You probably know someone with a drinking problem. In fact, maybe that person is you.
Problems with alcohol are fairly common in the United States. Two- thirds of all Americans drink and sixty percent are light to moderate drinkers, but up to 10 percent drink excessively.
The lights to moderate drinkers are probably in pretty good health, because is safe and may be beneficial, since it lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. But excessive alcohol consumption is another story. Excessive drinking on a daily basis—more than three drinks for a woman and more than six for a man—increases your risk of cancer and can damage the liver, pancreas, heart, and brain, and also increases the risk of breast cancer in women, says doctor. It can cause vitamin deficiencies resulting in anemia, memory loss, osteoporosis, and night blindness. Although rare in this country, when scurvy due to vitamin C deficiency and pellagra due to niacin deficiency do occur, it’s usually in alcoholics.
The Liquid Saboteur
How does alcohol damage your health? It hinders your body’s ability to absorb, process, use, and store the nutrients found in food—plus it tends to edge out food in your diet.
Alcoholic beverages are essentially made up of water, pure alcohol, and sugars, so they offer virtually no nutritional value. Alcoholic beverages are full of empty calories. If you’re a heavy drinker, those empty calories replace other nutrients in the diet. In addition, alcohol has a direct, toxic effect on the gastrointestinal tract.
The result is that many, if not most, of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients extracted from food during digestion cannot be absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract and into the bloodstream. Compounding the problem is the fact that alcohol is toxic to the liver, the organ that processes nutrients. Normally the liver stores the nutrients it receives and turns food into the energy your body needs.
But once the liver is damaged, your body’s ability to properly use many vitamins and minerals such as thiamin, B6, and folate (the naturally occurring form of folic acid) is significantly reduced.
And since a damaged liver produces less bile, a substance the body uses to prepare fat-soluble vitamins for absorption by the intestines, your body’s ability to absorb vitamins A, D, and E is also impaired.