WHAT DOES ALCOHOLISM DO TO YOUR BODY?

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The Truth About Alcohol

I recently visited my doctor to review my blood work and lab tests. Excellent blood pressure, great cholesterol scores, an improved body weight that is ideal for my age, and overall, a great bill of health shared. Since I have gone alcohol free, I walk into my annual checkups with increasing confidence. What a difference from years ago. I used to dread these medical appointments because of the bad news I might receive. Does my blood work show signs of cancer or some disease? Is my sluggish liver even worse? I would cringe when I got onto the scale to weigh myself – easily 20 to 30 pounds overweight. Even worse, I was never truly honest about how much I was drinking at the time. When asked, I fudged the amount and numbers every time. It was like saying I drank one glass of wine at night, omitting the fact that I used a bottle as a glass!

I had reasons to be concerned during my drinking days because alcohol takes a toll on the body. According to the National Institutes of Health, “a vast body of evidence from human studies and animal research clearly indicates that chronic, heavy alcohol consumption causes structural damage and/or disrupts normal organ function in virtually every tissue of the body.” The study also shared that “in heavy consumers of alcohol, the liver is especially susceptible to alcohol-induced injury. Additionally, several other organs—including the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, pancreas, heart, and bone—exhibit impaired function after chronic ethanol use” (NIH, 2021, Natural recovery by the liver and other organs after chronic alcohol use).

In other words, a compulsive alcohol habit can harm your body by damaging organs such as the stomach, heart, liver, intestines, and pancreas. Prolonged alcohol use can cause weight gain and blood sugar issues, increase stress (negatively affect your nervous system function), disrupt brain function, and cause depression. In the article, Alcohol Use and Your Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the myriad of short-term (ex: injuries, violence, alcohol poisoning, risky sexual behaviors, miscarriages, etc.) and long-term health risks (ex: high blood pressure, liver disease, immune weakening, cancers, dementia, and mental health problems including depression and anxiety).

The great news is that your body starts the process of recovery as soon as you stop drinking alcohol. The process of repairing damaged organs and functional systems begins once drinking stops. Believe it or not, a significant recovery is possible. “Even after years of heavy alcohol use, the liver has a remarkable regenerative capacity and, following alcohol removal, can recover a significant portion of its original mass and function. Other organs show recovery after abstinence as well” (National Library of Medicine, Natural Recovery by the Liver and Other Organs after Chronic Alcohol Use, 2021). I could personally see and feel a difference in as little as a few weeks, and in three months I was blown away by before and after photos (and by how amazing I felt).

We can speed the process of healing up, as well. Improving our diet is a great place to start, incorporating healthy options that reduce inflammation (ex: avoiding processed foods, eating “the rainbow” – nutrient-rich diet fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens) and support your brain (ex: fatty acids, omega 3s). Your doctor can also recommend vitamins and supplements to support your liver and pancreas, as well as boost your immune system. Incorporating a regular exercise routine (ex: walking) and practicing stress reduction techniques (ex: yoga, breathing meditations, journaling, daily gratitude) can promote healing, as well.

My visits with my doctor are collaborative these days, and I am completely honest with her. I am now excited to answer the question, “Do you drink?” with a resounding “no.” Together my doctor and I are on a program for ultimate wellness – body and mind. Freedom from alcohol gave me this peace of mind, as well as a return of life vitality. Abstinence provides your body with the power to heal, and despite the damage alcohol may have caused to your body it can recover. That is why the National Institute of Health affirms that “abstaining from alcohol by a person with alcohol use disorder is not a trivial matter” (NIH, 2021). Indeed, with the health recovery benefits of abstaining, compared to the significant harm of continuing compulsive use of alcohol, one would have to wonder why going alcohol free wouldn’t be a top priority for anyone who values his or her health.

If you are having difficulties staying the course alcohol free, check out the Choose Alcohol-Free Program at https://theplanshehasforme.com/individual/.   This program, in combination with using the daily devotional will help you stay the course by delivering the 12 most important biblically-based concepts for alcohol freedom.