Most people know that alcohol can cause a variety of health problems such as cirrhosis (liver disease) and alcohol poisoning, but those aren’t the only health concerns caused by alcohol consumption. One major issue that is rarely discussed is alcohol anemia.
Anemia is a condition where your red blood cells are so low that it may cause you to feel lightheaded, tired, and have difficulty breathing. The most common reasons why people develop anemia are blood loss due to having an excessive menstrual flow or gastrointestinal problems that lead to bleeding. Alcohol anemia is simply anemia that is brought on by the excessive use of alcohol. There are a number of causes of alcohol anemia.
Blood in the Gastrointestinal (GI) tract
Alcohol anemia can occur as a side effect of cirrhosis for chronic alcoholics. Blood flow will become slowed in their portal vein, which will cause blood to back up in the GI tract. This, in turn, creates hemorrhoids, esophageal varices (dilated veins), and intestinal angioectasias (lesions). All of these things can bleed, which sometimes leads to anemia.
Weakened red blood cells destroyed in the spleen (a blood filter)
Another way that alcohol anemia can occur is through a weakening of the red blood cells. A helpful compound called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is often removed from red blood cells when people drink heavily. This makes membranes of red blood cells more rigid, which causes them to be destroyed in the spleen. When this happens, acute hemolytic anemia can develop.See more: Alcohol Related Health Problems
Blocking the action of folate
You don’t hear a lot about a vitamin like folate, but it’s actually very important for the blood in our bodies. How so? Because folate helps us to create new white and red blood cells. Unfortunately, alcohol works against folate by preventing it from taking action. Due to this, people who drink too much will have lower counts of red and white blood cells, which puts them at risk for alcohol anemia.
Sickness leads to more sickness
Simply put, if you are an alcoholic and consume large amounts of alcohol, you may get sick more often than the average person due to a decreased or slowed production of white blood cells which help you fight off infections. As a result, it can take you longer to recover from illnesses. On top of this, there are a number of chronic diseases that you are more likely to develop. These prolonged bouts of sickness can lead to alcohol anemia as your body has difficulty working correctly in its weakened state.
Hereditary hemochromatosis can be sped up
What’s hemochromatosis? In layman’s terms, it just means that you have too much iron in your body – alcohol increases the amount of iron stored in your body, and this can lead to alcohol anemia. That may not sound too bad, but symptoms include issues like joint pain, abdominal pain, weight loss, fatigue, loss of body hair, and loss of sexual desire. Drinking too much can speed up deterioration in people who have inherited this disease and even cause those who didn’t previously have it to acquire it.
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