Why Do Alcoholics Lose Weight?

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Health issues and risks directly linked to excessive alcohol consumption

Excessive drinking of intoxicating drinks such as alcohol may have an irreversible negative impact on one’s body.

There are numerous health diseases and illnesses linked to excessive drinking of alcohol, such as gastritis, multiple organ failure, liver cancer, and the apparent direct result of rapid weight loss.

Gastritis is a condition of the stomach’s lining erosion, and this condition is triggered by excessive alcohol drinking.

Alcohol.org, an American Addiction Subsidiary, further affirmed that the condition of alcoholic gastritis might lead to bloating, nausea, stomach pain, and vomiting.

Though the alcoholic beverage goes directly to the stomach, it has a great effect on the body's different organs. Once consumed, it will be absorbed by the stomach.

Then, this intoxicating liquid, together with other nutrients taken by the body, will be transmitted to the different parts of the body through the bloodstream.

The organ that is greatly affected by too much alcohol is the liver, as it metabolizes the alcohol consumed by the body.

Too much alcohol will make the liver work harder and eventually may quickly wear out.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that drinking too much alcohol will cause body inflammation and liver dysfunction.

A study conducted and published in Clinical Liver Disease in 2015 claimed that body inflammation and tissue damage are directly linked to excessive alcohol consumption of the body due to the abnormal changes in the gut microbiome.

That said, it pays to seek treatment for acute alcoholism the soonest time possible to save your liver and other body organs from severe damages.

Weight loss and alcohol

Weight loss may be perceived as positive or negative, for it entirely depends on what triggers or causes the weight loss.

Those who are sweating it out through strenuous exercise, eating healthy food, or undergoing intermittent fasting to achieve the ideal weight may consider weight loss something positive.

However, if the weight loss is not desired and a noticeable decline of the body’s physical structure, it will be viewed as something negative.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has considered weight loss as the visible effect of alcohol abuse and classified alcoholism as a type of disease.

Since it is a disease, it may trigger other problems in the body if it is left untreated, and considering that weight loss is the direct body manifestation that there is something wrong with the body.

Therefore, a careful body analysis must be conducted.

The body’s psychomotor will be greatly affected once the body is already deteriorating, and it can be seen through the apparent weight loss. It may be an irreversible health condition.

Factors that cause weight loss due to alcoholism

Weight loss is the most visible result of excessive alcohol consumption of the body, and this weight loss is directly linked to the “feeling of fullness,” which means that the stomach creates an idea or feeling of fullness.        

Eloba further explained that an alcoholic would have less food intake and absorb fewer nutrients because the alcohol absorbed by the stomach creates a sense of artificial fullness.       

The stomach eventually has an increased level of acidity, especially when the alcohol intake is excessive and being done regularly.

The increased level of stomach acidity leads to one’s loss of appetite.        

Such a massive increase in the stomach acid level may lead to a health condition called “dyspepsia,” as noted by the medical doctors in Mayo Clinic, that the person suffering from dyspepsia will experience upset stomach and vomiting.

When the person is having an upset stomach and continuous vomiting will logically result in weight loss for the simple reason that the body expels all the nutrients that the body has taken.

What is left in the bodily system is the toxic residue of the alcohol.

Mayo Clinic pointed out that the main organ that is directly hit by the alcoholism disease is the liver, for too much alcohol level will lead to the liver’s inflammation, enlargement and eventually may no longer be able to secrete the body’s toxins.       

Most of the patients having liver problems seen to have an apparent rapid weight loss, suffering from body malaise and jaundice.

Alcoholism as a disease        

Medline Plus showed that there are around 17.6 million people in the U.S alone that are actually in the state of the disease of alcoholism without them knowing it, for these people often intoxicated.

Alcohol drinking is habit-forming, just like puffing a cigarette, vape, or any vice, and once the person is already into the habit of drinking or smoking, it is hard to break.

Alcoholism  or alcohol use disorder,  it is a difficult addiction to rehab from. The body is longing for alcohol and thereby further going deep down to the pit of the vice to the detriment of the body’s organ and immune system.

Alcoholics are aware of the possible health risk that is brought by excessive drinking. Still, they already lost their cognitive control or some sort of a “will power” to suppress the body’s longing for alcohol.

It may be aptly called some addiction wherein an individual is already chained by their vice. They cannot break it, for they find a momentary satisfaction from the intoxicating drink. However, their body is already experiencing some health concerns, such as weight loss.

Common manifestations of addiction

Addiction is a state when an individual can no longer live his or her existence without the vice, and there are different forms of addiction.

For example, it could be in smoking, eating, and even playing mobile games, and breaking from this "addiction" is challenging.

Once addiction is formed, the intensity and level of alcohol content consumed also increases to satiate the thirst for the alcohol and mindless as to the possible health consequences or the effects to his social functions.

Most alcoholics have dysfunctional social and familial relations, for they already lost their sense of interest in establishing social contact and interaction.

Often severe alcoholism is manifested through apparent behaviours, such as not eating healthy foods, eating so little or loss of appetite, loss of interest in establishing social relations, and mindlessness of personal hygiene such as taking a bath.        

It may also affect their work, for most alcoholics have lost a sense of control over their cognitive faculties, thereby affecting the quality of their work and their decision-making.

Seek medical help and treatment

Suppose the weight loss is rapid and the body is already getting weaker.

In that case, it is a must to seek medical attention and help diagnose the body's condition properly and be given the appropriate treatment for weight loss and the state of alcoholism. 

Like other forms of addiction, getting rid of it is the most challenging part.

First, the person will experience a sort of alcohol withdrawal that is the same as drug withdrawal. 

Then, they experience body shivering and mouth salivating as it suppresses the urge to drink alcohol.

The American Academy of Family Physicians observed that alcoholics are being treated with utmost care considering their present body condition, and they are being provided an around-the-clock observation for the body is undergoing detoxification.

However, some complications, such as cardiac arrest, may be triggered due to abstinence from alcohol.

Road to recovery

Undergoing medical treatment is a therapeutic process for one's body to regain back its vitality and gain control of its mental faculties to be a productive member of society.

As part of the treatment both for the weight loss and alcoholism is the replenishment of the body of the needed nutrients, and proper guidance on eating healthy foods will be provided to ensure that the body is getting the nutrients it needs.

The road to recovery from the addiction to alcohol entails family, peers, and colleagues. Support for this support system will make the person persevere to be sober and eventually be free from alcohol addiction.

If you have noticed that your friend or colleague is manifesting some behaviour of being in the state of alcoholism, better talk to them and carefully make them understand the immediate need to seek medical treatment.

Our Abbeycare treatment centres in Scotland and Gloucester provide various treatment programmes for alcoholism tailored to your needs or your loved ones'. 

All of us can make a difference in other people’s lives, and you can effectively lend your hand to a friend in need by using some of the information you obtained from this article.

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Pete has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. To read more about Pete visit his LinkedIn profile.