We are “knee deep” in the festive season which is often a time of excess – excess food, spending and alcohol. While we all know that alcohol affects judgement, most people don’t know that wine, beer and cocktails also have quite an effect on your feet and lower limbs.
Alcohol makes your limbs feel heavy; causes foot and leg swelling; can cause gout; causes osteoporosis; can lead to seriously dry, scaly feet; and can cause alcoholic neuropathy (alcohol leg).
Consuming alcoholic beverages can cause muscle weakness, tingling, numbness and a heavy feeling because it depletes the body of vitamins and minerals essential for muscle health. The side effect is temporary, but over time, heavy drinking can lead to permanent muscle degeneration that leaves the legs and arms weak and painful.
Drinking alcohol can cause lower limb swelling (called edema). When you ingest alcohol, your kidneys’ filtering abilities are affected, as is the way the organs handle electrolytes like potassium and sodium. This leads to an increase of water in your body after a bout of drinking that can present itself as swollen feet and hands.
Gout is a type of arthritis that affects the big toe, causing excruciating pain, redness and swelling. It occurs when elevated amounts of uric acid in the blood are deposited in the joints as tiny, sharp crystals. Alcohol consumption (as well as meat and seafood consumption) are strongly associated with the development of the condition, which is why gout is sometimes called “the disease of kings” and “rich man’s disease.”
According to the Portman Group, a company that promotes sensible drinking, people who drink excessively in their 20s have a much higher chance of developing the bone-thinning disease called osteoporosis later in life. Additionally, considering 25 percent of the bones in your body are located in your feet, it’s a disease that definitely affects foot and toe health.
One side effect of heavy drinking is the development of psoriasis which is a skin condition that leads to red, scaly patches of skin all over your body. When psoriasis affects a person’s feet, simple things like walking can become extremely uncomfortable and painful. Psoriasis can also cause pits in the toenails. Meanwhile, drinking dehydrates your entire body which can lead to heel fissures as well as dry, flaky, cracked foot skin.
One of the more serious ways alcohol can affect your feet and legs is a condition called alcoholic polyneuropathy, or alcohol leg for short. Alcoholic polyneuropathy is a neurological disorder in which many of the peripheral nerves throughout the body are damaged by the alcohol and malfunction. Common symptoms include pain, tingling, weakness and burning in the legs and feet, but some people also experience muscle spasms, diarrhea, incontinence, impaired speech, impotence and sexual dysfunction.
On the other hand, alcohol is not entirely bad for your feet. Studies have shown that a glass of red wine mid-flight may help prevent DVT (deep vein thrombosis) blood clots from forming during their air travel. This is a similar effect to drinking enough water when travelling because it helps the blood flow better. Recently, individuals and even spas have been using “beer” in foot baths that promises to leave the feet soft, healthy and nourished.
Often time persons are not sure if they are drinking too much alcohol. Here is what counts as a drink – 12 ounces of regular beer (150 calories), five ounces of wine (100 calories) or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (rum, whiskey, etc., 100 calories). If you choose to drink alcohol it is recommended that you do so in moderation which is about one to two drinks for a man and one drink for a woman.
• For more information or to see a podiatrist visit Bahamas Foot Centre Rosetta Street, telephone 325-2996 or Bahamas Surgical Associates Centre, Albury Lane, telephone 394-5820 or email email@example.com or visit www.apma.org.