Here’s a post just in time for the weekend! Most of us enjoy the occassional cocktail here and there, but what effect does alcohol have on your mind-body?
To drink or not to drink–that is the question. Research studies have suggested that imbibing alcoholic beverages is good for the heart. Giddy with delight, many of us have taken to toasting our health with a glass of wine in hand. How is that good for the heart? By helping you relax, even for a short while, alcohol lowers blood pressure, and this in turn is good for the cardiovascular system. Furthermore, it’s been reported that chemical compounds in the skin of grapes help to reduce plaques and even prevent stroke.
Unfortunately, although a moderate amount of alcohol is arguably good for the physical heart, the same amount can be detrimental for the emotional heart. Because it triggers feelings of sadness, alcohol serves as a depressant. Sadness may eventually evolve into feelings of nervousness and anxiety, as well as mental lethargy and physical fatigue during the subsequent hangover. With increased regularity and quantity of consumption, it is more likely that the symptoms will intensify, eventually rendering the drinker anxious and depressed. A person’s mood is exaggerated by the use of alcohol. If someone is depressed then while drinking, they will probably become even more depressed.
Alcohol can act as a tranquilizer, reducing stress for moderate drinkers. Some studies define moderate drinking as a total of two to three glasses of wine per week. Anything more that this only increases stress on the body, especially when the drinker stops for a time or as a tolerance for the substance increases.
Because alcohol slows down and relaxes (“depresses”) the central nervous system, it also slows down brain function, breathing, and pulse rate. With increased alcohol consumption, the body’s cells and organs become less able to perform efficiently. Eventually, sedation and drowsiness occur.
For people who have been alcohol-dependent for a long time, the substance can have a toxic effect on their neurotransmitters. Alcohol triggers an increase in the amount of circulating cortisol, which in turn reduces serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.
One would logically expect, therefore, that alcohol consumption would be a causative agent of depression. Nevertheless, studies have shown that drinking alcohol does not necessairly cause depression or anxiety. In other words, not all heavy or longtime drinkers will become depressed. However, if you are already experiencing of associated symptoms.
Alcohol can also indirectly contribute to the development of a depressive mood. It does this in several ways. First, although alcohol depresses bodily function, it often stimulates the expression of emotions. It inhibits function in the part of the brain that enables us to control our behavior, which releases us to express all manner of emotion–the good, the bad, and the ugly. Taking other drugs can increase the effect of both the alcohol and the other drug, especially if the other drug is also a central nervous system depressant, such as a tranquilizer or an antihistamine (allergy medication). Second, alcohol stresses blood sugar control and can cause episodes of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which in turn can lead to a depressed mood. Third, by disrupting sleep, alcohol makes it difficult for a person to get the restorative rest that one needs to function properly.
Have a great weekend everyone!