Before you partake in after-dinner or pre-dinner drinks, you may want to consider the costs to your health. Even light drinking carries risks, and there may be things you didn’t know about how alcohol interacts with your body. Learn the risks, and start the new year a little wiser.

Alcohol in Women

Alcohol abuse among females doubled from 2002 to 2013. Young women in their teens are now more likely to drink than men and equally as likely in their early twenties. High-risk drinking (defined as more than three drinks a day or seven a week) has risen 58% in women, as have ER visits due to alcohol consumption. This is a major shift and shows a need to address drinking specifically as it relates to women.

Alcohol increases the risk of certain illnesses more greatly in women than men. These include liver inflammation, cardiovascular disease, brain damage, and fertility problems. While men who drink are also at risk of these conditions, women’s risk is greater even when consuming lower amounts of alcohol. Part of the reason for this is women’s body make-up, which tends to be lower in water and higher in fat, allowing the alcohol to reside in the body longer and metabolize slower.

Cary Gastroenterology recognizes the unique challenges women face, and we are dedicated to improving your health. Visit our Women’s Center for more information.

Alcohol and Weight

When you drink alcohol, it breaks down into a substance called acetate, and the body consumes this first. That means that the other calories you’ve eaten are more likely to be stored as fat since your body is getting its energy from the acetate—even more so if you have already consumed more calories than you need. Additionally, when alcohol is in the system, it makes it harder for the body to burn existing fat. In short, drinking promotes fat storage and inhibits fat burning, which is a big problem if you’re trying to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

Even if alcohol consumption doesn’t result in excessive weight gain, it will likely add inches to your waistline, which can be as dangerous as weight gain. A large waist circumference is linked to increased risk of diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer. If you are struggling to lose weight, look at your alcohol consumption—it could be making things harder.

Alcohol and Digestion

Alcohol use increases your risk of mouth, throat, esophageal, stomach, pancreas, and colon cancers. The risks are significant enough that researchers say they outweigh any potential benefit associated with alcohol consumption. Alcohol can also contribute to or exacerbate other gastrointestinal issues like peptic ulcers and acid reflux. As mentioned above, the body breaks down the acetate first, which makes it harder for your body to properly digest food and absorb the proteins and vitamins. Some people report worsening symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome after drinking alcohol. When excessive amounts of alcohol are present in the body, toxins are easily passed through the intestinal walls causing serious damage to the liver. Eating while drinking can help decrease immediate damage to the digestive system. However, it is important to note that it even though eating may make you feel better in the short term, the alcohol consumed can still cause lasting damage. 

If you have questions about how your alcohol consumption, however small, could be affecting your health, talk to your doctor. It is important to regularly discuss alcohol use because of the risks associated with it. Cary Gastroenterology can help you determine if alcohol is making matters worse. Request an appointment online today.