Drinking wine moderately is not a bad thing. In fact, wine has a number of health benefits, including lowering bad cholesterol and providing a source of antioxidants. Some studies show that drinking wine occasionally can improve your heart health.
However, if you drink wine in excess, there are a number of negative consequences for your health. Read on to learn more about the harmful side effects of drinking too much wine.
Does wine have a lot of alcohol?
Typical brands of wine contain 12% alcohol by volume (ABV). That’s more than beer, which often has 5 to 8% ABV, but less than hard drinks like whiskey or vodka, which have 40% ABV or more. You can think of wine as being in the middle ground of alcoholic beverages.
With a bottle of wine that’s 12% ABV, you get 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol per 5 fluid ounces of the drink. That’s the standard measure of one drink, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. In other words, one standard glass of wine contains 5 fluid ounces of the beverage.
Taking one glass of wine at a time is not harmful. However, if you drink, say, three glasses or more in one session, that’s already considered heavy drinking. This may cause a number of side effects on your body.
What happens if I drink too much wine?
The most prominent side effect of too much drinking is intoxication. This applies not just to wine but any alcoholic beverage consumed in excess. Once you get drunk, you will begin to notice the following:
- Dizziness / impaired senses
- Aggressive behavior
- Blacking out / passing out
These effects make it a lot harder to perform even simple tasks like walking or standing up straight. Driving becomes especially risky because of impaired vision and reaction time. Moreover, you face an increased risk of falling asleep on the wheel.
These symptoms are short-term effects. If you drink wine heavily on a regular basis, you are at high risk of these long-term health effects:
- Permanent brain damage
- Anxiety disorders
- Liver diseases (e.g. fatty liver, cirrhosis, permanent liver damage)
- Delirium Tremens
- Alcohol use disorder (AUD)
- Alcohol poisoning
AUD is also known as alcohol addiction or alcoholism. It is common among heavy drinkers, and it can lead to a whole host of problems in different areas of life. Additionally, these effects may potentially become fatal the more they persist.
What is alcohol use disorder?
AUD occurs when your body has become so used to alcohol that it cannot function normally without the substance. Heavy drinking of wine can eventually lead to AUD, especially if you have a habit of drinking often.
When you have alcohol use disorder, you will find it difficult to curb your drinking habits. If you try to quit, you will likely experience a number of withdrawal symptoms. These can get really annoying and uncomfortable, forcing you to drink wine again just to get relief.
Withdrawal symptoms can begin as early as a few hours after your last drink. Others show up after a day or two. The worst kinds of symptoms develop 24 to 72 hours after your last glass of wine.
Withdrawal symptoms from excessive wine drinking are both physical and psychological in nature. The physical symptoms include:
- Clammy skin
- High blood pressure
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sweating in the palms and face
- Hand tremors
- Fast heart rate
- Heart palpitations
Psychological symptoms of withdrawal are:
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Getting excited easily
- Rapid mood swings
What is Delirium Tremens?
Delirium Tremens, or DT, is a severe symptom of alcohol withdrawal. It is characterized by the following signs:
- Severe confusion
- Excessive sweating
- Dangerous changes in blood pressure
- Rapid mood changes
- Being too sensitive to touch, sound, and/or light
DT does not happen to everyone who has alcohol withdrawal, but it is a cause for concern. You may develop DT anytime from two days to a week after your last dose of wine. In about 5% of cases, DT can turn fatal.
If you experience DT or live with someone who does, do not hesitate to call for medical help right away. Hospitalization is recommended until the symptoms subside.
What is alcohol poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning is a serious condition. It occurs when you drink far too much alcohol – much more than your body can take. This condition can quickly turn fatal. It’s important to get medical help right away if you’re experiencing this, or have someone call for help for you.
Alcohol poisoning can be detected by measuring the amount of alcohol in your body. This is called your blood alcohol concentration or BAC. It can be measured through a breathalyzer or a blood test.
If your BAC is from 0.25% to 0.399%, then you are within the range for alcohol poisoning. Reaching 0.4% and above can lead to fatal consequences.
Signs of alcohol poisoning include the following:
- Loss of consciousness
- Slow and/or irregular breathing
- Pale or blue skin
If you are experiencing alcohol poisoning and are still conscious and able, call 911 immediately. If you feel unable to do so, a friend or family member must get help for you. If you live with someone suffering from alcohol poisoning, call for medical attention immediately.
Is there a way to avoid the side effects when drinking wine?
If you cannot abstain from drinking, there are safe ways of enjoying wine. One of them is to drink moderately – one glass of wine a day for women and two glasses a day for men.
When you drink, take small sips instead of gulping down everything in the glass. That way, you effectively limit your intake of alcohol, especially during longer drinking sessions.
It also helps to drink on a full stomach. When you’ve eaten a full meal before sipping wine, your body will take more time to absorb the alcohol into the blood. In turn, alcohol will not accumulate quickly in your bloodstream.
Additionally, drinking water regularly does wonders. It dilutes the alcohol, minimizing its effects once inside the body.