make getting trashed a regular habit. However, excessive drinking and binge drinking affects the body in these seven ways…

1. Your Liver on Booze

You likely already know that heavy drinking can have a negative impact on your liver. For instance, regular bouts of binge drinking can cause liver inflammation, cirrhosis (or late stage scarring or fibrosis due to alcoholic hepatitis), and fatty liver (or steatosis).

The liver is responsible for filtering bodily toxins, which means ingesting too much liquor, sugar, and junky bar food can cause pollutants to accumulate and clog the organ from performing it’s purifying duties.

2. Your Immune System on Booze

When your doctor advises you not to drink alcohol when sick—he or she is doing your immune system a favor. Imbibing too much when you’re healthy can lessen immune strength in the ability to ward off germs, viruses, and disease.

However, when your immunity is already low (i.e., if your battling the flu) you can leave your body vulnerable. For instance, a bout of mild seasonal influenza can quickly turn into pneumonia if you weaken your system further by drinking for roughly 24-hours after you get tipsy, according to statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

3. Your Brain on Booze

Instead of the famous visual of a frying egg to symbolize your brain on drugs—your brain on booze might look similar to a mess of tangled, ill working electrical wires. This is because the consumption of alcoholic beverages blocks the brain’s communicative conduits (where messages travel from the brain to other parts of the body and vice versa) and blocks neurotransmitters (i.e., glutamate and GABA).

The more you drink; the less control you have over your physical function, mood, and impulse control, which can result in confusion, loss of coordination, lack of decision making skills, and the tendency to reach for yet another cocktail or beer.

4. Your Pancreas on Booze

Well scientists from the National Institutes of Health claim that the odd night of drunken revelry won’t do permanent damage—alcohol abuse over the long term will target the pancreas (the organ responsible for converting food into cellular fuel during digestion and regulating blood sugar levels) and cause it to emit noxious substances.

Over time, the toxins emitted by the pancreas will cause dangerous swelling and pancreatitis (the chronic inflammation of blood vessels in the pancreas) causing severe pain and painful digestive disorder.


5. Your Skin on Booze

Your skin is a direct reflection of what you put into your body—including too much alcohol. Medical researchers from the University of Missouri, claim that alcohol abuse will take a serious toll on your visage by damaging skin and preventing healthy skin cell rejuvenation.

Plus, if you have a tendency to skip proper meals or reach for junk food when you drink, this lack of essential nutrients will cause sebaceous glands to produce excess oils, which will clog your pores and cause chronic acne.


6. Your Digestive System on Booze

Sure, while a nice glass of wine can make a meal more enjoyable, gastroenterologists from the UK’s Nottingham Digestive Diseases Center, discovered that drinking during meals drastically slowed the digestive process.

The study monitored diners during the same meal—half of the participants drank white wine or schnapps with the meal while the other half sipped tea or water. Findings showed that those who drank water or tea fully digested their stomach contents within 6-hours. Those who drank alcohol took 9-hours or more to fully digest the meal.

7. Your Heart on Booze

According to researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Center, alcohol abuse is bound to cause chronic problems to your ticker over time. Binge drinking puts you at risk of heart arrhythmias (abnormal heart beat), high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy (damaged heart muscle), and stroke.

Add the tendency to gobble down greasy, trans fatty pub grub along with pitchers of beer, wine, and sugary cocktails—and you can only imagine the amount of stress it places on your heart, specifically the arteries.


Emily Lockhart

Emily Lockhart is a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer. She believes that being healthy is a lifestyle choice, not a punishment or temporary fix to attain a desired fitness or body image goal. Anna helps her clients take responsibility for their own health and wellness through her classes and articles on ActiveBeat.