After a long and stressful day, a drink is an easy and tempting way to relax and reduce tension.
Many of us have a routine of a glass of wine in the evening, to wind down after work. However, we should be conscious of how even a single drink a day can negatively impact our health.
While we may be aware of some of the problems that can be caused by drinking regularly, many are more obscure, and not necessarily what you might expect.
Knowing about these risks allows us to make informed and rational decisions about our drinking habits.
Immune System Suffers
Alcohol has been shown to contribute to immunodeficiency – in other words, it weakens your immune system.
This stems from a reduced ability of your white blood cells to combat disease, and the knock on effects of poor immune systems.
Indeed, the higher incidence of septicemia in those who regularly drink alcohol stems from a higher incidence of pneumonia, which can lead to bacteria spreading through your blood.
In addition to weakening your immune system, alcohol can also lead to autoimmune responses.
Liver disease and liver failure, are now thought to contributed to by your own immune system attacking the liver, following excessive use of alcohol.
Gut Bacteria Changes
The gut microbiome is filled with bacteria that are essential for processes including digestion, mental health, your immune system and more.
People often take probiotics to restore this gut bacteria after taking a round of antibiotics, because the medication can decrease or even destroy that bacteria.
Alcohol also has a negative impact on that bacteria. Not only can it create more “bad” bacteria, but through irritating the lining of your intestine, substances can pass through the bowel lining, which can cause ulcers.
Drinking some kombucha tea everyday can help mitigate this effect, but it is not a long-term solution that will let you continue to drink as much as you want.
It can also lead to bacterial translocation, in which bacteria from your gut is found in other parts of the body, including your bloodstream and liver.
Decreased Heart Health
While you may have read the recommendations that a glass of wine per day can help your heart health, it’s also possible for alcohol consumption to hurt it. It can raise your triglycerides, unhealthy fats in your blood.
It can lead to high blood pressure, which increases your risk of stroke and heart disease.
Further, alcohol is highly calorific, and consumption can lead to weight gain, which further raises blood pressure.
Excessive or binge drinking can also lead to cardiac arrhythmia, risking damage to the brain and other organs, or even sudden cardiac death.
Increased Risk of Cancer
Multiple research studies have shown that the more alcohol a person regularly consumes, the higher their risk of certain cancers.
Liver, breast, head and neck, colorectal and esophageal cancers all have clear signs of being impacted by alcohol consumption.
This is because our bodies convert alcohol into a toxic chemical known as acetaldehyde, which damages DNA, stopping cells repairing damage, and through increasing the risk of cell mutation in the liver.
The risk of cancer is increased through the mere act of drinking alcohol.
What matters is the quantity consumed, which means that your nightly drink, over a week, is just as bad as binge drinking seven drinks in an evening.
Long-term or heavy alcohol use can cause chronic pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas.
This occurs as a two stage process. Alcohol first increases the incidence of acute, or temporary, pancreatitis, and this, rather than alcohol itself, causes chronic pancreatitis. Chronic pancreatitis is painful, and if you suffer from it, you’ll need to take regular medication to digest food and maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
A daily drink may not seem like much, but over time, the quantity of alcohol consumed becomes significant.
As your body adapts to the alcohol, you may feel the need to increase how much you drink in order to get the same feeling you once got.
Alcohol can also affect your sleep and impact your judgement, which can lead to drowsy or even drunk driving and other poor choices. Instead of a daily nightcap, find other ways to ease your stress and end the day.