Alcohol Hurts Your Health

Older Man drinking beer
August 19, 2014 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

Looking for one simple thing you can do to minimize your risk of being diagnosed with cancer? Stop drinking alcohol in any form.

That’s not just my advice. Earlier this year, a World Health Organization (WHO) report announced that when it comes to cancer, there is no safe level of alcohol intake.

Alcohol has links to cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon-rectum, liver, breasts, and pancreas. And the more you drink, the higher that risk is.

There’s lots of talk about “responsible drinking” these days. But that’s just an alcohol industry marketing slogan.

The truth is, alcohol was declared a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substance way back in 1988! And researchers have long known that alcohol is a cellular toxin, lethal to cells throughout the body, especially in the brain.

So I’m not sure how “responsible” it is to ingest a substance known to cause cancer, one that depresses the central nervous system and deals a death blow to brain cells, while damaging the liver and spurring inflammation.

But, you may be wondering, what about all those health benefits from moderate drinking? Isn’t a drink or two supposed to be good for your heart? And how about the resveratrol in wine? That’s healthy, right?

Two excellent questions! Let’s talk about those health benefits first. You often hear that alcohol, and wine in particular, is good for your heart. The truth is, it depends on whose heart we are talking about.

Blanket statements like “alcohol is good for your heart” are very misleading. There is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for alcohol. Your age, current medical issues and medications, sex, genetics, activity level, and other factors have to be considered.

Then there’s the question of quantity. How much alcohol does it take to get heart benefits? The standard advice from health experts is one drink per day for a woman, and no more than two daily drinks for a man.

Follow that advice and you could be putting yourself at risk for cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and rectum, according to a major review in the journal Alcohol Research.

As for wine and resveratrol, you should know that in order to get the recommended 500 mg dose of resveratrol, you’d have to drink about 40 liters of wine each and every day.

Get My FREE Curcumin Report

Chronic Inflammation Decoded

And you probably won’t be surprised to learn that many of the studies reporting the health benefits of alcohol were funded by the alcohol industry trade groups. So much for those health benefits!

There may be some very small “benefit” from drinking alcohol. But in my opinion, it’s far outweighed by the downsides.

Don’t forget – we’re not just talking about cancer. Alcohol can cause serious damage to the liver and forces the kidneys to work harder than they should. It causes irregular heartbeats, increases the risk of stroke, and can send blood sugar plummeting to dangerous lows in people with diabetes.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. And now alcohol has been linked to a newly discovered threat to your well being and brain health, one that few people – including doctors! — know about.

A condition called “alcohol-related brain damage” causes problems with mood swings, memory, and reasoning, as well as physical symptoms, including difficulty moving and walking, brain shrinkage, and burning sensations in the feet.

Medical experts say it’s possible to turn the condition around and repair the damage. But here’s the problem – only about 10 to 20 percent of these cases are ever diagnosed accurately.

People’s reluctance to admit to their doctor that they drink heavily makes diagnosing difficult. And many health professionals simply aren’t aware of the condition.

That means untold numbers of people who’ve been told they have Alzheimer’s and similar conditions could actually be suffering from alcohol-related dementia.

Or they may have Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, another condition that mimics Alzheimer’s but is caused by alcohol-related depletion of thiamine, or vitamin B1.

Fortunately, three months’ of abstinence is all it takes for most people to recover.

Alcohol is a double-edged sword, one that should be handled very carefully. It is far more of a health risk than we realize.

As I tell my children, just because something is popular, doesn’t mean it’s good – or good for you. If you chose to drink, at least be fully aware of the risks involved. An occasional glass of wine is not lethal. Just make sure it doesn’t become more than “occasional.”

Did You Enjoy This Article?

Sign up to get FREE access to more health tips, latest research, and exclusive offers to help you reach your health and wellness goals!

Hide

Get Your FREE Subscription to
Dr. Leigh Erin Connealy's Health News E-letter