We all know that alcohol wreaks havoc on the liver and sends kidneys into overdrive. We also know that after a night of libations the next morning is often met with a dull headache and at times nausea. While moderate consumption of alcohol can offer health benefits, the happy hour or weekend partiers who binge drink may see negative effects. Dr. Christopher Calapai, an Osteopathic Physician board certified in family medicine, who has worked with Mike Tyson, Mickey Rourke, Steven Seagal, and as a medical consultant for the New York Rangers, offers some sobering facts and 10 lesser knows ways booze impacts your body.
Hair Thinning, Shedding, and Loss
When you drink excessively (more than 3 drinks within a 3 hour period) there’s an elevation of estrogen in the body and a decrease of zinc. “A rise in estrogen leads to the hair loss and then the drop in zinc plus folic acid levels compromise healthy hair growth and maintenance,” explains Dr. Calapai.
Voice Loss, or Changes
Ever lose your voice after a night out of partying? Typically shouting over loud music and second-hand cigarette smoke gets the blame. “What people don’t realize is that alcohol can cause dehydration leading to a dry throat and some constriction of the vocal chords. You really want to drink water in between cocktails,” advises Dr. Calapai.
Taking Longer to Heal
In 2014, a study published by researchers from the Loyola University Healthcare System showed that binge drinking reduces bacteria fighting white blood cells and hinders the production of a special protein that attracts them. White blood cells are essential for wound healing. Dr. Calapai says to pay attention to how you heal. “A simple cut should be gone within a day or two and a bruise should be fading within 3-5 days. If you’re drinking 10 or more drinks in one week you’ll connect the dots to delayed healing.”
This is more evidence of a compromised immune system. If you typically kick a sore throat with some warm tea, chicken soup and a good night’s sleep; after binge drinking that same sore throat may escalate into strep throat. When the white blood cell count is low you may feel like your always battling a cold. “It’s so important to drink water and add vitamin E, C, zinc, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids into your diet to boost white blood cells and rid that run down feeling.”
Alcohol causes disruptions to REM sleep, which sets in about 90 minutes after falling asleep and is the time for cellular turnover and restoration to the body. “You need the solid REM level sleep. When you don’t get it you lose the ability to concentrate and will feel that mid-day lag. People attribute the sluggish feeling to being out late thinking they slept deeply but they fail to reach that optimal REM state.”
Cystic Pimples and More Breakouts
Binging on booze or even consistent alcohol consumption over time, especially of sugary drinks with sodas and mixers, will cause insulin levels to spike. When insulin spikes you produce more sebum, which can trigger oiliness in skin. “Once you have high sebum production happening pores get clogged and that’s when the breakouts start to happen. Want to notice a significant change to your skin’s texture and clarity? Try cutting alcohol out! Even limiting alcohol intake to once weekly, 3 drinks maximum will help,” suggests Dr. Calapai.
Chapped Cracked Lips
Dehydration is top cause of cracked lips. Alcohol dehydrates us and for many this leads to chapped, dry chapped lips. When you drink your system rids the body of water and for many with dry skin the lips feel tight and tingly. When alcohol hits the lips it has a drying effect on them. “Keep in mind that the ethanol found in alcoholic beverages can trigger lip ulcers which can linger for weeks. After a night of drinking try switching to 3 days of only drinking water, no sodas and no juices. You’ll notice your lips and skin get back to a better color and texture.
When you drink you interfere with the way key vitamins are absorbed by the liver. Many of those vitamins are necessary to maintain eye health and eyesight. “If you’re deficient in vitamin B-1 eyesight can become weak and eye muscles can even experience paralysis. Other eye issues to be mindful of related to alcohol are permanent blurred vision because the eye muscle coordination gets weak. This is due to a slow down in communication between neurotransmitters in the brain and a delay in signals to the eye muscle,” explains Dr. Calapai.
Alcohol increases blood flow leading to getting red in the cheeks and nose. This is even more obviously seen in people who have fair complexions. There are tiny blood vessels at the surface of the skin and excessive alcohol dilates them. This is when you see broken capillaries on the face that look like red spider legs. “Once capillaries are broken you’ll need to see a dermatologist for a laser treatment which can be expensive,” warns Dr. Calapai. “Lysine, vitamin C, and grapeseed oil are all things that you can use at home that may help,” he continues.
Ever notice how after a weekend of partying you may lose your keys misplace your credit card and forget key details on a work assignment. That spacey, forgetfulness is due to shrinking brain mass. “When you mess with neurotransmitters you’re messing with cognitive function which includes memory. Alcohol throws off brain chemistry in the hippocampus, a key spot in the brain helping us formulate memories. If you’re noticing blackouts where you forget leaving a party, how you got home or other details of the timeline, that’s a sign you’re drinking too much or too quickly,” cautions Dr. Calapai.
While it’s certainly ok to enjoy a cocktail, a beer or some wine, you should be fully aware of how too much takes its toll.