Alcohol consumption is something that many of us do to unwind, relax and socialize. We may be weekend drinkers, or have a drink while cooking dinner each night. Either way, it’s a good idea to take some time to think about the impact of your consumption or even take a holiday from drinking for a period of time so that you can determine if alcohol is interfering with your health goals. Here are a few common symptoms of alcohol consumption to consider…
Alcohol is a diuretic which causes your body to remove water from your system at a much quicker rate. That means that you can become dehydrated quickly if you don’t drink enough water to make up for the amounts being lost. What effect does this have on the body? Unfortunately, a lot. For instance:
- Skin conditions such as eczema or adult acne can worsen due to the added oxidative stress.
- Muscles can become stiff and cramped and even lose mass with drinking too much alcohol over time. This leads to a slowing of your metabolism.
- Brain and cognitive performance are negatively affected.
Alcohol can irritate the GI tract and liver and lead to intestinal inflammation. It does this by creating imbalances in our gut bacteria as well as increasing the permeability of the intestinal lining (i.e. leaky gut). Why does this matter? Ultimately this leads to inflammation throughout the body that can trigger a number of unwanted symptoms of aging such as joint aches and pains.
Even if you have no visible indication of joint damage, the effects of regular drinking can trigger small changes that add up to create noticeable pain. For instance, the dehydration caused by drinking alcohol reduces the hydration our joints need to stay lubricated and fight inflammation. Also, alcohol suppresses the immune system which reduces the body’s ability to heal and can exacerbate current conditions and make us more susceptible to new ones. Finally, alcohol is known to have a thinning effect on cartilage in your joints which can eventually cause significant inflammation and pain.
Most alcohol contains high levels of sugar that raise your blood sugar, can stimulate your appetite and contain a lot of empty calories, all of which have a negative impact on your metabolism and ability to maintain your weight at a healthy level. Alcohol can also increase blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
Although many of us think of alcohol as helping us to relax and get to sleep, it actually is more likely to interfere with a good night’s sleep than support it. Alcohol disrupts our circadian rhythm that affects our sleep by reducing melatonin, and it interrupts important REM sleep that we need for mental restoration, memory and emotional processing. Alcohol also affects many other biological functions that rely on our master biological clock such as our liver and digestive function increasing the risk of leaky gut.
You don’t necessarily have to give up on all alcohol all the time. But make a point of becoming aware of alcohol’s impacts on your body so that you can make mindful decisions about when and how much you will consume. I have written more details about red wine consumption in particular and how I consume it here.