How does binge drinking affect the body?

© iStock/AleksandarNakic

With Halloween around the corner, for adults, sweets won’t be the only thing consumed – alcohol and Halloween go hand in hand, but are you aware of how binge drinking affects the body?

So, what should you be mindful of when drinking this Halloween? Here we gain an insight into how alcohol affects the body and Clinical Lead for, Dr Daniel Atkinson provides tips on how to overcome some issue. But first things first – how does binge drinking affect the body?

Learn about how binge drinking can affect the body

  • Brain. Excess alcohol consumption alters the chemical balance in the brain, leading to reduced reaction times and loss of judgement;
  • Lungs. Heavy drinking lowers substances in the body like nitric oxide, which helps to protect the lungs against bacteria we inhale, increasing the chances of respiratory infections;
  • Liver and kidneys. Alcohol makes it harder for these organs to filter out toxins in the body; and
  • Sexual function. Rise in blood pressure caused by alcohol can make it harder for men to get an erection. In women, it can lower the production of vaginal fluids which act as a lubricant during sex. In both sexes, it can inhibit the transmission of signals in the brain which deal with orgasm.

What is considered binge drinking?

The recommended limit for alcohol consumption is one week is 14 units, but any more than 6 units for women or 8 units for men in one session is considered binge drinking. Having spirits with sugary mixers can harm the teeth and gums and, over time, also contribute towards conditions like diabetes.

Daniel Atkinson provides the following tips:

“Adding sugary mixers to spirit drinks like gin and vodka makes it easier to exceed the 30g daily sugar limit for adults. It’s important to keep track of how much you’re drinking – diluting the spirit makes it easier to drink, so you consume more, quicker, without realising it.

“It can be helpful, if you’re anticipating staying out and drinking more than usual, to alternate between alcoholic drinks and water, to make the workload on your liver easier.”

He adds: “Eat something substantial before you go out. The phrase ‘eating is cheating’ is one often bandied about at parties but drinking on an empty stomach will mean that the alcohol is taken up into your body faster, and you’ll feel the effects much sooner.

“Pace yourself and know your limits. Alcohol takes time to get into the bloodstream so if you’re feeling close to being drunk, it’s likely another will tip you over the edge by the time your system has absorbed it.

And finally: “When you get home, drink plenty of water before you go to bed. It might make you get up to go to the toilet, but it will help to prevent you getting dehydrated in the night.”

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