The consumption of large amounts of alcohol can have damaging effects on many functions of the body. Alcohol abuse has notable effects on the degeneration of bones, ultimately resulting in bone weakening and osteoporosis.
Alcohol and the Bones
The damage of bone tissue occurs through several altered processes in the body. First, alcohol reduces the amount of calcium and vitamin D that are absorbed in the intestinal tract. Calcium is one of the most important minerals in regards to bone health. Vitamin D, on the other hand, is required for the absorption of calcium and therefore has a large effect on bone health. In addition to reduced absorption of calcium and vitamin D, alcohol also affects the cells of the liver that are responsible for converting vitamin D into its active form. This decreases active vitamin D even further, resulting in additionally reduced calcium absorption into the body.
Alcohol also has direct effects on osteoblasts, which are bones cells responsible for bone formation and remodeling. These cells work alongside osteoclasts, which are the cells that destroy bone tissue so that it may be remodeled by the osteoblasts. Excess alcohol consumption can kill osteoblasts, causing bones to degrade faster than they can reform.
The abuse of alcohol can also alter several hormones in the body that are linked with bone health. Alcohol has been found to decrease estrogen, resulting in slowed bone regeneration and bone loss. Cortisol and parathyroid hormone (PTH) are hormones that increase with alcohol use. Cortisol is a stress hormone that not only decreases bone regeneration, but also increases bone break down. PTH affects bones by drawing out calcium.
Alcohol Abuse and the Effects of Weakened Bones
When a person consumes even a moderate amount of alcohol daily, it can lead to a condition called osteoporosis. Osteoporosis occurs when the bones do not regenerate as quickly as they are being destroyed. This results in porous bones that are much weaker and more brittle than healthy bones.
Weakening of the bones and osteoporosis can lead to injury, even in the case of a mild accident like a fall. According to the Mayo Clinic, mild stresses such as bending over or coughing can result in a fracture if the bones are weak enough. Osteoporosis-related fractures are most likely to occur in the spine, hip, and wrist. Unfortunately, alcohol has effects that not only weaken the bones, but that also delay the healing of fractures.
Reversing Bone Loss by Ending Alcohol Abuse
If alcohol has reduced the health of your bones, there may be things you can do to regain that health. Most importantly, alcohol consumption should be greatly reduced. Many of the effects of alcohol on the bones are reversible once a person ceases alcohol use. However, if the cells of the liver become irreversibly damaged, there may be a permanent decrease in vitamin D activation in the body. This then results in lowered calcium absorption. It is therefore important to reduce alcohol consumption before permanent damage occurs.
Get Help for Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol can lead to serious health consequences like bone weakening. If you or a loved one has become addicted to alcohol, it is important to seek appropriate treatment. Therefore, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about treatments for alcohol addiction.