Don’t Get Tipsy Over Your Hormones October 21, 2010Posted by jfalender232 in Behavior, Biology, Health, Physiology.
Okay here’s the scoop, instead of boring you with the likely event that my fellow classmates might have bestowed upon you with their own blog posts, luckily for you, I pledge to make this the most exciting blog post that you will have the opportunity to read (that means you SHOULD click on the words that are highlighted in blue and underlined–you can thank me later for all the joy these links will give you). So enough with the chit-chat for now, let’s get ready to rumbbleeeee!
College is all about experiencing many new things such as moving away from your annoying parent(s), skipping class because it might be raining outside, meeting a myriad of new people, learning the art of mooching off your friends, and finally being exposed to your new best friend but your worst enemy. No I am not talking about Dean Wormer, hopefully you will never have to meet the dean. I am talking about alcohol, booze, liquor. It could make you the most popular person at night but then keep you strapped down to the bed with the worst hangover imaginable (unless you have to deal with Mike Tyson). Please allow me to whet your educational appetite with this nugget of information: “Alcohol dilates the blood vessels, or capillaries, that carry blood just below the surface of the skin. When they expand, the flow of blood to the skin is increased. The skin flushes, causing a warm feeling.” Alright so now that we are all warm and fuzzy inside lets jump in and explore this topic some more.
Alcohol and has many effects on the human body but one of the most important areas of research is the relationship between alcohol and hormones. WedMD defines hormones as “a chemical substance, formed in one organ or part of the body and carried in the blood to another organ or part where they exert functional effects; depending on the specificity of their effects, hormones can alter the functional activity, and sometimes the structure, of just one organ or tissue or various numbers of them.” Furthermore, alcohol has 4 primary areas that can effect: the regulation of blood sugar levels, reproductive functions, calcium metabolism, and bone structure.
Contrary to Def Leppards wish, I don’t want you to pour some sugar on me, so by realizing that your alcohol drinking can affect all three of your glucose sources and the functions of regulatory hormones will go a long way towards having a healthy relationship with your body. “Even in well-nourished people, alcohol can disturb blood sugar levels. Acute alcohol consumption, especially in combination with sugar, augments insulin secretion and causes temporary hypoglycemia. In addition, studies in healthy subjects and insulin-dependent diabetics have shown that acute alcohol consumption can impair the hormonal response to hypoglycemia (*More Info*)”. Maintaining normal blood sugar levels are crucial to the homeostasis of your body.
I would like to take a time-out here and impart some of facts of college life as told by yours truly (WARNING: please take all these facts with a grain of salt): You will spend more time thinking about sex than anything you might learn in a class. That being said, alcohol can have some potentially serious side effects on the reproductive system of both males and females. “In men, reproductive hormones are responsible for sexual maturation, sperm development and thus fertility, and various aspects of male sexual behavior. In women, hormones promote the development of secondary sexual characteristics, such as breast development and distribution of body hair; regulate the menstrual cycle; and are necessary to maintain pregnancy. Chronic heavy drinking can interfere with all these functions. Its most severe consequences in both men and women include inadequate functioning of the testes and ovaries, resulting in hormonal deficiencies, sexual dysfunction, and infertility (*More Info*)”. This is important to keep in mind because for males, extended low levels of testosterone can lead to the developing of feminization of males characteristics such as “breast enlargement”. Women need to be aware of alcohol effects because prolonged drinking can lead to “cessation of menstruation, irregular menstrual cycles, and menstrual cycles without ovulation, early menopause, and increased risk of spontaneous abortions (*More Info*)”. This leads to a creed that all should take to heart: ‘You can always dump your boyfriend or girlfriend, but never ever dump your hormones.’
The final two areas that we are covering in-depth, calcium metabolism and bone structure are closely correlated to one another. Calcium is the main building block of bones and is essential to the cell to cell communication. Speaking of communication relationships, ‘America’s favorite life-guru’ Dr. Phil can answer any communication issues you might have here.
The role of alcohol in calcium and bone metabolism can lead to several complications. “Acute alcohol consumption can lead to a transient parathyroid hormone (PTH) deficiency and increased urinary calcium excretion, resulting in loss of calcium from the body (*More Info*). Chronic heavy drinking can disturb vitamin D metabolism, resulting in inadequate absorption of dietary calcium (*More Info*)”. These decreased calcium levels can potentially lead to bone diseases, most notably, osteoporosis. MedicineNet describes osteoporosis as, “a condition characterized by a decrease in the density of bone, decreasing its strength and resulting in fragile bones. Osteoporosis literally leads to abnormally porous bone that is compressible, like a sponge. This disorder of the skeleton weakens the bone and results in frequent fractures in the bones”. So yes it is possible that if you are not careful, excessive alcohol consumption could lead you to looking like this dashing fellow below.
So the next time you and your friends start to pour shots, shotgun beers, or do keg stands to the greatest 80s song of all time Here I Go Again, just remember that your hormones are relying on you as their designated driver for the night.
Please check out my friend, Wes’ blog, who examines more about alcoholism and its effects on the endocrine. It’s a great read!