Bodily Harm

Because we put our bodies through a lot.

It could be a seasonal tanning bed session, a weekly energy drink, pulling an all-nighter to study or even the occasional night of binge drinking. Maybe you aren’t doing these things on the daily, but what happens to your body when you indulge even once? Ready or not, we’re diving in.

This is your body…

…on one energy drink

Mid-week, you’re reaching for an energy drink to break out of your slump. From the first gulp to almost one day later, here’s what’s going down on the inside:

10 minutes: Caffeine has made a new home in your bloodstream.

15-45 minutes: This is the sweet spot. You’re awake and alert.

30-50 minutes: The caffeine has absorbed, and your liver responds by absorbing more sugar. Feeling a bit stressed? That’s normal at this point.

1 hour: The sugar crash begins, taking your energy with it. Droopy eyes, tiredness, no motivation—it’s all happening now.

5-6 hours: Only about half of the caffeine is out of your bloodstream. Sit tight. You have another five or six hours to go.

12-24 hours: Depending on your body makeup and activity levels, the caffeine should be out of your system by now. Unless you’ve had another one already…

That’s not so bad, right? The ingredients in most energy drinks aren’t necessarily unhealthy on their own and in appropriate amounts, but energy drinks are known to pack large amounts of them into each can. These ingredients include caffeine, added sugars, vitamins (specifically B vitamins), legal stimulants (such as guarana), taurine (an amino acid) and L-carnitine (a substance made in the liver and kidneys).

Katherine Zeratsky, a clinical dietitian at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, explains the controversy surrounding energy drinks.

“Overall, the concern is that these vitamins, amino acids and herbals are often in higher concentrations than naturally found in food or plants, and the effects when combined especially with caffeine may be enhanced,” she says.

After only one energy drink, your heart will beat faster and your blood will thicken. The National Center for Biotechnical Information published one study that raised concern about the effects of energy drinks on consumers’ arteries. Because of the way caffeine interacts with the other ingredients in these drinks, it was found that energy drinks may impact arterial function by preventing proper dilation during exercise.

Is it really worth those precious 30 minutes of extra focus and alertness? We’re not convinced.


…after a night of no sleep

If you’re lacking even 1.5 hours of sleep, your overall alertness suffers. Not getting enough sleep also messes with your memory and processing capabilities, decreases your overall quality of life, puts undue stress on your relationships and even increases the probability of getting in a car accident. But a night with absolutely no sleep? *shudder*

Here’s what happens after 24 hours of no sleep:

You lose focus. Your ability to focus and pay attention is severely lacking. One study published in the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health found that it’s about the same as when you’ve had a couple of drinks.

You’re uncoordinated. Say goodbye to your natural hand-eye coordination. That and other complex mental processes are beginning to deteriorate. This includes making simple decisions or even changing old plans.

You have no filter. Distinguishing irrelevant content from the relevant is almost impossible for you right now, and you feel overloaded and confused easily. It’s a good idea to postpone any web research, as that will quickly become overstimulating.

Your reaction time is not award-winning. You might drop your keys, spill your coffee or trip up the stairs. In fact, plan for it.

Get some sleep as soon as you can. You don’t want to know what happens to your body after 36 hours of no sleep.


…in the tanning bed

You’re just after that year-round tan. It’s not like you’re in the tanning bed every week—just enough to maintain your glow.

Turns out, it doesn’t matter if you’re going for a slight glow or a deep brown shade in the tanning bed. Your skin cells mutate, and, although your body tries to send help and protection in time, it’s just not enough. The onslaught of UVA and UVB rays is too much for your body to handle. But, hey, that’s when you get that sought-after brown hue often thought to represent beauty, health and vitality.

Ironically, a tan actually represents quite the opposite of those things. Still in denial? Here’s what happens during and after just one tanning bed session:

Within seconds: Once you close the top of the tanning bed, approximately 12 times more UVA and UVB rays than you would encounter from the sun begin to attack your skin—quite literally.

Within a few minutes: Those UVA rays penetrate your skin, breaking down collagen and elastin along the way. This isn’t temporary damage, either. Nope, it’s there for the long haul and responsible for sagging skin, wrinkles and sun spots. These UVA rays go so deep that they damage your DNA, forcing your body to respond by sending in loads of melanocytes to protect your skin.

Women’s Health writer and editor Meghan Rabbitt explains: “Think of melanocytes as little brown umbrellas that help protect your DNA from any additional damage. Because those melanocytes are brown, your skin starts to tan. Your tan is like a full-body scab.”

Meanwhile: Your body also begins to release endorphins, and you start to feel great—like you just left the gym or ran a race—even though you’re just laying there sustaining irreparable damage. Plus, we can’t forget those UVB rays. At this point, they’ve taken care of frying the outer layers of your skin.

Within hours and days: How dare we even say it, but your tan slowly starts to fade. This is because your cells begin replicating to replace the damaged ones. The only problem is that small mistakes, or mutations, are sometimes inevitable in this process.

“When mutations happen in the squamous cells, it can lead to squamous cell carcinoma; if they’re in the basal cells, you could be in for a basal cell carcinoma diagnosis. And if the mutations happen in the melanocytes? Melanoma,” writes Rabbitt.

So, what was ever wrong with your skin’s natural shade?


…after a night of binge drinking

Girls’ night out or rosé all day? It’s not a question of if you’re drinking—whether you’re toasting mimosas, sharing a few bottles of red wine or going straight for the dirty martinis. Although ‘binge’ may not be a word you’d associate with your brunchin’ gal group or craft-beer-drinking guy friends, it’s likely happening. Classy indulger or not, binge drinking is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as approximately four or more drinks within two hours for women and five or more within two hours for men.

“We found that a single alcohol binge can elicit an immune response, potentially impacting the health of an otherwise healthy individual,” says Gyongyi Szabo, MD, Ph.D., professor of medicine and lead author of a University of Massachusetts Medical School study. “Our observations suggest that an alcohol binge is more dangerous than previously thought.”

The study by UMMS demonstrates what just one episode of binge drinking does to your body.

Your gut leaks. Bacteria begins to leak from your gut, spilling toxins into your bloodstream.

Your cells break. The alcohol breaks through the walls of bacterial cells containing endotoxins, causing a rapid increase of those toxins within your body.

Your body responds. These endotoxins activate an immune response that leads to fever, inflammation and even tissue destruction.

There was evidence of gut permeability in study participants’ DNA, too. This means bacteria and endotoxins were able to get into other parts of the body, including the liver and other organs. Plus, the women in the study were found to have more circulating toxins in their blood than the men.

We’re thinking it’s time for a new approach to get-togethers.


…on a sugar high

The moment you feel a sugar rush from the doughnuts at your morning meeting, you know you’ve not only had too much sugar but you’re definitely going to crash later. Though it’s fairly known that sugar is not good for our bodies, exactly how bad is it?

The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar each day, which is six teaspoons or 100 calories, and men no more than 36 grams, which is 9 teaspoons or 150 calories. That’s not much, especially when you consider a can of Coke contains 39 grams of sugar. Natural sugars in fruits and vegetables don’t count, though. These sugars slowly release into the body due to the fiber and water content within these foods. The slow release prevents your insulin from spiking.

“There’s no need to avoid the naturally occurring sugars in fruit, vegetables and low- and nonfat dairy,” says Rachel Johnson, professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

Here’s what happens when you experience a sugar high:

Your brain loves it. Sugar releases your brain’s feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin—just like certain addictive drugs do. That’s why every time you eat sugar, you crave more of it.

Your insulin spikes. Your body releases insulin to regulate the influx of sugar in your blood.

You crash. Shortly after, you feel the crash. That means, your sugar high was regulated by a surge of insulin, dropping your sugar levels and making you feel completely drained.

Consume lots of sugar regularly and you will feel tired, hungry and thirsty—all the time. Long term, this leads to fat buildup in the liver, damage to most of your body’s other organs and weight gain—which leads to obesity, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many other health problems. Your arteries will eventually sustain damage, too, because blood that’s full of sugar is harder to pump.

“The pipes will finally get tired. That’s what happens with your vessels,” says Kristen Gradney, R.D., director of nutrition and metabolic services at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It can lead to chronic kidney disease or kidney failure [and] high blood pressure, and you have an increased risk of stroke if you have high blood pressure.”

Let’s just say a little bit of sugar goes a long way.


…after one cigarette

Maybe you like a cigarette when you drink, or perhaps an occasional smoke is your favorite stress reliever. One can’t be bad, you think. Unfortunately, smoking even one cigarette is dangerous because the effects are immediate.

According to the American Lung Association, you allow approximately 7,000 different chemicals and carcinogens into your body with each inhale when you smoke. Hundreds of these compounds are toxic, and approximately 70 of them are known to cause cancer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains the Surgeon General’s findings on smoking: “There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. Any exposure to tobacco smoke—even an occasional cigarette or exposure to secondhand smoke—is harmful.”

Here’s what happens when you smoke one cigarette: 

Your first inhale: Thousands of chemicals and carcinogens enter your lungs, immediately inflaming them.

With each subsequent inhale: These toxic invaders hitch a ride in your bloodstream. And, they don’t play favorites—they affect different areas of your body along the way.

“These poisons damage DNA, which can lead to cancer; damage blood vessels and cause clotting, which can cause heart attacks and strokes; and damage the lungs, which can cause asthma attacks, emphysema and chronic bronchitis,” according to the CDC.

Immediate damage: These chemicals damage blood cells, stiffening your arteries and making your blood more likely to clot. You now have an increased risk for stroke, aortic aneurysm and heart attack.

Put it out and take a look at your health goals. This one is important to think through.




Posted in Healthy Living Features

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