Having a beer with friends or a glass of wine with a meal is to many people, a nice way to relax. The occasional well-timed drink when you’re off duty may even benefit your health.
However drinking over the recommended limits can have a damaging effect on both your physical and mental health. You may have experienced some of its short-term health effects, a hangover or a bad night’s sleep, however it’s the longer term health effects of alcohol that people often only experience once it’s too late.
How alcohol could damage your health
As alcohol is a toxin or poison, your body needs to get rid of it quickly. It is processed in the liver; however the liver can only process so much at once. If you drink too much it can damage your liver cells which leads to a toxic build-up of chemicals.
Alcohol removes fluid from your body, which means you need to visit the toilet more than normal, and can become dehydrated, this causes typical hangover symptoms such as a headache. Alcohol irritates the stomach, which is why you may feel sick, and It also affects your sleep, leaving you tired the next morning. There’s no cure for a hangover, you just need to drink sensibly to avoid getting one.
Boozing can damage cells all over the body. For example drinking alcohol long term has been linked with an increased risk of seven types of cancer. Drinking too much can also increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, and depression.
Alcohol is also bad for the waistline, with a pint of beer containing more calories than a bag of crisps and a large glass of wine having as many calories as an ice cream.
Your limits are set not by the glass but by the unit and how many units a drink contains depends on how strong it is. So, for example a pint of normal lager has two units but a pint of strong lager has three. To see how many units are in your favourite tipple click here
To reduce the risk of alcohol-related health problems stick to the following limits:
- Men: no more than 3-4 units a day.
- Women: no more than 2-3 units a day.
- It is also recommended to have two alcohol-free days a week. This is because your liver needs time to repair itself from the damaging effects of alcohol.
If you think you’re drinking too much think about how you can cut down. Cutting back could make you feel and look better, you’ll sleep better and reduce your calorie intake (the average bottle of 13 per cent wine contains 682 calories). Ways to cut back include ordering half measures or trying low alcohol or alcohol free alternatives.
NHS choices – alcohol