Here's What Happens To Your Body If You Drink Alcohol Every Day
Get this: Alcohol sales were up over 20% during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though bars and restaurants were closed, according to data released by research firm Nielsen. Now that things have started opening up again, you might be wondering how those daily drinks at home might have impacted you. If you were drinking alcohol every day (and still are), the effects last longer and are more dangerous than you think.
We gathered information from some of the nation's top hospitals and talked to an expert about what truly happens to your body when you drink alcohol every day. For more on what you should be consuming daily, check out The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
It can mess with gut bacteria and cause digestive problems.
We all have bacteria in our stomachs that allow for normal digestion. After every first sip, alcohol immediately affects this area of the body, reducing those healthy microbiomes, according to a study published in the journal Alcohol Research.
Drinking alcohol every day, then, means lasting damage to the stomach and digestive lining, causing what the research calls "leakage." The digestive system and intestines are where the body fights infections, so you also are at risk of getting sick more often (but more on that later).
You will gain weight.
Wine and cheese, beer and hamburgers, mimosas and brunch—there are so many ideal alcohol and food pairings out there. But drinking alcohol, especially too much, can lead to increased inhibition and excess caloric intake, says Coral Dabarera Edelson, MS, RD who focuses on healing the gut. "The body uses alcohol as a fuel source first, leading other nutrients (fat, carbohydrates) to be stored as fat in the body," she says. That means that alcohol can lower the amount of fat-burning in the body. Moderation is key, she says.
You won't see the effects of your workouts.
If you're working toward gaining muscle while also drinking alcohol every day, you won't see the results of all your intense work. "Alcohol intake affects the rate by which muscles repair (when working out, muscles tear and then repair, leading to growth)," Edelson says. "This is especially important after workouts and resting between workouts when more protein synthesis will occur."
A 2014 study in the journal PLOS One found that drinking alcohol four hours after a workout, even in addition to protein, reduced muscle growth in eight males used in the study. "The longer you can space out your drink from your work out, the better," Edelson says.
You won't sleep well.
In addition to hurting gut bacteria, consistent drinking every day increases your heart rate. This makes it harder to fully relax, and you may notice waking up frequently during the night. In fact, alcohol could be involved in 10% of persistent insomnia cases, according to Harvard Health.
Although alcohol makes it harder for the rest of the body to slow down, it makes the throat muscles relax, closing the airway partly and causing some breathing-while-sleeping problems like sleep apnea and snoring, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Your liver is constantly working in overdrive.
If you're consuming alcohol every day, your liver is filtering harmful buildup in the body. That work takes a toll, and of those who drink heavily, up to 15% will develop alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD), according to Healthline. Many people with ARLD aren't aware of it at first, when fat starts to grow near the liver. Symptoms include nausea, fatigue, swelling in the legs and abdomen, and more.
Your risk for a heart attack or stroke will go up.
While you might not be aware of the increased fat in the body if you drink alcohol every day, it may be accumulating in the arteries around the heart, according to the American Heart Association. The fat responsible here is triglycerides, and combining a high number with high LDL cholesterol (bad) or low HDL cholesterol (good) numbers, and your risk of a heart attack and stroke increases.
Your body won't be able to fight infections as well.
Drink alcohol every day and you may notice yourself getting sick more often. That's because alcohol reduces the effectiveness of the immune system, making you more likely to catch an infection, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
And yes, that does mean your chances of getting viruses is higher, too. If you're really itching for a glass of wine or cocktail (out of the house or in!), don't fret. "You will be fine," Dr. Niket Sonpal, an internist and gastroenterologist in New York City told Eat This, Not That!. But definitely give yourself days off to lessen the effects. For more, sign up for our newsletter to get the latest foods news delivered straight to your inbox.