Excessive alcohol consumption can affect your health in some surprising ways. For instance, people with alcohol use disorder are more likely to develop frequent infections and heart problems. Alcohol can even affect whole bodily systems, such as your digestive system. The accompanying video features a doctor at Southern Hills Hospital. He introduces the main ways in which alcohol affects your gastrointestinal health.
How alcohol affects your liver
Your body isn’t able to store alcohol; unlike the food you eat. When you drink alcohol, metabolizing it becomes your body’s top digestive priority. This places excessive strain on your liver, as this organ is responsible for processing the alcohol.
As a result of excessive alcohol consumption, the liver cells become damaged and are replaced by scar tissue. This is called liver cirrhosis. The scar tissue isn’t able to function like normal liver tissue.
Over time, the liver begins to fail. Liver failure affects the many other functions of the liver, including the following:
- Blood clotting
- Toxic waste processing
- Hormone metabolism
- Nutrient metabolism
Liver cirrhosis can result in death. It also increases the risk of liver cancer.
How alcohol affects your pancreas
The pancreas, which is an organ in the abdomen, performs important digestive tasks. People with alcohol use disorder are at an increased risk of acute pancreatitis, which is the inflammation of the pancreas. This condition can sometimes be life-threatening.
Acute pancreatitis requires emergency medical care, and often requires hospitalization. It can cause intense, long-lasting pain that begins in the upper abdomen, along with these symptoms:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid pulse
- Swollen, tender abdomen
Pancreatitis interferes with your digestive system’s ability to digest food. Patients are at risk of severe malnutrition.
How alcohol affects your stomach
Another way alcohol endangers your GI health is its effects on the stomach. Alcohol irritates the stomach lining because it triggers the overproduction of acids. This can result in:
- Stomach pain
- Acid reflux
Additionally, heavy alcohol use increases the risk of stomach cancer.
Gastroenterology Services at Southern Hills Hospital is committed to maintaining the highest standards of patient care and safety. Our team has specialized training and experience, and it’s important to us to give each patient the best possible health outcome. Call a registered nurse at our hospital in Las Vegas at (702) 916-5023.