Been there, done that. We thought. And then it’s Friday and the weekend is calling and the cork gets popped and we’re at it again. Doing the alcohol thing. Whether we’re sipping our favourite whites or reds or we’re dipping into cocktail hour early, we’re all ahhhhhhhh, that’s the ticket.
We know the drill: too much of the boozy stuff wreaks havoc on the liver and sends kidneys into overdrive. But that knowledge doesn’t seem to stop us because it goes down so easy. And yes, we also know that a night of partying may end with a little hangover now and then. Hence the proactive ice water and aspirin by the bed—and all our favourite hangover cures.
Wait, didn’t someone say wine is good for you? While moderate consumption of alcohol can offer health benefits, the happy hour hostesses among us may end up feeling effects of alcohol we hadn’t thought of. Here are a few sobering ways drinking impacts your body more than you think.
EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL: 10 WAYS YOU DIDN’T REALIZE BOOZE WAS CHANGING YOU
1. Hair thinning, shedding and loss.
Yikes. When you drink excessively (more than 3 drinks within a 3-hour period), there’s an elevation of estrogen in the body and a decrease of zinc. A rise in estrogen leads to the hair loss and then the drop in zinc plus folic acid levels compromise healthy hair growth and maintenance.
Try This: You may need zinc and/or folic acid supplements.
2. Voice loss, or changes.
Ever lose your voice after a night out of partying? Typically shouting over loud music and second hand cigarette smoke gets the blame. What people don’t realize is that alcohol can cause dehydration leading to a dry throat and some constriction of the vocal chords.
Try This: Just another reason (besides to help you sober up) that you really want to drink water in between cocktails.
3. Cuts and bruises take longer to heal.
In 2014, a study published by researchers from the Loyola University Healthcare System showed that binge drinking reduces bacteria fighting white blood cells and hinders the production of a special protein that attracts them. White blood cells are essential for wound healing. A simple cut should be gone within a day or two and a bruise should be fading within 3-5 days.
Try This: If you’re drinking 10 or more drinks in one week, and you’re sober enough to notice, you’re likely to find that healing is taking its sweet time and you know you need to cut down.
4. Chronic colds.
When you get too many colds, that’s evidence of a compromised immune system. If you typically kick a sore throat with some warm tea, chicken soup and a good night’s sleep, after binge drinking, that same sore throat may escalate into strep throat. When the white blood cell count is low you may feel like your always battling a cold.
Try This: It’s so important to drink water and add vitamin E, C, zinc, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids into your diet to boost white blood cells and rid that run down feeling.
5. Always sleepy.
Alcohol causes disruptions to REM sleep, which sets in about 90 minutes after falling asleep and is the time for cellular turnover and restoration to the body. You need the solid REM level sleep. When you don’t get it, you lose the ability to concentrate and will feel that midday lag. People attribute the sluggish feeling to being out late thinking they slept deeply but the real problem is they fail to reach that optimal REM state.
Try This: You may need to nap when the effects wear off.
6. Cystic pimples and more breakouts.
Binging on booze or even consistent alcohol consumption over time, especially of sugary drinks with sodas and mixers, will cause insulin levels to spike. When insulin spikes, you produce more sebum, which can trigger oiliness in skin. Once you have high sebum production happening, pores get clogged and that’s when the breakouts appear.
Try This: Want to notice a significant change to your skin’s texture and clarity? Try cutting alcohol out! Even limiting alcohol intake to once weekly, 3 drinks maximum will help.
7. Chapped cracked lips.
Dehydration is top cause of cracked lips. Alcohol dehydrates us and for many this leads to chapped, dry chapped lips. When you drink, your system rids the body of water and for many with dry skin the lips feel tight and tingly. When alcohol hits the lips, it has a drying effect on them. Keep in mind that the ethanol found in alcoholic beverages can trigger lip ulcers which can linger for weeks.
Try This: After a night of drinking, try switching to 3 days of only drinking water, no sodas and no juices. You’ll notice your lips and skin get back to a better colour and texture.
8. Blurred vision.
When you drink, you interfere with the way key vitamins are absorbed by the liver. Many of those vitamins are necessary to maintain eye health and eyesight. If you’re deficient in vitamin B-1, eyesight can become weak and eye muscles can even experience paralysis. Other eye issues to be mindful of related to alcohol are permanent blurred vision because the eye muscle coordination gets weak. This is due to a slow down in communication between neurotransmitters in the brain and a delay in signals to the eye muscle.
Try This: Add vitamin B-1 to your diet.
9. Facial redness.
Alcohol increases blood flow leading to getting red in the cheeks and nose. This is even more apparent in people who have fair complexions. There are tiny blood vessels at the surface of the skin and excessive alcohol dilates them. Suddenly, you’re horrified by broken capillaries on the face that look like red spider legs. Once capillaries are broken, you’ll need to see a dermatologist for a laser treatment which can be expensive.
Try This: Lysine, vitamin C, gapeseed oil are all things that you can use at home that may help reduce redness.
10. Memory loss.
Ever notice how after a weekend of partying you may lose your keys misplace your credit card and forget key details on a work assignment? That spacey, forgetfulness is due to shrinking brain mass. When you mess with neurotransmitters, you’re messing with cognitive function which includes memory. Alcohol throws off brain chemistry in the hippocampus, a key spot in the brain helping us formulate memories. If you’re noticing blackouts where you forget leaving a party, how you got home or other details of the timeline, that’s a sign you’re drinking too much or too quickly.
Try This: Blackouts mean you’re overdoing it. While it’s certainly okay to enjoy a cocktail, a beer or some wine, too much takes a toll.
Dr. Christopher Calapai is an Osteopathic Physician board certified in family medicine, and anti-aging medicine. Proclaimed the “The Stem Cell Guru” by the New York Daily News, Dr. Calapai is a leader in the field of stem cell therapy in the U.S.