5 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Feet

5 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Feet

Oct 13 , 2021


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We’re all aware of why drinking too much alcohol is bad.

It has devastating effects on the body and mind, for instance raised blood pressure, poor social judgement and the liver losing its ability to regenerate.

Of course having a pint of beer or a glass of wine on the odd occasion will not cause any harm to your body.

But alcohol abuse over the long term can cause some more serious consequences in your feet. Here are 5 ways how alcohol affects the health of your feet.

1. Alcohol Causes Foot Swelling 

Have you ever noticed after a night out of drinking that your feet look all puffy and swollen?

You’re not alone, this is a fairly common symptom that usually goes away on its own.

One reason being, is that drinking alcohol can cause your body to retain water because when you drink, you’re consuming water, ethanol, sugars and fats - depending on what you’re mixing your drink with.

Whilst your body is able to store sugar, fat and water, it doesn’t know how to process alcohol other than filter it out. But when it gets into your bloodstream, your body essentially treats it like it would poison.

In other words, your body works to process the alcohol first which means water goes into storage, resulting in water retention and therefore swelling.

2. Alcohol Can Cause Gout

Gout is a type of arthritis that often affects the big toe and causes excruciating pain, redness and swelling.

Unfortunately, gout is caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood: uric acid is produced by the body and breaks down chemical compounds (purines) commonly found in red meat. And, raised levels lead to the formation of needle-like crystals in the joints which is what causes the point.

Normally, the pain is most severe during the first 12 hours, but once this subsides, it can feel uncomfortable for up to a few weeks.

Unfortunately, alcohol is a major source of purines; beer has the highest purine content whilst spirits have the lowest.

Research shows that drinking alcohol leads to increased uric acid levels in the blood and therefore consumption is a major risk factor for gout.

3. Alcohol Causes Osteoporosis 

Over-consuming alcohol poses health risks for many reasons.

One in particular is the effect it has on our bones.

Studies reveal that chronic heavy alcohol use, especially during young adult years, can dramatically affect bone health and increase the risk of developing osteoporosis in the future. This is a condition where the bones become less dense making them more susceptible to fractures, causing pain and in more severe cases, disabilities.

To put it simply, alcohol interferes with the balance of calcium (a nutrient essential for healthy bones) as well as hindering the production of Vitamin D (a vitamin essential for calcium absorption), thus increasing the risk of osteoporosis.

And, because alcohol can also affect your balance and gait, people with alcoholism tend to fall more frequently, increasing the risk of a fracture.

So considering 25% of the bones in your body are located in your feet, alcohol unsurprisingly has an impact on foot and toe health.

4. Alcohol Leads to Dry, Scaly Feet

One of the side effects of heavy drinking is the development of psoriasis, a skin condition that leads to red, scaly patches of skin all over the body, including the feet.

And when psoriasis affects a person’s feet, even the simplest of tasks like walking can become incredibly uncomfortable.

Furthermore, psoriasis in the feet can result in unsightly dents, discolouration and the thickening of toenails, which can have a physical and emotional impact on a person and their quality of life.

Lastly, drinking alcohol dehydrates your whole body resulting in cracks or divides in the skin over your heels, as well as flaky dry skin in the foot overall.

5. Heavy Drinking can Cause Alcoholic Neuropathy

One of the more serious conditions, alcohol can affect your feet and legs with a condition known as alcoholic polyneuropathy - sometimes referred to as “alcohol legs”.

To put it simply, alcoholic polyneuropathy is a neurological disorder where the peripheral nerves become damaged by alcohol consumption, which means that over time you lose your ability to feel.

As a result, you’ll be unable to feel any injuries like cuts or scrapes which can become infected, and are more likely to be burned from hot surfaces because the nerves in the foot cannot feel changes in temperature.

Whilst alcoholic polyneuropathy is not a life threatening condition, it will decrease your quality of life. Common symptoms include pain, tingling and burning sensations in the feet and legs, as well as muscle spasms, impaired speech and sexual dysfunction.

Finishing Thoughts

Don’t worry, it’s not all bad news and we’re not saying you have to give up alcohol altogether.

Research reveals that a glass of red wine mid-flight can help prevent DVT blood clots during air travel.

Overall though, alcohol can have a toxic effect on nerve tissue and whilst symptoms may seem small to begin with, you should try to limit your alcohol intake to prevent serious foot problems later down the line.

Please get in touch to find out more.

In the meantime, take a look at our full range of comfortable shoes.

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