Alcohol and Rising Health Problems

Gillian May
Photo by Isabella and Zsa Fischer on Unsplash

As a former nurse and recovering alcoholic, I know a lot about health issues related to alcohol addiction. Once I quit drinking five and a half years ago, I made it my mission to research, write, and distribute articles to educate the general public about the dangers of alcohol use.

In addition to my personal health issues, I have lost several family members to alcoholism. Getting sick from alcohol use doesn’t happen overnight, and it usually takes many years of repeated heavy drinking for symptoms to appear slowly. The onset of these symptoms sneaks up on you so slowly that people often don’t connect drinking and their health issues.

However, there are some tell-tale signs that alcohol is the culprit of your symptoms. Below are some ways you can tell that alcohol is making you sick.

Skin-related symptoms

Alcohol causes inflammation, and for some people, this inflammation can be severe. One way to tell is by looking at the skin after you start drinking. Often the hands and face become red and swollen after the first few drinks. Many people associate this with the warm rush of alcohol use, but it’s not normal. It’s a sign that alcohol is inflaming your body.

Gut symptoms

Heartburn and bloating are a sign that alcohol is inflaming the gut. Alcohol is also hard on the pancreas and liver and can cause serious damage to these organs over time. But even with one night of heavy drinking, the whole digestive tract can show signs of damage. In the beginning, it may show up as typical signs of gut discomfort like bloating, gas, indigestion, and nausea.

Increased blood pressure

Alcohol causes an increase in blood pressure for anyone who drinks. If you already have high blood pressure, then alcohol can make this worse — many people who quit drinking notice a dramatic drop in their blood pressure. Over time, this can become a chronic problem that contributes to cardiovascular issues.

Increased cholesterol

Alcohol increases cholesterol which can be problematic for someone with a genetic predisposition for cholesterol issues. Alcohol is full of sugar which gets stored in the liver and converted to cholesterol. Over time, this can become problematic for the liver and heart.

Nervous system issues

Alcohol is very damaging to the nervous system. Even one night of heavy drinking can cause tremors, balance issues, twitching, and muscle pain. Alcohol directly affects the nervous system, which is why we feel “high” when we drink. However, the nervous system has to compensate for this damaging toxin, and this compensation can cause noticeable nervous system symptoms. Alcohol’s effect on the nervous system can also cause frequent headaches and migraines because alcohol is toxic to the brain.


With frequent drinking and genetic predisposition, a person can develop diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is associated with heavy drinking over time. Usually, the onset is around middle age. The liver and pancreas are responsible for managing blood glucose levels, and these organs become very stressed with heavy drinking. The new onset of type 2 diabetes can indicate damage from heavy alcohol use for those who may be genetically predisposed. People diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can often see complete recovery from the disease once they stop drinking.

These are health conditions that can let you know that alcohol is making you sick. Many people who have had severe drinking issues for years can attest to having some or all of these conditions. Often, these health issues subside when alcohol is reduced or stopped. The more that people are educated about the connection between alcohol and health issues, the more they can make better decisions about their drinking.

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I'm a former nurse turned freelance writer. I have extensive experience in administration, frontline care, and education in mental health, public health, and geriatrics. However, after 20 years, I needed a change and always wanted to write. I have personal and family experience in mental health and addictions, so I'm passionate about advocacy and education in those areas. I'm also a traveler, photographer, and artist. I funnel all my various expertise into my writing and hope to provide valuable content that is entertaining and educational. Join my email list if you want to read more of my work - I also have a book on Alcoholic Liver Disease coming out in 2021.


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