I was a freshman in college when I first experienced the trouble of using and abusing alcohol. It's been up and down from there. I have many nights with stories of merriment, youthful ignorance, and close calls. I also have accounts of physical illness, emotional and mental breakdowns, and jail for intoxication. I’m certainly not proud of moments in my life where I have abused alcohol, and today I want to focus on how dangerous it can be to our overall health.
One night, in particular, comes to mind to tell the destruction that alcohol has on our health in a unique perspective. It was Halloween 2007. I was at Colin, Matt, and Kari's place in Virginia. We had just completed a track workout, and I was pretty dehydrated. We hustled to get dressed up; I was a makeshift version of Larry the Cable guy with overalls and trucker hat I had on hand. I scarfed an entire Chipotle burrito as soon as I arrived at the house and took a quick sip of water as shots of tequila were poured. It was 'go' time. We toasted and quickly threw it back. In one fell swoop, my gag response kicked in, and that shot came right back out....through my nose!👃🏽 I don't know how many of you have ever had alcohol pass through your nasal passages, so imagine a scorched sensation like you just touched the inside of an oven, and your finger was on fire. It was raging inside my nose for several hours, only for it to become slightly less painful for a few brief moments. I woke up the following day, and the sensation somehow felt worse. It lasted for several days. The alcohol was so powerful and intense that it had 'burned' out my naval cavity. I remember thinking if it's doing this to my nose for days, what is it doing inside my body?
Here are some ways alcohol is attacking our bodies.
Alcohol of any amount causes hippocampal atrophy - a form of brain damage that affects memory and spatial navigation. The more you consume, the more you cause damage.1
Alcohol throws off our metabolic health and contributes to patterns of obesity.2
Alcohol is inflammatory, especially to our microbiome and gut flora.3
Alcohol disturbs our sleep and diminishes our ability to replenish through our deeper cycles of recovery.4
Alcohol directly correlates to a higher risk for cancer, especially breast in women and bowel in men.5
Alcohol is a depressant. Our mortality rate with depression and alcohol dependence dramatically increases.6