From a quick pint, to a glass of wine with dinner, alcohol plays a role in most of our lives, both in meals and in health. While many people around the world enjoy a drink from time to time, few of us fully understand how drinking can impact our health and wellbeing.
Alcohol has a cocktail of effects on our body and mind. When you drink, different parts of your brain are simultaneously activated and deactivated, causing physiological changes including impaired judgement, disinhibition and slurred speech — often described as feeling tipsy.
The effects of booze aren’t limited to the brain. Alcoholic drinks have a diuretic effect, meaning they make you pee more than you would normally! This can then lead to dehydration, so it can be helpful to find time to sip water between alcohol drinks. While it may seem like the last thing you need is more liquid, this handy trick may prevent a terrible hangover the next day.
Feeling tipsy and needing to pee are just a few of short term effects that drinking can have on your body and mind. It’s important to remember that like any drug, alcohol can also affect your health in the long term. The types of illness that can develop after 10–20 years of excessive drinking include cancers of the mouth, throat and breast, liver and heart disease, stroke and even brain damage. The most effective way to avoid the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption is to not drink at all, but if you do want to drink from time to time it’s best to keep track of how much alcohol you drink.
‘Units’ are a way of expressing the amount of pure alcohol in a drink, they are a handy tool which allows us to compare types, sizes and strengths of different alcoholic drinks. Having an idea of how many alcoholic units are in a drink and how many units you consume over a week can be a helpful for keeping your health in check. If you want to learn more about units, what they mean and how to calculate them the NHS Livewell Units Guide contains all the information you need.
If you do chose to drink, it is advised that to keep the health risks of alcohol consumption low:
- men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis
- spread your drinking over three or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week
- if you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week
Cutting down on your drinking has many effects in the short term including improved mood in the morning, being less tired during the day, your skin looking better, feeling fitter and improved weight control. In the long term you may even notice improved sleep quality, mood and immune system health. In fact, the evidence for a protective effect of moderate drinking is less strong than previously thought. If you want to cut down on drink why not take part in Dry January or Go Sober for October, these month long alcohol-absences raise money for charity and benefit your health in the long term.
It’s important to remember that alcoholic drinks contain calories. For example, a standard glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of chocolate, and a pint of lager has about the same calorie count as a packet of crisps. To avoiding weight gain due to underestimating the calorific content of your favourite tipple keep track of the calories you are consuming through drinks or try low calorie and alcohol-free options.
Alcohol is an extremely addictive drug and alcohol abuse can be damaging for you and those around you. If you feel you are addicted and do not have control over your drinking you should seek help from a doctor, councillor or even someone you can talk to like a family member. There are many organisations that can provide you with help’ alcohol abuse is very common and treatable.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended for informational purposes only. The information provided herein are gathered from various sources and Your.MD does not take any responsibility for its accuracy. Never disregard, avoid, or delay in obtaining medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional because of information or advice you received via our blog.