I pondered writing about this subject because I am aware that a lot of people find enjoyment in it, and I would like to start by saying I'm sorry to be the one to break the terrible news to you.
I'm going to provide you some information regarding alcohol consumption and how it affects your hormones, DNA, gut, brain, and mood. Regretfully, this holds true for all alcohol consumers, particularly for those who may be light to moderate daily drinkers (1-2 drinks a day).
To put it plainly, this is knowledge that cannot be disregarded. Even though the research has been around for a while, it has either been disregarded, brushed under the rug, or assumed to solely apply to serious alcohol users. Not true. This material pertains to you if you drink in any way on a regular basis, and you should be aware of something having such strong bad health consequences.
The Economics of Drinking Alcohol
A significant cultural and social institution is alcohol. The main focus of almost every holiday, year-round, is alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption is frequently a focal point of social events including weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and other celebrations. Then there are spectator sports like baseball, football, and others. Without beer, how would the Super Bowl be? Remember the daily Happy Hour as well.
As of 2021, the alcohol business held a global market share of approximately 1.45 trillion dollars. Compared to 2019, this is a 72 billion dollar increase. This is BIG money, and I believe that the fact that most people are unaware of the risks associated with alcohol is mostly due to this massive trillion-dollar industry and its strategies for stifling disinformation about it.
Despite being accepted everywhere and being used in a wide range of social and cultural contexts, alcohol has a very dark side that is either completely ignored or rarely discussed.
Even in modest amounts, alcohol consumption is just as harmful as smoking cigarettes. Actually, a half-pack or more of cigarettes a week has been likened to consuming 10g of alcohol each day, which is equivalent to one small glass of wine, one shot of liquor, or one beer.
Despite the fact that between 60 and 70 percent of adults in the US drink, most adults are unaware of the connection between alcohol consumption and cancer, according to a new survey.
Worse yet, more than 10% of respondents erroneously think that alcohol use, particularly wine consumption, is healthful. Resveratrol, a naturally occurring antioxidant that slows aging, is indeed present in red wine. Regretfully, wine has very little resveratrol, which is unfortunate for you wine lovers.
Wines can contain traces of resveratrol or as much as two milligrams per liter (with Pinot Noir having the greatest quantities). This implies that in order to reap any health advantages, you would need to consume roughly 1000 mg daily.
To put these numbers into perspective, one would need to drink about 500 liters of wine a day, or roughly 650 bottles. You won't benefit much from 600 bottles of anything every day, especially 600 bottles of wine, in my opinion.
What Happens To Your Body When You Drink Alcohol
Because alcohol is soluble in both fat and water, it can permeate all organs and tissues with the exception of bone and fat. Additionally, alcohol's harmful effects can also enter the blood brain barrier and harm brain cells.
Chemistry states that isopropyl, methyl, and ethyl are the three main forms of alcohol. While all are poisonous, humans can only ingest ethyl, or grain, alcohol. Ethyl alcohol still causes significant stress and cell damage, and it is very poisonous to the body.
Alcohol is swiftly taken into the bloodstream and made its way to the liver, where it is processed. Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) is the primary enzyme in the liver that breaks down alcohol.
Alcohol dehydrogenase breaks down ethanol to produce the toxic substance acetaldehyde, which is subsequently broken down into acetone or acetic acid. The body can then expel carbon dioxide and water, which are produced when acetic acid is broken down, through perspiration, breath, and urine.
A person's liver can only process small quantities of alcohol at a time, and this varies by person. The liver can typically process one drink every hour. A person's liver cannot expedite the detoxification process if they consume alcohol at a rate greater than one drink per hour. Alcohol is metabolized more slowly by women than by men, and more slowly by older persons than by younger adults.
Acetaldehyde, a product of unmetabolized alcohol, will circulate in the blood. The "poison" in alcohol is acetaldehyde, and the drunken feeling you're experiencing is actually the poison your bloodstream and brain are dealing with. This toxin not only makes you feel inebriated but also invades your cells, seriously harming them.
1. Alcohol and Increased Cancer Risk
There is compelling evidence to suggest that drinking alcohol, even in moderation, raises the risk of several cancers considerably. Alcohol is categorized as a Group 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organization, indicating that it is a known direct cause of cancer in humans. According to the American Cancer Society, alcohol consumption ranks among the most significant avoidable risk factors for cancer, along with tobacco use and being overweight.
But contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be a compulsive drinker to suffer the negative effects of alcohol on your body and cells. It only takes one or two drinks every day, and the risk goes up with the amount consumed.
Numerous studies have been conducted on the relationship between alcohol use and cancer. The cancer types most closely linked to alcohol consumption are those listed below:
- Breast cancer
- Mouth, throat, and laryngeal cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Liver cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Skin cancer
Let's examine how drinking raises the possibility of developing breast cancer. Each drink (10g alcohol) consumed daily raises the risk of breast cancer by 8–15% in both pre-menopausal and menopausal women. That's the same as one shot of liquor, one 12-ounce beer, or one glass of wine. That means that drinking two glasses of wine a day increases your risk of breast cancer by 16–30%. There's also a comparable elevated risk for other forms of cancer. If you ask me, that's rather sobering (pardon the pun).
Alcohol raises the risk of cancer in a number of ways, including by causing inflammation. Inflammation is often followed by cancer. Drinking alcohol raises the body's levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and inflammatory indicators, including tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and C-reactive protein (CRP), all of which can lead to the development of health issues, including cancer.
Some of the ways in which alcohol increases inflammation in the body include:
- Alcohol causes the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and the entire stomach to deteriorate, which raises immune cell activity and causes inflammation throughout the body.
- Alcohol increases the release of cortisol, adrenaline, and estrogen, all of which can exacerbate inflammation and accelerate the formation of cancerous cells and tumors.
- Nutrients like zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin D that are necessary for a healthy immune system are metabolized and absorbed more slowly when alcohol is consumed. Cancer cells can be combated and eliminated by a robust immune system.
- Free radicals and oxidative stress are both exacerbated by alcohol and lead to inflammation and cell damage.
- Since many cancer forms feed on glucose, the high sugar content of most alcohol contributes to the growth of cancer.
Alcohol mostly raises the risk of cancer because it breaks cell DNA. The DNA code is the blueprint for the division of healthy cells; disruption to this code causes the cells to mutate and transform into cancerous cells. When malignant cells proliferate into tumors, they can spread quickly because of the heightened inflammatory response and compromised immune system.
2. Alcohol and Mood Regulation
After consumption, alcohol begins to influence brain function about five minutes after consumption. We refer to this initial phase as subliminal intoxication. At this point, response speeds, conduct, and judgment are already compromised. The prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is in charge of inhibition and impulse control, is suppressed after just one drink.
Early drinking also causes a surge in serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. That's why the majority of people like drinking. They experience ease, self-assurance, and frequently a slight buzz. The elevated levels of dopamine and serotonin cannot be replicated by more beverages. Because of the harmful effects of alcohol on the brain, dopamine and serotonin travel a long, gradual downhill path following their first rise, which makes people feel generally more gloomy.
When people try to replicate the dopamine rush, it becomes problematic. People's attempts to relive those happy experiences through alcohol make them more ephemeral. Despite the potential short-term effects, this can lead to a rise in alcohol and dopamine addiction in many people. Unfortunately, long-term alcohol use can lead to persistent anxiety and sadness in drinkers.
3. Alcohol Shrinks Brain Matter
The brain shrinks and the neocortex thins after drinking alcohol, even in moderation (one or two drinks per day).
Research indicates that drinking alcohol has a negative correlation with brain white matter, regional gray matter volumes, and global brain volume measurements. The frontal, parietal, and insular cortices were the most heavily affected, with alterations also seen in the temporal and cingulate areas, despite the fact that approximately 90% of the brain exhibits substantial negative associations with alcohol use. The amygdala, putamen, and brain stem all exhibit associations.
The gray and white matter in the brain is shrinking, according to study, and this effect is seen in middle-aged and older adults as well as younger adults.
Additionally, alcohol alters the hormones secreted by the adrenal glands, pituitary gland, brain, and adrenal glands.
The endocrine system includes the pituitary, adrenal glands, and hypothalamus. The pituitary gland, a small gland at the base of the brain, is controlled by hormones and neurotransmitters produced by the hypothalamus, a small region of the brain.
In turn, the pituitary gland generates hormones that control the body's growth, metabolism, and reproduction, among other processes.
The adrenal glands are a pair of tiny glands situated above the kidneys. They secrete hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that aid in controlling the body's reaction to stress.
Alcohol alters the hormone and neurotransmitter production in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which can have an impact on a number of bodily functions, including the interaction between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands.
Alcohol causes the body to produce more cortisol and adrenaline, two stress hormones that heighten anxiety and tension.
Alcohol also affects the body's capacity to react to elevated stress in a healthy way.
Regular alcohol use raises cortisol baseline levels, which makes you feel more worried and nervous even when you're not drinking. This frequently causes someone to feel as though they "need" a drink following a hectic or relatively stress-free day.
Even though high baseline cortisol levels can return when drinking stops, the issue lasts for a considerable amount of time after drinking.
Even when you abstain, drinking reduces your ability to handle daily stressors, which makes you want to drink more often.
4. Alcohol and Chronic Gut Inflamation
Alcohol is thought to be an antiseptic when rubbed. Likewise with ethyl alcohol. Good and harmful germs are eliminated by antiseptics. Alcohol use also has this effect because it eliminates the good bacteria in the stomach, albeit tiny amounts of alcohol can still be harmful.
Alcohol causes inflammation in the gut, which in turn fuels disease throughout the GI tract and beyond. In fact, alcohol-induced intestinal inflammation may have a direct impact on a number of alcohol-related ailments, such as neurological diseases, liver disease, and malignancies.
The inflammation itself is caused by alcohol metabolism, which also causes "bad" bacterial and fungus overgrowth, immune system dysfunction, leaky gut syndrome, and increased inflammation throughout the body. Food sensitivities and allergic reactions can also result from a leaky gut because food's protein molecules can pass through the gut and into the circulation, where the immune system can attack them.
Alcohol consumption raises the risk of GERD, or esophageal reflux disease, which frequently results in esophageal cancer in addition to gut inflammation and dysbiosis. Additionally, drinking alcohol can lead to stomach irritation, or gastritis. Recurrent bouts of gastritis increase the risk of stomach cancer and ulcers.
Reduced immune function and several nutrient deficits result from poor absorption and metabolism of nutrients brought on by gut inflammation. Alcohol can have an impact on certain nutrients, such as:
- Vitamin A, important for vision, immune function, and skin health.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin), important for nerve function and energy production.
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) necessary for brain function, immune function, and metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates.
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin), important for nerve function and the production of red blood cells.
- Folate helps produce red blood cells and promotes DNA synthesis. Because of its role in DNA synthesis, low levels of folate can increase risk of cancers. Folate is one of the nutrients most easily depleted by drinking alcohol.
- Iron, also key to producing red blood cells and transporting oxygen throughout the body.
- Zinc is necessary for immune function, wound healing, and appropriate taste and smell.
5. Alcohol Increases Testosterone to Estrogen Conversion in Men
Because alcohol affects the enzyme aromatase, men who drink alcohol may see a rise in their estrogen levels. The enzyme known as aromatase is in charge of changing testosterone into estrogen. Frequent alcohol usage raises the enzyme aromatase, which enhances the conversion of testosterone to estrogen.
Normally, the liver is able to process and remove excess estrogen from the body. Alcohol-induced liver inflammation impairs the liver's ability to break down estrogen, which raises the amount of estrogen in the blood.
Both men and women are susceptible to this. It results in "estrogen dominance" symptoms in women, which include mood swings, weight gain, heavier than usual cycles, and worsened PMS.
Because fat cells may produce estrogen, drinking alcohol also causes an increase in body fat, which raises estrogen levels. Moreover, excess body fat might transform testosterone into more estrogen. Therefore, men who have higher body fat may also have lower testosterone and higher estrogen levels. Men who have low testosterone and higher-than-normal estrogen experience symptoms such as erectile dysfunction, muscle loss, gynecomastia, or "man-boobs."
Other Problems With Alcohol Consumption
When you combine the strong arguments made above with additional possible issues that drinking alcohol may cause, like:
- Other health problems: Weight gain, poor skin texture, bloating, liver disease, pancreatitis, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, lack of quality sleep, and poor moods.
- Addiction: Alcohol addiction is a real possibility that can result in both physical and mental dependence. Even if they wish to, those who are addicted to alcohol may find it difficult to give up drinking.
- Mental health problems: Drinking alcohol can exacerbate pre-existing mental health issues or promote the onset of anxiety and despair.
- Financial issues: Due to the high expense of alcohol, dining out can nearly treble the amount spent on drinks. A bottle of wine can set you back $300 to $500 or more per month if you buy it every day or every other day. Individuals under the influence of alcohol frequently make impulsive purchases that they regret afterwards.
- Social problems: Drinking alcohol can contribute to social issues like disagreements, altercations, and trouble in relationships. Along with increasing the likelihood of legal problems like drunk driving, speeding, and reckless driving, it can also lead to issues at work or school.
I genuinely don't see anything positive that consuming alcohol can accomplish for your mental or physical health, especially in light of all these grave side effects. Try working out at the gym or going for a run or walk in the fresh air if you feel like you need to drink to decompress or feel more confident. In the long term, it will be significantly better for you.
One more crucial thing to remember is that drinking alcohol is a major part of many social and cultural situations and events in our culture. That does not imply that you must completely shun these things. Pick a fun, healthful beverage and join in on the social events anyway. To be honest, though, I have discovered that completely abstaining from alcohol is far simpler than trying to limit your intake.
With each day that goes without alcohol, the advantages of abstaining grow. My cells are becoming better and healthier every day, my skin is bright and radiant, I sleep like a rock every night, I have more energy throughout the day, I get ill less frequently, and I no longer have brain fog.
Every day at the end of the workday, my partner and I would get together for "Happy Hour" to unwind, mingle, and share a glass of wine. We still follow the same routine even though we have both given up alcohol. Instead, we mix up interesting non-alcoholic drinks like kombucha and mineral water, put on some calming jazz, unwind, catch up on the day, and feel good about it.
Live it up, but without the booze. You will benefit greatly from it. Drinks!