Alcohol affects the body negatively in many ways, and the gastrointestinal tract is no exception. Alcohol consumption can lead to several gastrointestinal problems and exacerbate other gastrointestinal disorders’ symptoms.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol use disorder, the alcohol rehab program at Vertava Health can help. Contact us at 844.451.0263 today for more information about our evidence-based approach to addiction treatment.
What Is The Gastrointestinal Tract?
The gastrointestinal tract consists of several organs, including the esophagus, stomach, and intestines. The gastrointestinal tract is not the digestive system but part of it. The digestive system consists of the GI tract and other organs involved in digestion, such as the tongue, salivary glands, and gallbladder.
Gastrointestinal Issues from Alcohol Abuse
The gastrointestinal tract is responsible for digesting food and absorbing nutrients. Alcohol consumption can interfere with this process in several ways, leading to digestive problems such as:
- Impairment to the function of muscles separating the esophagus and stomach
- Damage to the mucosal lining of the esophagus, increasing the risk of esophageal cancer
- Impeding secretion of gastric acids in the stomach
- The impeding activity of muscles around the stomach
- Development of chronic diarrhea, caused by impairment to muscle movement in small and large intestines
- Stopping the flow of nutrients in the small intestine and increase of toxins in the intestinal lining
How Alcohol Affects The Gastrointestinal Tract
Alcohol, like many substances consumed by mouth, travels the usual route of the gastrointestinal tract before being absorbed into the bloodstream. In short, substances travel from the oral cavity (i.e., mouth) to the esophagus, onto the stomach, then to the small intestine where nutrients are gleaned, and finally to the large intestine where much leftover waste is compacted.
Alcohol abuse can negatively affect the gastrointestinal tract with the following uncomfortable symptoms:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Rectal bleeding
- Cancers of the esophagus, stomach, and pancreas
Other Health Risks Of Alcohol
The gastrointestinal tract is not the only system in the body affected by alcohol use. It can affect all aspects of a person’s health.
- Liver disease — Heavy, regular drinking can affect the liver’s metabolic rate, increase the risk of alcoholic fatty liver disease, and lead to long-term liver inflammation or alcoholic hepatitis.
- Pancreatitis — Pancreas inflammation which may require hospitalization.
- Cancer — Heavy alcohol use increases the risk of development of several types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, throat, colon, rectum, liver, stomach, larynx, and esophagus.
- Immune system — Chronic alcohol use may lead to a weakened immune system and lessened ability to fight off infection and infectious diseases.
- Vitamin deficiencies — Alcohol affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, and the rate of movement of substances within the intestines, so vital nutrients may not be broken down the way the body needs them to be.
- Brain damage — Alcohol interferes with the brain communication pathways, affecting mood, emotion, and bodily reactions.
Treatment For Alcohol Use
When alcohol use goes untreated, it can progress into an addiction. If a person becomes dependent on alcohol, they will likely experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop. Some of these symptoms can be life-threatening. A medically-assisted detoxification program for alcohol can help individuals with an alcohol use disorder overcome their dependence on alcohol so they can prepare for treatment. Many inpatient alcohol treatment centers include detox programs as part of their treatments.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol use, please contact Vertava Health at 844.451.0263 today to learn about our alcohol rehab program. We can help you get on the road to recovery.