Casual boozing is really on our minds this year — and not how you think. After a year that saw daily drinking (and alcohol consumption in general) increase in 2020, we’re finally getting around to looking at how it all actually affects our bods.
We’ve all been told, time and again, that binge drinking is very bad. But consider this a PSA to us all: every drink has an impact on our body in both big and small ways, and you might not even realise it’s happening at the time.
You know those casual after work drinks or the cheeky nightcap that’s only one or two tipples but, nevertheless, a firm feature in our daily lives? Those are the drinks we’re interested in talking about today, so pull up a seat and listen in. We’re about to lay out exactly how your drinking is affecting your body.
1. Alcohol disrupts your sleep
Most of us think a drink or two at the end of the day helps us unwind and relax, causing us to sleep better overnight. Because, let’s be real, we’ve all polished off a beer and immediately felt like taking a snooze afterwards. But — and we’re sorry to be the ones to tell you this — what you’ve been told is a lie.
While alcohol might help you nod off, it actually interferes with your REM (rapid eye movement) sleep cycle, which in turn, affects the quality of your sleep. According to Queensland Health, “REM sleep is the sleep stage where you’ll often have vivid dreams or nightmares, which means when alcohol affects your REM, it can bring on bad dreams.” And if you already have insomnia? Forget about it, alcohol is not going to help.
2. It can even cause erectile dysfunction
Sad but true, drinking alcohol can make it pretty damn difficult to get it up. The formula is pretty simple, according to Queensland Health, “Alcohol can cause dehydration, which means blood flow and circulation are reduced, thus making it harder to get an erection.” Meanwhile, alcohol also affects the nervous system, which can inhibit messages from our brain to our body, decreasing sensitivity to physical stimulation and generally scrambling your mind when it’s time to get down to it. So, you know, there’s that.
3. Alcohol can impact your skin health
Alcohol can severely dehydrate the body and for me, that manifests in being woken up in the middle of the night by literal dreams of guzzling huge glasses of ice-cold water. But besides the funky dreams, alcohol can wreak havoc on your skin, too. Specifically, booze depletes your body of water and lowers salt levels, which causes dehydration. Essentially, this freaks your sebaceous glands out badly enough that they can produce more sebum (your skin’s natural oil) and can potentially cause or exacerbate breakouts.
4. Wine and cider might stir up your allergies or asthma
Post-alcohol symptoms are something most of us have experienced, but something that is almost unrivalled is the post-wine fog. Sometimes even a single glass of a particular drop is enough to leave me feeling hay fever-y and generally gross the next day. One reason for this (aside from the alcohol itself)? Sulphites.
Sulphites are minerals that naturally occur in a heap of foods and drinks, but can also be added as a preservative to prevent spoilage. Some people are sensitive to sulphites, and they may cause allergic reactions ranging from mild hay fever-like symptoms to serious anaphylactic reactions when ingested. If you have asthma, then you might also find foods and drinks with a high sulphate content (like wine and cider) trigger the condition, making you feel wheezy, sneezy, itchy, or even cause hives.
5. There’s a good reason you crave more junk food when you drink
Unlike most other things you put in your mouth, you don’t digest alcohol — you absorb it. The rate at which it’s absorbed will largely depend on things like your weight, body type, and how much food you’ve consumed that day. That’s why it’s important to eat a meal before you drink, and it’s probably also where we all got the idea of “soaking up the alcohol” with a carby meal when the night becomes a little too much.
Now, if you’ve ever heard of or experienced a grog bog, then you’ll know that alcohol can upset your stomach, too. This is because alcohol makes your stomach produce more acid, which can cause inflammation and a thing called gastritis. What’s one thing that can soothe the sick feeling gastritis causes? Yep, lining your stomach with a big oily meal, which can also wreak havoc on your body.
If, after reading this, you feel ready to end your unhealthy relationship with alcohol, or one of your other vices, visit Queensland Health’s Dump the Junk website for tips and info to help get you started.Image: Disney