Drinking alcohol is viewed as a socially acceptable activity within western society, as it is available for purchase at many social venues and events. But the prevalence of alcohol and drinking in our society is not evidence that this substance is safe or healthy to consume, as there are many downsides that can accompany drinking. In fact, not drinking can improve your health substantially and is one of the biggest actions a person can take to improve their physical and mental health.
Gut Health and Inflammation
One of the biggest reasons how not drinking can improve your health lies in your gut. Recent research is uncovering the importance of gut health to our overall physical wellness. Our gut contains trillions of bacteria referred to as the ‘microbiome’, and maintaining a healthy gut has been shown to benefit our body as a whole. An unhealthy gut can lead to serious health issues, such as reduced immunity, increased cancer risk, digestive issues, and hormonal and adrenal gland difficulties, just to name a few.
Unfortunately, consuming alcohol can severely impact our gut health, as even a small amount of drinking can damage our gut wall and potentially lead to a malabsorption of vitamins and minerals. Alcohol can also lead to leaky gut syndrome, a condition which can cause problems for our immune system and also lead to an increase in the amount of inflammation within our body. Drinking can lead to gastritis, which inflames the lining of our stomach, potentially leading to chronic vomiting and eventually tearing the oesophagus if the condition isn’t treated. Gastritis can also lead to malnutrition and anaemia, further compounding the health effects associated with alcohol.
Regular consumption of alcohol can negatively impact the gut-brain relationship, leading to alterations in how our brain and central nervous system function. The neurotransmitters produced in our gut can also affect how our brain operates, as a troubled digestive system will send signals to the brain, potentially leading to an increase in anxiety and depression. Alcohol negatively impacts positive gut bacteria vital to our overall health, giving clear evidence of how drinking can wreck our physical wellness.
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Another huge downside to consuming alcohol comes in the form of inflammation, a health condition which has been shown to contribute to many serious health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Alcohol use has been shown to increase inflammation and may eventually lead to a leaky gut which expands the amount of inflammation throughout a person’s entire body. Sugar is one of the biggest contributors to inflammation, and because alcohol is fermented sugar, it’s no surprise that this substance leads to inflammation.
Heavy and prolonged drinking has been shown to lead to inflammation of the nerves in the arms and legs. Symptoms include tingling and pain in these parts of the body, showcasing how alcohol can impact a person’s health in a multitude of ways. Gout, a condition which causes inflammation in a person’s joints, has also been linked to heavy drinking. Although this condition is generally seen as a genetic condition, drinking can make this issue much worse for the affected individual.
The Benefits of Not Drinking for Your Mental Health
While drinking alcohol can provide a temporary elated or relaxed feeling, this substance also includes a number of downsides which can seriously impact a person’s mental health. Alcohol is a depressant which alters our brain chemistry and can disrupt our mental balance. Our brain contains neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that transmit signals from one neuron to another. When you consume alcohol, you are causing a chemical change in your brain, as it is depressing the part of the brain which is associated with inhibition.
This is where we experience a temporary feeling of pleasure or relaxation, as we feel less inhibited by our normal mental state. However, repeated use of alcohol will begin to lessen this benefit and you may begin to experience negative reactions, such as increased anxiety and stress. Prolonged use of alcohol can lead to feelings of depression, as intense drinking interferes with neurotransmitters associated with sound mental health.
When we rely on alcohol to provide a relaxed state free from our normal inhibitions, we may actually find ourselves in a more depressed state over time. Drinking regularly lowers the levels of serotonin in our brain, causing our mood to become dysregulated and unbalanced. Some signs that alcohol use is beginning to significantly impact one’s mood include things such as poor sleep, low mood, and abnormal levels of anxiety in normal situations.
When we stop drinking, we reduce the chances of experiencing mood imbalances and depression associated with alcohol. If you have existing mental health issues, drinking will likely exacerbate this situation, making it vitally important to avoid alcohol to prevent this scenario.
Abstaining from alcohol will also increase your overall mental clarity and focus, as alcohol can leave a person groggy and unmotivated. With this newfound level of clarity and intention, an individual can compound their personal progress by focusing on activities and goals which bring about a lasting level of happiness and satisfaction.
Beyond the neurochemical benefits associated with sober living, quitting drinking can also provide a serious increase in self-esteem. Drinking can often shield a person from dealing with lingering issues, preventing an individual from reaching their full potential. Going through the experience of quitting alcohol can offer a major boost to one’s confidence and can provide the fuel which can lead to improvements in other areas of a person’s life. No longer needing alcohol to feel confident is a serious benefit to giving up drinking.
Getting Help to Stop Drinking
If you or someone you love is experiencing the negative health impacts of drinking, contact Ocean Hills Recovery today. Our expert team of addictions’ specialists can help address all of the health concerns associated with alcohol and can provide a safe place to regain a sense of normalcy before facing the world.
Addiction doesn’t need to be a life sentence, you don’t need to wait longer for the life you want to achieve.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.