The consumption of alcohol and its effect on health is usually controversial. Some believe that consuming a small amount of alcohol is good for your health. While this statement could be correct, the question then is “What is a small or moderate amount of alcohol, and how do you know when to stop?” Alcohol can become quite addictive and also has adverse effects, thus, it may be safer just to avoid alcohol altogether. Here are some of the health risks from alcohol consumption:
- High Blood Pressure
Alcohol may disrupt how your blood vessels dilate or constrict in response to stress. Over time, this elevated blood pressure may become chronic and can lead to many health problems, such as heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke.
- Nutritional deficiencies
Some vitamin deficiencies such as folate and B1, are usually associated with chronic alcohol abuse. These nutritional deficiencies are associated with anemia, poor heart function, and peripheral neuropathy (painful pins-and-needles-like feelings or numbness in the extremities as well as muscle weakness and erectile dysfunction).
- Infectious disease
Heavy drinking suppresses the immune system and increases the risk of various infections from tuberculosis to sexually transmitted diseases.
- Adverse effects on other organs
Alcohol consumption can irritate the stomach lining, thus causing gastritis. You will perceive abdominal pain, bloating, and sometimes vomiting and symptoms of gastritis. Inflammation of the pancreas or pancreatitis is more severe and could be life threatening. Symptoms are usually severe abdominal pain radiating to the back. It could also be accompanied by severe vomiting and sometimes fever.
- Liver cirrhosis
Chronic alcohol abuse can cause inflammation of the liver initially and then hardening of the liver, which is known as cirrhosis. Liver cirrhosis leads to many other health problems, such as anemia, bleeding disorders, liver failure, renal failure, and death.
Research has confirmed that alcohol consumption can increase the risk of certain cancers including but not limited to cancer of the colon, rectum, liver, mouth, throat and breast.
- Psychosocial effects
Chronic alcohol consumption may lead to spousal abuse, dysfunctional families, and overall poor social relationships.
If you have a problem with alcohol abuse, find someone you trust and seek help now. If your goal is to obtain good health that will last a lifetime, alcohol consumption is a habit that you should probably seek to let go of. Here are some additional tips that could help you kick the habit.
Write down all the reasons you want to stop drinking alcohol. It may also be helpful to contemplate and explore why you drink. Is it because you want to destress or do you feel pressured to fit into your social circles by drinking? You can also write down whatever goal you are setting for yourself in the area of alcohol consumption.
- Maintain an alcohol free home
It will be much easier to at least reduce your alcohol consumption if you don’t keep it in your house. You can also make alcohol less accessible to you by staying away from other spaces you may be tempted to indulge in drinking, especially in the beginning.
- Find alternative self- care options
Instead of using alcohol as means of de-stressing and socializing, explore other options available to you. Utilize self-care methods that truly care for your body and mind such as painting, dancing, crafting or gardening. This can also open you up to other means of socializing that do not include alcohol. Also ensure that you are getting enough sleep, exercising and eating a balanced whole food, plant based diet.
- Reward yourself
Some people may benefit from a reward system as an incentive for not drinking for example. If you estimate that you spend $50 per week on alcohol, you could save that money and reward yourself with something else you enjoy at the end of an alcohol free week or reward yourself after a month or 6 weeks of savings with a road trip.
- Accountability, Community, Support
You may know someone else who wishes to take the same journey to alcohol free living or you can involve a family member or friend who has your best interest at heart in the process to be your companion along the journey and keep you accountable to your goals. Sometimes a counselor or support group may be a better way to accomplish this. This community can also be found when you become involved in other social settings as mentioned before, with others who are not making alcohol consumption a centerpiece in their lifestyle.
- Formal rehab treatment
You have to do what’s best for you. If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to kick the drinking habit on your own or feel that you may be dependent on alcohol, reach out to your doctor or other trained personnel who have the resources and techniques to help you.
The Cooper Wellness & Disease Prevention Center is also here to support your wellness journey. Feel free to contact us at 956-627-3106 or go to www.cooperwellnesscenter.com to find out more about our wellness coaching programs.
To your health,
Dona Cooper-Dockery, MD