Alcohol use has a lot of effects on a person ranging from mental health, emotional health and physical health. Typically the individual’s physical appearance tends to be one of the first indicators of a present concern regarding the amount and intensity of the alcohol use that is taking place at that time. This is due to the observed changes that one is experiencing due to the consumption of regular alcohol use. So what do these physical changes look like?
The individual who is presently consuming an increased amount of alcohol on a regular basis can experience a lot of skin changes. This includes dry and wrinkled skin. Alcohol causes your body as well as your skin to become more and more dehydrated. When you experience dehydration you are also losing vitamins and necessary nutrients which is important for your own health. Therefore, when you are dehydrated it causes the skin to wrinkle more quickly as well as change the color of the skin to be more dull and grey.
Other skin concerns can also develop over time including specific conditions like Rosacea. Rosacea is a skin condition that causes redness and visible blood vessels in your face. It may also produce small, red, pus-filled bumps. These signs and symptoms may flare up for weeks to months and then go away for a while. Facial flushing is probably the most common skin sign of drinking alcohol because of the fact that the intake of alcohol increases the blood flow. Over time, dilation of blood vessels can become permanent, leading to the formation of ectasia (i.e. spider veins). These affect mainly the face, chest, abdomen, arms, and hands.
Bloating and Weight Gain
Alcohol can cause water retention in your face. This makes your face look bloated and puffy. Alcohol being an inflammatory substance, which means it tends to cause swelling in the body. Sometimes it’s not just the alcohol that can create the bloating but it’s more the substances that are mixed with the alcohol like carbonated products and sugary substances.
Gastritis is a condition that is a result from bloating due to alcohol use. This is a condition that can include nausea, heartburn, abdominal pain, and vomiting.
Weight gain is something that is also common with an increased consumption of alcohol. Because alcohol tends to contain a higher amount of calories, when the individual is consuming more alcohol on a regular basis, the amount of calories that tend to be consumed also increase. Research also suggests that those that consume more and more alcohol regularly also tend to over-eating as well. Depending on how much the individual is drinking and how often, the amount of time for the individual to lose the weight or manage the bloating can vary.
Alcohol can irritate the blood vessels on the surface of your eyes, making them bloodshot. Bloodshot eyes are one of the most common physical characteristics of a heavy drinker. Alcohol dilates the ocular blood vessels, which makes them look larger and gives the eyes a reddish color.
Hair Dryness and Thinning
As previously mentioned, alcohol can dehydrate the individual which can create a lot of consequences on your body and appearance. Hair changes is another example as to how alcohol affects you. Alcohol dries your hair as well as your skin, making it more likely to break and split. Dehydration is also a contributing factor to dandruff and hair loss. Alcohol can create complications for an individual’s thyroid which is also known to be a direct result of changes in your hair including hair loss and thinning.
That old saying you are what you eat in a way is true when it comes to alcohol use and the individual’s body. When the individual is consuming an increased amount of alcohol the body is being consumed by this increased amount of alcohol which causes the liver to break down so it can be removed by the body resulting in the alcohol leaving you body through your breath, sweat and urine.
Ways to Reduce the Effects of Alcohol
First and foremost it’s important to be able to take a step back and look at the whole picture. Does the individual show these physical characteristics? If so then the important step is to begin the process of trying to decrease the intake of alcohol. The physical effects can start to be managed including the blood shot eyes, the bloating, and the body odor after just a few weeks of refraining from alcohol use. Everyone is different and depending on the amount of alcohol and the frequency of the alcohol intake the time for these conditions to be managed can vary from person to person.
It’s also really important to identify that refraining from alcohol use can be complicated because when the individual abruptly stops drinking, the body is deprived of the effects of alcohol and requires time to adjust to functioning without it. This adjustment period causes the painful side effects of alcohol withdrawal, such as shakes, insomnia, nausea, and anxiety. It is strongly recommended you engage in assistance from a medical provider as alcohol withdrawal can be life threatening. Treatment for Alcohol withdrawal typically includes detox, inpatient, and residential services which is then followed up with outpatient services which can include PHP or IOP depending on the level of care that is recommended at that time. Each individual is different and it is important to remember their treatment program will also be different. 12 Step meetings like AA (Alcohol Anonymous) are extremely beneficial for any individual who is exploring recovery.