Most people already know about alcohol’s effects on the human body. Informally known as “liquid courage,” alcohol has a way of lowering your inhibitions and (possibly) making you livelier than you normally are. However, having too many drinks could also lead to unfavorable effects on your body—a lot of which you’re probably already aware of as well.
Apart from the occasional hangover, excessive drinking can also cause a range of issues, such as gastritis, tooth decay, and, of course, alcohol poisoning. That being said, there may also be some lesser-known effects of drinking alcohol that are relevant to your lifestyle and medical history.
To give you an idea of what to watch out for, here are some interesting facts about alcohol consumption that you or a loved one should know about:
Regular Alcohol Intake Is Linked to Gout
Regularly drinking alcohol increases your chances of acquiring gout, which is a particularly painful type of inflammatory arthritis. Gout causes swelling in your joints, usually in the toes and feet. This ailment occurs as a result of hyperuricemia, or the buildup of uric acid from foods and beverages that are rich in purines.
Examples of high-purine sources include red meat, seafood, and alcohol, particularly beer.
While it’s true that not everybody who partakes in alcoholic drinks will experience gout flare-ups, there is a connection between high alcohol intake and hyperuricemia. Studies show that liquor and beer can significantly spike blood uric acid levels, which can lead to gout.
If you have a family history of gout, it would be wise to drink in moderation or, if possible, cut alcohol completely from your diet.
Consuming Alcohol Doesn’t Make You Warmer
It’s a widely held belief that drinking alcohol can warm you up on cold nights. There is some truth to this, but alcohol only warms the body to a certain extent. The heat you experience results from the blood rushing to your skin’s surface, which is caused by alcohol’s vasodilative effect.
This simply means that alcohol dilates your blood vessels, which causes the blood to circulate through the capillaries under your skin.
However, this radiating warmth doesn’t last long. As the blood vessels open up and the warm blood moves to the skin’s surface, the core temperature of your body will start to drop. This causes you to lose heat quickly, which you may experience in the form of chills.
Drinking Alcohol Increases Your Appetite for Junk Food
If you’re no stranger to drinking at bars, you may have noticed that you always order salty, fatty, and greasy food after a couple of drinks. This is because alcohol activates the neurons that regulate hunger, tricking your brain into thinking that you’re starving.
Other studies suggest that your body craves sugary and high-calorie foods to make up for decreased blood sugar levels while drinking. Your body may also seek foods with high salt content to replenish electrolytes, which are lost when you pee more frequently due to alcohol’s diuretic effect.
Alcohol Can Trigger Allergies
There’s a reason why doctors advise people who have a history of allergic reactions to avoid drinking alcohol. Studies show that liquor, wine, and beer contain histamine, which is produced by bacteria and yeast during fermentation. Histamine is known to trigger allergic symptoms such as itching, sneezing, coughing, and headaches.
Aside from this, beer and wine also contain sulfites or chemical compounds that cause allergy symptoms, anaphylactic reactions, and even asthma. So, if you start to feel symptoms similar to hay fever after a couple of drinks, you already know the likely culprit.
Men and Women Experience Alcohol’s Effects Differently
Because of the biological differences between men and women, alcohol consumption can also feel different for both sexes. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women tend to absorb more alcohol which results in higher blood alcohol levels.
Alcohol also takes effect quicker but takes longer to metabolize in women, with younger women producing less of the enzyme needed to break down alcohol. For this reason, women are usually more susceptible to alcohol’s negative physiological effects.
Alcohol Affects Your Memory
Those who have experienced a night of hard drinking are well aware of how alcohol can sometimes blur memories or even wipe them out entirely. Science may have an explanation for this, and it revolves around alcohol’s effect on nerve cells.
Research shows that alcohol slows down the communication of nerves in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for forming and maintaining memories. This is why after a hangover, you’ll most likely forget the key details of last night’s events or only remember them in fragments.
Studies also show that alcohol may affect how your brain forms long-term memories, too. As you drink more frequently, the magnitude of your memory loss would become more substantial. Alcohol can even destroy nerve cells in your brain, which may severely impact the way you retain information in the long run.
Eat, Drink (Moderately), and Be Merry
From celebrating life’s wins to making unsavory moments more bearable, there are many reasons why people choose to drink. While the occasional glass or bottle is not immediately harmful, it’s still best to be mindful of your alcohol consumption to prevent both the common and uncommon effects of excessive drinking.
In the end, it pays to consume beers, wines, and liquors in a healthy way so you can adequately deal with life’s ups and downs.