Cutting down or cutting out alcohol can bring significant health benefits. Here are just a three.
It may feel like alcohol lifts your mood, but that's only short-term. Alcohol is a depressant that can aggravate low mood. Research shows that heavy drinking interferes with the neurotransmitters, including mood-boosting serotonin levels. Five or more drinks in one night can affect cognitive function for up to three days.
And, because too much alcohol affects your energy levels, it may be that you're less likely to exercise, which can boost mood and may mean that situations feel worse than they are.
After drinking too much alcohol, you may find it challenging to piece together what happened the night before. But the effects of alcohol on memory go much more profound. Studies show that alcohol inhibits the hippocampus's functioning – the part of the brain responsible for creating and saving memories. Frustrating!
Giving up for a few weeks may mean that you will have more clarity and deal with issues more positively.
One of the fastest and most easily identifiable post-heavy drinking symptoms is dehydration – headache and dry-as-a-desert mouth plus dry skin and cracked lips. Alcohol is a diuretic; it affects the kidneys and makes you lose more fluid as urine than you take in. Alcohol also inhibits the production of the hormone vasopressin, which encourages your body to re-absorb water instead of sending it straight to the bladder. Alcohol's dehydrating effects can trigger patches of dry skin.
The sugar in alcoholic drinks can also affect your skin – it can damage collagen, causing premature skin ageing. Plus, depletion of vitamins slows cell renewal dulling and greying the skin.
Alcohol dilates blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the skin, causing a flushed, red and blotchy complexion. As fluid leaks from your blood vessel, the result can be puffy, discoloured skin.
Stop drinking alcohol and your fluid levels should return to normal, and the result will be plumper skin, fewer under-eye bags.
Drinking too much alcohol may mean that your body will not absorb as many vital nutrients. Alcohol damages the cells that line the stomach and intestines, cells involved in transporting nutrients into the bloodstream, including thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamin B12, folic acid, and zinc. A severe lack of B vitamins can trigger anaemia and neurological problems.
When alcohol compromises healthy liver function, it can interfere with the way that vitamin D is converted into its active forms. So, heavy drinkers have low blood levels of activated vitamin D which has many vital roles.
Because alcohol does not provide vitamins and minerals, heavy drinking depletes the body's store of vitamins and minerals to process it such as B vitamins, iron, or calcium, leading to many other complications.
Are you drinking too much alcohol?
The first step to getting help for addiction is recognising the problem. Talk to your GP to talk about a referral to a psychologist or other specialist service.
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