Daily intake of one or two alcoholic drinks is considered low to moderate. In comparison, binge drinking involves five or more drinks for men and four for women within two hours. Heavy drinking exceeds 14 drinks weekly for men and seven for women. Such patterns increase the risk of long-term health issues, including alcohol use disorder. Australia's NHMRC advises a daily limit of two drinks. Still, specific groups, like those with a history of addiction or certain medical conditions, should abstain.
Alcohol disrupts brain neurotransmitters, leading to cognitive impairments. Consistent heavy use can result in conditions like neurodegeneration and mental health disorders. On the body, Alcohol affects the gut and cardiovascular system and disrupts sleep. Excessive consumption, sometimes seen in alcoholic individuals, can result in alcohol poisoning symptoms, strain the liver, and increase risks of diseases like cirrhosis, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
Mixing alcoholic drinks with SSRIs can worsen depression or anxiety symptoms and, in severe cases, lead to a life-threatening condition, serotonin syndrome. To combat Alcohol's adverse effects, adopt stress management strategies, maintain a gut-healthy diet, and ensure sound sleep. Noosa Confidential offers evidence-based, tailored programs addressing the root causes for those seeking holistic recovery from alcohol-related issues, ensuring sustainable wellness and lasting recovery.
Is Alcohol unhealthy?
As you navigate through life's many joys and challenges, understanding how Alcohol impacts our bodies and minds can be an empowering tool. This knowledge becomes especially valuable when engaging in regular alcohol consumption. Awareness of Alcohol's effects and alcohol markers offers a proactive approach to minimising potential harm and managing alcohol intake responsibly.
How many drinks are classified as binge drinking?
Whether it's toasting to a celebration, a wind-down glass of wine after a hectic day, or an evening out with friends, Alcohol finds its place in various facets of our lives. The impact, however, is determined by how much we drink and how often.
Low to Moderate Drinking: Involves the consumption of one or two standard drinks per day. While it may still lead to some adverse health effects, the risks are relatively lower than heavier consumption.
Binge Drinking: Characterised by consuming large quantities of Alcohol quickly. It's typically defined as five or more drinks in two hours for men and four or more for women.
Heavy Drinking: Involves consuming more than 14 drinks per week for men and more than seven drinks per week for women. This pattern of consumption significantly increases the risk of long-term health issues.
While there's no 'one-size-fits-all' drinking advice, Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) encourages a limit of two standard drinks per day to reduce the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury. Yet, it's essential to recognise that specific individuals should abstain entirely, including pregnant individuals, those under the legal drinking age, those with a history of addiction, or those with certain medical conditions or on medication that could negatively interact with Alcohol.
What does Alcohol do to your body?
Effects on the Brain
Alcohol consumption can influence multiple facets of brain functioning:
Neurotransmitter Disruption: Alcohol interferes with neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers within the brain. This disturbance can lead to stimulation and sedation, impacting mental and physical responses and impairing cognitive abilities like thinking and reasoning.
Top-Down Inhibition: Alcohol impairs the brain's top-down inhibition mechanism, which controls impulses and reactions. This impairment can result in reduced self-control, increased impulsivity, and poor decision-making skills.
Memory Formation: Alcohol can hamper the brain's ability to form new memories, occasionally leading to temporary blackouts.
Long-Term Impact: Consistent, heavy alcohol use can lead to neurodegeneration, causing a reduction in brain volume and disrupting brain structure and function. These changes can contribute to cognitive decline and heighten the risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Effects on the Body
Alcohol also exerts profound effects on the body, impacting several systems:
Gut Microbiome Disruption: Alcohol consumption can disrupt the balance of the gut microbiome, interfere with nutrient absorption, and potentially contribute to gastrointestinal issues.
Cardiovascular Impact: Alcohol affects the cardiovascular system, potentially increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Sleep Cycle Disruption: Alcohol consumption disrupts the sleep cycle, causing fragmented sleep and reducing the amount of restorative REM sleep. These changes can lead to daytime fatigue, decreased mental and physical performance, and heightened stress and anxiety levels. Our blog post on the symptoms of sleep further explores the importance of sleep to overall well-being.
Does Alcohol act as a poison?
The liver primarily handles the metabolism of alcohol through a multi-step process. First, the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) transforms alcohol into acetaldehyde, a potent toxin and recognised carcinogen. Then, the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) processes acetaldehyde into acetate, a less harmful compound. The body later turns this acetate into water and carbon dioxide for expulsion. When people drink faster than their liver can handle, the remaining alcohol flows freely into their bloodstream. This surplus alcohol affects various body functions, causing feelings of relaxation, cloudy judgment, and delayed reactions. Drinking excessive alcoholic beverages overburdens the liver, hindering its capacity to process and discard alcohol and its harmful byproducts. Over time, this can lead to severe liver issues, like cirrhosis, where scars replace healthy liver tissue.
Additionally, toxin build-up from excessive drinking can harm other body organs, leading to serious health problems like heart disease, cancer, neurological issues, and mental health challenges, such as depression and anxiety. In extreme cases of overconsumption, symptoms of alcohol poisoning can emerge, and long-term drinking can result in alcohol use disorder, where a person becomes reliant on alcohol.
Alcohol and Medication (SSRIs)
The interaction of Alcohol with certain medications, precisely drugs like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) commonly prescribed for treating depression and anxiety disorders, can pose significant health risks. Alcohol can interfere with the therapeutic effects of these medications and potentially make symptoms of depression or anxiety worse. It can also increase the risk of experiencing side effects associated with these medications, such as dizziness, drowsiness, and increased feelings of depression or hopelessness.
In rare cases, combining Alcohol with SSRIs can lead to a potentially life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome. This condition can cause agitation, hallucinations, rapid heartbeat, and high body temperature.
Therefore, if you are taking any medications, it's essential to understand the potential risks associated with consuming Alcohol and consult a healthcare provider about them.
Strategies to Mitigate the Negative Effects of Alcohol
Proactive measures can play a significant role in countering the adverse effects of Alcohol.
Stress Management Tools: Developing effective stress management strategies can be incredibly beneficial, such as behavioural tools, mindfulness techniques, physical exercise, or therapeutic interventions like our Noosa Confidential Program.
Support for the Gut Microbiome: Adopting a diet that supports a healthy gut microbiome can be a game changer. A nutritious diet may involve consuming more fibrous foods, reducing the intake of processed foods, and ensuring adequate hydration.
Healthy Sleep Habits: By prioritising sleep and adopting good sleep hygiene practices, individuals can counteract the disruptive effects of Alcohol. This may involve maintaining a regular sleep schedule, creating a sleep-friendly environment, or seeking professional help if sleep problems persist.
The impacts of Alcohol are complex and far-reaching. By understanding these effects, we can better navigate our choices and seek effective strategies to counteract potential harm. Remember, knowledge is power, and a proactive approach to health and wellness can be life-changing.
If you or a loved one is grappling with alcohol use and its effects, Noosa Confidential is here to support you. Our unique approach blends comprehensive therapeutic practices with cutting-edge science to provide individualised, compassionate care. Don't hesitate to reach out and explore your treatment options.