Health & Wellness

#14DaysDry: How Alcohol Affects You and Your Body

Feeling giggly and more sociable is nice once in a while but the external and internal harm alcohol can do to you in the long run will not be worth all the giggles. For #14DaysDry, we’ve asked you to think about alcohol and substance use and abuse in a way that creates a conversation about our health and creates compassion for those who struggle with addiction.

Externally: Your Body and Alcohol

Let’s start with the basics: the way alcohol affects your appearance.

If you drink regularly and more than you should, after a period of time you’ll begin to notice many changes in your appearance. This includes bags under your eyes, red blotches, or sagging of your skin. You also might notice a bit of weight gain which some may call a “beer belly.”

Similar to many other beverages, with the exception of water, alcohol does have calories which add up after just two or three drinks. This is something that most of us who consume alcohol would not normally think of; we just drink for the fun. Let me give you a comparison.

2 bottles of beer (2 x 330ml) = your regular cream cheese and plain bagel.

1 glass of wine (250ml) = an ice cream cone

2 rum and cokes (50ml combined) = a slice of hawaiian pizza

1 glass of champagne (125ml) = a digestive biscuit

Comparing it with food says and shows a lot about alcohol. Was your New Year’s resolution to get fit and shed a few pounds? Cut some alcohol and perhaps you’ll see progress!

Internally: What’s Going On Inside

Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it slows the central nervous system and changes a person’s perception, emotion, movement, vision, and hearing. That alone says a lot about the power of alcohol and how harmful it is to your body in large amounts and over time.

If you consume alcohol in small amounts, it can make you feel less anxious and more relaxed, while larger portions of consumption leads to intoxication. When this happens, it causes changes in your brain and can make you feel disoriented, slur your speech or make you stagger, and create confusion, among many more effects. You often feel more open to communicating with individuals either in a positive or negative way. Read more about these “liquid courage” effects of alcohol, here.

Other long-term effects of alcohol within your body include memory loss, cancers such as bowel cancers, or heart and liver diseases. The liver is a vital organ that also has major effect in that the regularly over-drinking alcohol can damage your liver which you won’t realize until things get serious. Since the liver’s role is to convert foods into energy and help get rid of waste products as well as fighting infection, alcohol can cause harm to this vital organ and an increase your risk of developing liver disease.

Binge drinking, where large amounts of alcohol are consumed in a short amount of time, results in alcohol poisoning. This can create violent vomiting, extreme sleepiness, unconsciousness, difficulty in breathing, and seizures. 

The Aftermath: The Hangover

The morning after a night of drinking, you and your body feel exhausted, craving rest, but you can’t fall back asleep because of that nauseous feeling in your stomach and the pounding in your head. You know you should eat but can’t even bring yourself to it. This is your reminder what the power of alcohol can actually do to you and your body. Your hangover is due to a combination of things your body is dealing with: dehydration, lack of sleep, immune system response, stomach irritation and nausea, and your blood sugar dropping. The cure? Contrary to popular opinion, waking up and taking another shot, or your caesar Sunday is not actually going to get your body back to speed. Rest, food, and water, it’s as simple as that.

Did you participate in #14DaysDry, or follow any of the blogs and activities that were going on? If you did, maybe you learned something about your own alcohol consumption, or about how to address problem drinking when you see it happening around you. Let us know how your #14DaysDry went, or try it yourself another week and let us know what you learn.

Read more about #14DaysDry, here, and read the blogs and see our video:

Liquid Courage: Why we only pour our hearts out after we’ve poured a drink

11 Alcohol Life Hacks

15 Things Sober People are Tired of Hearing at Parties

#14DaysDry Pop Quiz: Facts About Alcohol

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Janine Maral
Third-year Journalism student at Ryerson University and multimedia storyteller for RU Student Life. I like to spend my free time blogging, on youtube, making guacamole, and listening to podcasts.