Understanding the Effects of Alcohol


Author: Brooke Carmen, PT, DPT: Doctor of Physical Therapy and Blog Contributor.  Loves fun informational gems.  Fitness addict and wannabe foodie. Emphasizes patient-specific treatment style and promotes goal-oriented care. Learn more about Brooke on here. gems.  Fitness addict and wannabe foodie. Emphasizes patient-specific treatment style and promotes goal-oriented care. Learn more about Brooke on here.

We’ve all heard that drinking is bad for you. Smoking is bad for you. Drugs are bad. Potato chips, too. After awhile, we sometimes forget the details of why these things aren’t the best for our bodies. Maybe we just don’t want to think about it. However, there is a major reason why some people limit their alcohol intake, or at least, plan their drinking schedule very accordingly.

Why do a lot of people enjoy alcohol? It is a relaxant. It makes social interactions easier. There are different reasons for different people, and I’m not going into that answer in this blog. However, consider why, if you drink, you do. When we consider the effect on our bodies, we need to weight why we drink next to that.

Alcohol is a depressant which, by definition, reduces arousal or stimulation in the brain. Effects of depressants can range from ataxia (altered walking), pain relief, and lower blood pressure to anesthesia or death. We start to feel the effects of alcohol when are body cannot process it as quickly as we ingest it. Usually the first sign of this is a change in personality.

Our personalities come from the frontal lobes of our brains which is one of the main organs effected by alcohol. I mentioned the word depressant. Depressants slow us. They make us experience moods more intensely. Ever cry about something drunk that you wouldn’t necessarily sober? You’re on a depressant. Long term use of alcohol can lead to depression

Another system effected by drinking is our digestive. Starting in the mouth, drinking can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and potentially tooth loss. As it travels down to our stomachs, it can create ulcers in the esophagus. Heavy drinking can lead to ulcers in the stomach as well as gastritis. Our pancreas, which aides in digestion, becomes inflamed, which alters our metabolism. If you are wondering why your juicing, paleo, vegetarian, etc. diet isn’t working to fasten your metabolism, your alcohol intake is the exact opposite of what you are going after.

Lastly, as a physical therapist, I am going to mention the musculoskeletal system. One of the biggest effects on our body with long-term alcohol use is a decrease in bone mass. After a lifetime of drinking, your bones can take the bruit, becoming thinner, leading to osteopenia (precursor to osteoporosis) or osteoporosis (decreased bone mineral density). Our muscles take a hard hit as well. With a hangover, one of the last things we want to do is go on a brutal hike or try to go for our bench press personal record. Missing a few gym routines isn’t going to kill us, but a repetitive pattern over time is definitely going to be obvious with not only your appearance, but your overall physical capacity.

This is just brushing the surface regarding a few of several effects of alcohol. There are many more mental and physical effects of alcohol that I didn’t mention. If you are noticing a decline in your physical performance in your competative sport, hobby, or at the gym, consider reducing your alcohol intake. You may be pleasantly surprised to find a significant increase in your physical abilities and an overall, more positive attitude.