What Alcohol Really Does to Your Body

Absorption of alcohol into the body begins in the stomach lining, where it is assimilated into the body of the drinker. However, on its way there, it passes through the mouth, down the throat and the esophagus.

Alcohol Poses a Danger to Your Body

Because of alcohol's caustic effect on the lining of the stomach and throat, several things can occur during this short passage into the body. The stomach produces acid to help digest food and beverages. If there is no food in the stomach, alcohol may cause the acid to back up into the throat and esophagus, causing acid reflux. This condition can erode the esophagus over time, a not uncommon condition seen among those who drink--even those who drink moderately. This can then cause bleeding of the esophagus. Another factor that can cause damage to the esophagus occurs when a drinker vomits from consumption of alcohol. These alcohol-related issues with the throat and stomach can pose a serious health threat.

Again, a drinker's stomach is in danger. Another negative effect of alcohol consumption and a risk for the drinker is to get a hole in the lining of the stomach. This is known as an ulcer, and many drinkers develop ulcers from the excess stomach acid combined with excess alcohol, which can become a toxic mix. Drinkers, even those with moderate habits, develop bleeding ulcers. Over time, this creates an inability for drinkers to digest any foods properly. The condition is painful, as well, and may lead to hemorrhaging of the stomach, esophagus or throat; which can sometimes be fatal.

Your Brain and Alcohol

Without the complex mechanisms of the brain operating fully, no one can function. Alcohol use, even a single drink, can impair brain function. Some of this damage is reparable, but not completely. Any drinking damages the brain by altering the signals and messaging taking place there. These changes can alter mood, behavior and the physical responses of the human body. Over time and with heavy alcohol use, the damage can be devastating and permanent.

Your Heart and Alcohol

The heart is heavily impacted by alcohol use; even moderate drinkers have developed heart disease. While some medical practitioners may tout the benefits of drinking a glass of wine or two daily, the risk for some people is too great, and outweighs the benefits. Knowing if your heart is in danger from alcohol is not always possible, so it is often best to assume the benefits are easily outweighed by the dangers. High blood pressure is the most common health risk resulting from alcohol, and may occur with even a single episode of heavy drinking.

Your Pancreas and Alcohol

The pancreas may become toxic with alcohol assimilation. This means that it begins to create poison out of the alcohol in the system of the drinker. The condition created is called pancreatitis and can lead to numerous health risks that include diabetes, problems with blood sugar levels and ongoing digestive problems.

Cancers of the throat, liver, mouth and esophagus may take place in drinkers. Damage to the immune system that occurs with alcohol consumption may increase risks for cancers of these and other types.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

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