The warm buzz that feels like a big hug, lowered inhibitions to speak your mind, the sense of euphoria about life, and feeling confident enough to belt out Mariah Carey on the karaoke stage…
But past a certain stage (perhaps after that fourth martini?), a throbbing headache comes on and it gets harder to make logical decisions. Speech begins to slur, you’re stumbling and before you know it, you’ve gone from being pleasantly tipsy to full-blown drunk.
A hangover greets you the next morning, reminding you of the consequences of the night before. But within a few hours or at most, a day, the symptoms wear off and you’re back to normal.
Since these unpleasant side effects are “temporary,” you might not be too concerned about them, especially if you only have the occasional glass of wine at dinner or on special occasions.
But the impact of alcohol begins from the moment you take your first sip, even if you don’t reach the hangover stage.
So this begs the question — what exactly does alcohol do to your body? Does alcohol cause inflammation?
I’m very serious about no alcohol, no drugs. Life is too beautiful.— Jim Carrey, actor
What Is Inflammation?
To understand the effects of alcohol on your body, you must first understand what inflammation is.
Inflammation is your immune system’s response to injury and infection.
Think about the last time you got hurt — perhaps accidentally cutting yourself from shaving? The wound swelled up, turned red, and felt warm.
That’s because your immune system sends blood, fluid, and protein to the damaged or infected area to protect and repair it. It’s a sign that your body is fighting off an infection. Once you’re healed, the inflammation vanishes along with the infection.
But sometimes, inflammation can become chronic.
When you have chronic inflammation, your body is in a constant state of high alert. This stress eventually leads arteries and organs to break down, severely impacting your overall health.
So the big question is, does drinking alcohol cause inflammation?
Does Alcohol Cause Inflammation?
The short answer is, yes.
Studies have shown that drinking alcohol (even just a few sips) causes inflammation throughout the whole body.
Over time, this can turn into chronic inflammation. Alcohol alters the lining of the intestines and colon, so they become less effective at containing bacteria (both good and bad). This bacteria can seep into the bloodstream and travel to the rest of the body.
Although not all of these bacteria are harmful, your immune system will still perceive them as a threat, thus inducing inflammation on a daily basis.
But what’s more surprising is the four things you may not know about how alcohol causes inflammation in your body:
#1: It causes brain damage
It’s no secret that alcohol alters the brain, based on how it makes people feel. But recent research reports that certain lipids in the brain that cause inflammation are linked to long-term alcohol exposure. These lipids, mind you, make up more than half the brain’s weight!
Over time, alcohol can destroy brain cells, contract brain tissue, and even decrease the effectiveness of neurotransmitters in the brain.
One form of alcohol-related brain damage is Korsakoff syndrome, which is a type of dementia. This condition causes problems in learning new information, inability to remember recent events, and long-term memory gaps.
#2: It makes you bloat
Have you ever noticed how bloated and puffy your body feels after a night out of drinking? According to studies, alcohol causes inflammation in your gastrointestinal tract.
Alcohol significantly increases the transfer of microflora-derived lipopolysaccharide (LPS) from the gut. In healthy people, the liver has no problem detoxifying LPS. But alcohol damages the liver, impairing the body’s ability to regulate inflammation.
This inflammation is exacerbated by drinks that are often mixed with alcohol, such as carbonated or sugary drinks, which in itself is the king of inflammation. So you might want to reconsider that Rum and Coke or Mimosa. The two combined together are double trouble for inflammation.
#3: It shows on your face
No matter how diligent your skincare regimen is or how much water you chug, the effects of alcohol will always show on your skin.
Alcohol inflames bodily tissue which creates a histamine reaction that dilates the blood capillaries. This is why people who drink feel warm in the face or might develop a red flush on their face. It may not seem like a big deal at first, but over time, it becomes a prominent redness that will never go away.
Drinking also dilates the pores of your skin, leading to blackheads and whiteheads. If it’s not treated properly, this can turn into inflamed skin papules and cystic acne that can cause permanent scarring.
#4: It hurts your joints
It’s normal to feel under the weather after a night of drinking. But for some people, this discomfort extends beyond the hangover to their knees, back and hips. So how does alcohol cause joint inflammation?
If you already suffer from a pre-existing condition that causes joint pain like rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, and osteoarthritis, alcohol can aggravate your symptoms.
That’s because alcohol dehydrates your body, decreases your bone density, weakens your immune system, and increases inflammation. All of these things, combined with a pre-existing inflammatory condition, trigger serious joint inflammation and flare-ups.
It’s also believed that gluten in grain-based alcohol like beer and vodka, and drinks rich in purine such as distilled liquor and wine, are more likely to trigger inflammation attacks.
Should You Still Drink?
Everything in moderation’ includes health, longevity, and quality of life.— Eric Edmeades, founder of Mindvalley’s WILDFIT Quest
Now that you know what alcohol does to the body, should you ditch drinking altogether or cut back? According to WILDFIT founder Eric Edmeades, giving up alcohol completely is the best way forward.
But if you’re not ready to do that, give your body a break by limiting your alcohol intake to one day of the week. That way, your body has time to recuperate in between. It’s a concept that works similarly to intermittent fasting.
Non-alcoholic cocktails can be just as flavourful and fun to celebrate a special occasion or to unwind at the end of a long day.
And if you need guidance to transform your health, head over to Mindvalley where Eric can help you find your inner strength. Great change starts here.