print header

Alcohol and the Body

Harmful Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol affects the way you feel and it affects all parts of your body. Your brain, lungs, eyes, ears, heart, liver, stomach, pancreas, kidneys, intestines, reproductive system, bones and muscles are all victims of alcohol abuse. (See Harmful Effects of Alcohol diagram).

Conclusion: The effects of alcohol on the body are numerous. Know the facts

  • Brain - Alcohol directly affects brain cells. The results: unclear thinking, slurred speech, and staggering. Large consumption of alcohol may cause unconsciousness or death.
  • Eyes - Alcohol can cause blurred vision.
  • Heart - Alcohol can increase the workload of the heart. The result: irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure.
  • Liver - Alcohol can poison the liver. Continued use causes extensive damage and failure.
  • Stomach/Pancreas - Alcohol aggravates the digestive system. Consequences may include vomiting and ulcers.
  • Kidneys - Alcohol can prohibit the kidneys from preserving a good balance of minerals and body fluids.
  • Veins/Arteries - Alcohol widens blood vessels, resulting in headaches and loss of body heat.
  • Blood - Alcohol reduces your body's ability to produce blood cells, which in turn triggers anemia and/or infections.

Alcohol and Athletes

Drinking the night before a competition is unwise. Even if the alcohol is completely metabolized by the start of the competition, drinking can disturb your sleep, leaving you too tired to put in a peak performance the next day.

  • Alcohol use is directly linked to the rate of injury sustained in sport events and appears to evoke detrimental effects on exercise performance capacity (El-Sayed, M.S.; Ali, N.; El-Sayed, A.Z. Interaction between alcohol and exercise: physiological and hematological implications. Sports Med. 35(3): 257-269, 2005.)
  • The incidence of injury among athletes who are drinkers is 54.8%, compared with 23.5% in non-drinkers. (p < 0.005) (O'Brien, C.P. and Lyons, F. Alcohol and the Athlete. Sports Med. 29(5): 295-300, 2000.)
  • The hangover effect of alcohol consumption has been shown to reduce athletic performance by 11.4%. (O'Brien, C.P. and Lyons, F. Alcohol and the Athlete. Sports Med. 29(5): 295-300, 2000.)

Alcohol inhibits the body’s ability to eliminate the metabolic byproducts of exercise (such as lactic acid) as well as its ability to use fat and protein, which are necessary for energy during endurance sports.

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means you may need to hydrate more than usual before and after exercise.

How Alcohol Discriminates

Ability to Dilute


Average Total Body
Water:  52%


Average Total Body Water:  61%

Ability to Metabolize Alcohol
Women have a smaller quantity of dehydrogenase, an enzyme that breaks down alcohol.
Men have a larger quantity of dehydrogenase, which breaks down the alcohol they take in more quickly.

Hormonal Factors

Premenstrual hormonal changes cause intoxication to set in faster during the days right before a woman gets her period.

Alcohol increases estrogen levels.

Birth control pills or other medicine with estrogen increase intoxication.

Their susceptibility to getting drunk does not fluctuate dramatically at certain times of the month.

Alcohol also increases estrogen levels in men.  Chronic alcoholism has been associated with loss of body hair and muscle mass, development of swollen breasts and shrunken testicles, and impotence.

Excellence. Our Measure. Our Motto. Our Goal.