The hormones in the body work together in a coordinated system that keeps the body healthy and functioning. Hormones act as messengers for the chemicals working to control and coordinate all functions of the body’s tissues and organs. When it is working properly, the amount of hormones released and tissues respond to the messages. Alcohol can impair functions of the glands that release hormones and functions of the tissues, resulting in medical problems. Learn more about the impact of alcohol on hormones.
How Alcohol Impairs Blood Sugar
Sugar glucose is a main energy source for the body’s tissues. The body gets glucose from food and synthesis in the body. This also happens when the breakdown of glycogen is stored in the liver. The body’s blood sugar levels are controlled by insulin and glucagon, hormones secreted by the pancreas. Insulin lower glucose levels, while glucagon raises it. Other hormones from the adrenal glands and pituitary gland backup function of glucagon to make sure the body’s glucose level does not fall low enough to cause fainting, passing out, or brain damage.
Chronic Heavy Drinking and Glucose
Heavy drinking can increase the body’s glucose levels. Alcohol can work to cause the following issues:
- Reduce responsiveness to insulin
- Cause glucose intolerance
- Increase secretion of glucagon and other hormones
- Alter effectiveness of medications
- Cause hypoglycemic and hyperglycemic episodes in alcoholics
- Lower survival rates for people with alcoholism and diabetes
Calcium Metabolism and Bone Structure Impairment
Hormones are important in maintaining calcium levels in the body. This is necessary not only for strong bones and teeth but also communication between and within cells of the body. Several hormones, including parathyroid hormone (PTH), vitamin D-derived hormones, and calcitonin work to regulate calcium absorption, excretion, and distribution between bones and body fluids. Drinking in excess can impact these hormones and also calcium and bone metabolism in many ways, including:
- Inhibit activity of bone-forming cells
- Limit adequate absorption of dietary calcium
- Disturb vitamin D metabolism
- Alter reproductive hormones, impacting bone metabolism
Alcohol is also responsible for the increase of cortisol levels. Alcohol consumption increases production of cortisol when the person who drinks alcohol is withdrawing from the effects of intoxication. Cortisol can increase blood pressure, focus alertness and attention, but also impact body functions like bone growth, digestion, reproduction and wound repair. The body is tightly interwoven in a series of ways that tie systems together in a unique way that help keep things running smoothly. When toxic chemicals enter the picture, things can shift and it is important to understand how they change to as to know how to support restoration of these systems in recovery.
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