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The Impact of Binge Drinking On the Digestive System

Binge drinking has become an all-too-familiar practice among young adults, but it's not all harmless fun. Learn more about the dangers excessive drinking can have on the body.
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The impact of alcohol on the body over the long term has been well documented. Inflamed blood vessels in the nose, significant weight gain and serious liver damage are all long term effects of heavy drinking

However, what about binge drinking’s effects on the body? Binge drinking is harder to define than alcoholism but can have just as many consequences for your body; particularly for your digestive system.

What is binge drinking?
Essentially, binge drinking is consuming a large quantity of alcohol over a short period of time with the sole purpose of becoming intoxicated. Although one would be quick to label binge drinking solely to those with an addiction to alcohol, anyone can engage in binge drinking. In fact, a staggering number of people binge drink (though it’s more common with college students and others within the 18 to 30 age demographic).

This type of drinking is in direct contrast to social drinking where the alcohol is secondary to the enjoyment of a night out or time spent with friends.

What does binge drinking do?
One of the most significant short-term effects for those downing a large number of drinks in a short time is the potential for alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning symptoms can vary anywhere from vomiting and confusion to loss of consciousness. While alcohol poisoning can have consequences as serious as coma or death, the person will most commonly wake up with a severe hangover. However, there are also long-term effects to be considered as well.

While the most prominent effect of long-term binge drinking is brain damage, there is also serious concern involving the digestive system. Alcohol consumption on this scale can create peptic ulcers in the lining of the small intestine or cause gastritis.

Other increased risks include:

  • Oral cancer
  • GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)
  • Esophageal stricture
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Barrett’s Esophagus (a precancerous condition of the esophagus)
  • Tooth decay and gum disease
  • Damage to the salivary glands
  • Damage to the GI tract
  • Throat cancer
  • Massive bleeding from the junction of the stomach and the esophagus (Mallory-Weiss Syndrome)
  • Esophageal polyps
  • Stomach cancer
  • Damage to stomach muscles
  • Gastric lesions
  • Bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine

This is a long list of frighteningly harmful conditions, many of which won't heal over time. Some will require surgery to correct while others can lead directly to death. Moreover, these dangers don’t even touch on the potential for harm in other ways such as passing out and loss of coordination/disorientation.

The best way to avoid potentially life-threatening damage to the digestive system is to abstain from binge drinking completely. If you feel you must drink, do so responsibly. Low, slow alcohol consumption can still have harmful effects on your GI tract, mouth and other parts of your digestive system but the likelihood is far lower than with binge drinking. Be sure to drink a full glass of water between each alcoholic drink and have plenty of food in your stomach if you decide to consume alcohol.

Don't let a bad habit catch up with you. Drink responsibly to stay healthy.

 

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