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How alcohol affects the nervous system and liver

When studying the acute effects of alcohol on the brain, we begin to see that one of the main functions of the brain is to inhibit the lower parts of the central nervous system. We distinguish ourselves as human beings from animals in that we act as individuals. (This is discussed in the previous chapter which deals with the nervous system.) Humans can think, speak and walk upright. We have a choice, and are self-conscious. With animals we share the senses of sight, hearing and taste, and the instincts for survival and procreation. With the plants, in essence, we share the fact that we are alive. The mineral world literally supports all this activity. In the different phases of increased intoxication with alcohol we can see how a person descends back down these stages of existence. The following is a description of this descent from the human realm down to the animal realm, the plant realm and finally the mineral realm.

Long-term alcohol abuse can damage the nerve cells and cause memory loss, weakness, sensation problems and difficulty with walking. (Often this is due to a vitamin B shortage, but this will not be discussed here).

After the first sip of alcohol, you get a sense of euphoria, but soon after this initial high, the alcohol will start to disturb the very faculties that distinguish us from the animal world. For example, thinking becomes impaired and more associative. It is more difficult to keep to one train of thought. Judgment becomes impaired, which is why the police don't want you to drink and drive. Alcohol can make you overconfident, resulting in dangerous driving situations. You become less creative and have less choice. In other words, human qualities start to fade and instincts, drives and passions take over. Now we start to slide down one level; it is like a horse losing its rider. The middle part of the brain, the emotional brain, takes over. When people are under the influence of alcohol, they tend, during a disagreement, to hit the other person rather than to try and persuade them with words. In pubs relationships are formed uncharacteristically because alcohol gives a sense of confidence caused by suppression of the self. People are less self -conscious, so they feel more confident because, they lose their shyness or low self-esteem. The large brain is numbed by alcohol and that is why the middle brain takes over. The rider (the self) is losing control of the horse. Now the horse can do as it pleases, uncontrolled.

Other human functions are also impaired by alcohol; speech, for example. Not only does your tongue begin to feel like leather but it is also more difficult to find the right words. Walking becomes visibly impaired. Alcohol, then, deprives us of our humanity. The three main human abilities which we learn in the first three years of our life, talking, walking and thinking, become impaired. When a person continues to drink, he or she can descend a level further by losing consciousness and becoming plant-like. In an extreme case, a person can die and return their body to the mineral world.

Michelangelo painted his understanding of the function of the brain on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel in Rome. Dr Frank Meshberger wrote an article (1) giving an interpretation of what Michelangleo has actually depicted in the central painting, which shows the creation of man. He shows that by following the main lines, formed by God and the angels in the picture, an accurate outline of the brain is displayed!

Perhaps Michelangelo wanted to say that, because of our brain, we ourselves have the potential of becoming Gods. The Austrian analytical psychologist Carl Jung said that it is not a coincidence that, in the English language, alcohol can be referred to as "spirits".

He said that people with an alcohol problem seem to have a greater thirst for spirit. Indeed, looking for the meaning of life is a central theme of our humanity. This striving upwards is evident in the body, soul and spirit diagram (fig.3). By waking up in our body in the morning and making use of our faculties of the mind during the day (thinking, feeling and taking action) we try to reach into our spiritual element and find our own direction in life.


However, alcohol impairs what we have learned in the third year of our life, the thinking faculty. It impairs speech, which we learned in the second year, and walking, which we begin learning in the first year. So by taking alcohol, perhaps the person is trying to revert back to the womb in order to find a safe haven.

Rather than taking the substance of alcohol, we should aim to recreate for ourselves the happy, confident feelings that alcohol seems to provide. We should work towards enjoying life, being more relaxed, more self-confident, following our direction in life; developing ourselves and taking pleasure in being. I heard of a person who was warned not to ask God for too much, lest it be given! In other words, let us be grateful for what we have got, here and now. Happiness may be as simple as letting go.

Effects of alcohol excess on the liver

Excess of alcohol can affect almost anything in the body. It can affect the eyesight, or the testicles in men, causing infertility and impotence; but often the gullet, the stomach, the pancreas and the liver bear the brunt of excessive consumption of alcohol. The recommended maximum quantities in Great Britain are 3-4 units per day for men and 2-3 units for women (2).

Now we will look at how alcohol abuse can affect the digestive tract. Alcohol can be used to clean greasy sinks. So the greasy lining of the stomach after a "binge" is often affected. That is why people feel nauseous the next day and don't feel like eating, because they have caused an inflammation of the lining of the stomach.

One of the functions of the liver is to detoxify poisons, but if the liver is overloaded with alcohol, then it cannot keep pace with detoxifying the alcohol, and you will start to notice the effects. Taking more than the recommended daily maximum can cause an inflammation of the liver.

In medical terms every organ which is inflamed ends with "-itis". Therefore, an inflammation of the appendix is called appendicitis, an inflammation of the liver (hepar) is called hepatitis, and an inflammation of the meninges is called meningitis.

What happens in an inflamed liver? If we take a close look at the liver cells, we can see that they are cube-shaped. Every cell in the body will leak a small amount of its content into the bloodstream. Liver cells leak a small amount of their enzymes, which are called ALT and gamma GT. When the liver is inflamed it will leak more, so these enzyme levels will be raised. In case of alcohol abuse where there is a chronic inflammation of the liver, the liver will get damaged. We could compare it with this example: if you rub your hand with detergent for a while, the skin will start to break and "weep". In other words you have caused an inflammation. However, if you stop rubbing, the skin will heal over. But if you start this process again, the skin will break again, and will cause scarring. The process of scarring in the liver is called cirrhosis. It is not an "on" or "off" condition, but a gradual process. The liver cells that help to neutralise toxins also store useful foodstuffs and produce bodily substances. These cells will gradually be replaced by fibrous cells, which of course, can carry out none of these three functions. So, over time, the liver loses fitness and function.

We can compare this with a series of minor heart attacks. If someone has a minor heart attack, then a small piece of the heart muscle will be replaced by scar tissue, but the person will still be able to run up hills, for example. If another small heart attack occurs, more fitness will be lost, but it will still be possible to exercise "on the flat." After a third heart attack and the loss of yet more heart muscle, the sufferer may experience difficulty with any from of exertion. The same can happen with the liver. If we keep attacking the liver with alcohol, more and more scarring is created, and process of cirrhosis will cause loss of fitness of the liver.

The liver is important for the production of clotting factors, so someone with severe cirrhosis ends up bruising easily. The liver also produces albumin. When not enough albumin is produced by the liver, then the ankles or the abdomen can get swollen. This is because of a low level of albumin in the blood. Albumin is important for keeping fluid in the blood vessels; you could say it works just like a sugar cube. If you touch the surface of water with a sugar cube, you can see that the water is being sucked into the cube. The same happens with a blood vessel. Firstly, lymph fluid might leak out of the blood vessel into the surrounding tissue. Further down stream, the albumin will start to suck the fluid back into the bloodstream. In people who are starved of protein intake when there is famine, little children can be seen with enormous bellies. In this case, the cause is not malfunction of the liver, but too little intake of protein to form albumin.

Another thing that can happen to people who develop severe cirrhosis is bleeding from varicose veins in the gullet. In a case of cirrhosis, the liver loses blood vessels because it becomes smaller. The large vein that enters the liver starts to get engorged because the flow through the liver is impaired. So it will find a shortcut by going from the portal vein, along a side track, bypassing the liver, up to the stomach and the gullet (where they form varicose veins) and then into the heart. In spite of all this bad news, the more cheerful news is that, if a person stops drinking completely, no further damage will be done to the liver. Despite having a level of cirrhosis, people will still be able to enjoy reasonable health when remaining abstinent.

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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction

  2. How potentized remedies work

  3. Breathing and circulation

  4. Asthma symptoms explained

  5. The digestive system

  6. The nervous system  

  7. How alcohol affects the nervous system and liver

  8. How opiates act like a dam

  9. Inflammation and infection

  10. Fever

  11. The common cold

  12. Earache

  13. Hints and tips