While alcohol is drunk everywhere and relished worldwide - and has been so for as long as man has lived. Unfortunately, its abuse is also a serious and ever present health hazard. Moderate and social consumption, similar to the use of caffeine in tea and coffee, is harmless and has no major implications for health and is also a very pleasurable way of spending time, except for potential allergic reactions some may have to alcohol. And of course people having liver disease, or a weakened gastrointestinal tract, rectal problems or nervous system dysfunction, cannot use it.
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Abuse of alcohol can lead to addiction that may become very hard to overcome, besides it attendant problems of disturbing the emotional states of abusers, habitual drinking can lead to addiction and increase the chances of the occurrence of physical problems such as obesity, and internal problems like gastritis and peptic ulcers.
It can damage the pancreas, leading to pancreatitis, abuse can lead to hepatitis, and to cirrhosis of the liver, blood sugar problems like hypoglycemia leading to eventual diabetes, physically uncomfortable problems like gout, and can cause permanent nerve and brain dysfunction, and possibly cancer.
The alcoholic almost always has some nutritional deficiencies, alcohol may also lead to immune suppression, and via its distortion of emotions may cause accidental injury, and death such as during drunk driving. Many people succumb to the alcoholic charm and become abusers, while most people seem to be quite capable of handling its effects especially by using alcohol sparingly.
There may be some positive sides to alcohol as physiologically it does have some good effects. Such as its ability to stimulate the appetite and its action as a stress relieving agent, this however is not comparable to the same benefit through physical exercise. Alcohol is an effective vasodilator, and can greatly speed up blood flow.
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HDL levels in the body may also be increased by its usage, HDL is considered as good cholesterol, alcohol also significantly contributes to the total blood fat level and raises it. The progression of diseases atherosclerosis and heart disease may possibly be hindered by the consumption of alcohol in small and doses equivalent to about one to two glasses.
Lowered chances of heart attacks may also result in studies done on moderate drinkers over teetotalers of the same age group and this could be a possible benefit of drinking, lowered risk of heart attacks may be due to high HDL cholesterol levels brought on by alcohol, alcohol users may also have reduced chances of arteriosclerosis.
A high level of alcohol in the blood increases blood pressure and is a factor in sudden heart disease however, and only moderate drinkers seem to benefit. The real link between alcohol and heart disease will be shown as more research is conducted, before alcohol is possibly suggested as having contributions to the alleviation of certain physical diseases. In the meantime, physical activity and strong interpersonal bonds are better contributors to a healthy life than alcohol, especially in the area of stress reduction.
Alcohol is made up of empty calories; it has almost no nutritional value, containing about seven calories for every gram, when compared to other sources of regular carbohydrates and protein - which have four calories per gram. This is almost double the value of each.
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Moderate drinkers on average consume about 5 to10 percent of their caloric intake from alcohol, this on the other hand could be as high or higher than 50 percent, and this takes the place of real nutritional calories. Because of the fact that the empty calories are in the place of the real ones, the amount of nutrition the body receives is decreased, especially with regard to the essential vitamins, the essential minerals, and all other nutrients needed by the body, this results in a deficiency of important substances in the body over a long period of time.
Additionally, the alcohol molecule is minute and is very easily absorbed and assimilated before other nutrients are taken; it also directly enters the bloodstream and is rapidly effective and potent. This is the reason that a rapid fluctuation of the blood sugar level comes about whenever alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine, and mixed drinks are consumed. This causes extreme and erratic mood swings and an altered emotional state.
The alcohol that enters the body is metabolized in the liver and this vital organ is the only one that carries this function out, alcoholic calories are either converted into energy or stored as liver fat called glycogen and glycogen is stored; whenever there is an excess of as in heavy drinking.
Over a long time, when too much glycogen is stored, the alcohol can actively irritate the liver this in a matter of time leads to the physical manifestation of the disease called cirrhosis, where the tissue in the lever undergoes scarring and damage. Since alcohol is volatile roughly five percent of what is ingested is eliminated through the body fluids such as perspiration, in the urine, and as exhaled breath.
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By its action of removing inhibitions and alcohol is often thought by many to be a stimulant, and consumed in small amounts, it can and does seem to ease and enliven social gatherings. Chemically, however, it is a sedative that acts on the central nervous system, depressing it. Its first effects are often pleasant and relaxing.
But as the consumption is increased the pleasant and gentle feeling is often altered and rapidly changes into a numbing down of the mental and physical states, at these levels alcohol therefore greatly hampers our reflexes, impairs physical coordination, and greatly affects judgment and emotional states. This is the reason for people becoming involved in so many accidents whenever alcohol is involved, often leading to injuries and death.
Allergens are also present in alcoholic drinks as they are often made from grains, and in wine from grapes, are high in sugar, and are fermented using yeast, as an allergen alcohol may induce both intestinal and cerebral reactions. Other substances such as corn, wheat, rye, and barley can also bring about allergic conditions. In a way, by the stimulation from the allergens in alcoholic drinks and the reactions they produce, alcoholism may even be considered a type of food addiction.
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Looked at that way, withdrawal in people who have yeast overgrowth may have a problem with alcohol, as the yeast may be stimulated by alcohol. In addition, alcoholic drinks are prepared over a long period of time using many ingredients and many people may be allergic to these substances or conversely may even react to various chemicals, like the sulfites, and other substances that are used while producing alcoholic drinks.
The effects of alcohol on the body and the associated risks are related to its use over a period of time and the quantities involved, thus heavy drinkers are likely to be affected more seriously and quicker than moderate users.
There is also the factor of body types and alcohol may affect different people in different ways. More than five drinks a day regularly and for along term, can be considered to be high risk alcohol consumption, low risk drinkers constitute people who have about one or two drinks a day and use alcohol regularly, social drinkers are minimal risk groups as the time periods vary, and the quantities of alcohol are small.