We all know the effect that excessive alcohol consumption can have on the human body including high blood pressure, liver disease, inflammation and even cancer but the hard truth of it is that you don't have to be an alcoholic for alcohol to be having a negative effect on you. A stiff drink at the end of a long day can be a habit formed for many reasons; a stressful job, dealing with kiddy bedtime every night, post work drinks with colleagues (It'd be rude not to!) There are plenty of reasons why we reach for that bottle of vino but are we actually drinking too much?
For the human body to excrete alcohol, we must turn it into a substance called acetaldehyde which is then excreted by the liver (another reason why good liver health is crucial to your health!) So let's think about that. If you have one or two drinks every evening, your liver is working overtime to deal with excreting the toxins associated with alcohol and it doesn't have time to focus on other important things such as filtering your blood, creating bile (which helps to break down fat!), regulating your blood sugar and the making and breaking down of hormones (if this isn't done properly, the hormones are recycled in your body meaning extra Estrogen: HELLO MOOD SWINGS!) Without a functioning liver we would die. Yes die.
Our liver is designed to eliminate toxins from our body which is why we can have a couple of drinks with dinner and not drop dead five minutes later but let's also consider the less direct effect of alcohol such as:
-Poor sleep patterns. REM (rapid eye movement) is the most restorative part of the sleep cycle and studies have shown that alcohol causes disruptions in REM so even though a couple of wines may allow you to fall asleep faster, the quality of the sleep is actually compromised. This can lead to drowsiness and poor concentration the following day among other things.
- Leads to unhealthier food choices. There's no denying that after a big night on the booze, we all crave a Big Mac Meal as opposed to a Chicken Salad. Some say it's because alcohol decreases inhibitions but recent studies have shown that alcohol leads to an increase the neuropeptide Galanin which causes cravings for fatty foods.
-Excess calories consumed. Now I'm not one for counting calories but if you've been struggling to lose weight even though you're eating all the right foods then it might be the alcohol that's letting you down. I know that some of you like to replace a snack with a glass of wine to swap out the calories (you know who you are!) but let's think about the nutrients in a piece of fruit as opposed to a glass of fruit (see what I did there? ;-) ) A glass of white wine may only have around 125 calories but it is void of any real nutrients so it's essentially 'wasted calories'.
- Mood and demeanor. Yes you're a lovely person with a glass of wine in hand but how are you the next day when your head hurts and the kids are screaming for breakfast at 6am? Alcohol is mood altering and this can be a great thing in certain situations but if it's effecting your daily demeanor (and the people you live with) then you might want to think about cutting back.
This all sounds very serious I know and I'm not saying that you should never enjoy a beverage (or two) but I am pointing out that a lot of us are a bit naive to what alcohol does to our bodies. My personal rule is not to consume any alcohol from Monday to Thursday and then relax and enjoy some drinks over the weekend. I am flexible with this to a certain extent but I find it important to have those guidelines or I end up finding an excuse to have a bevvy with dinner every night. The national guidelines currently say that we should have at least two alcohol free days (AFDs) per week and I personally think it should be more than that. Being flexible is important in maintaining a balanced lifestyle but take a step back and think about how many drinks you're having each week and how it could really be affecting you.
Here's to a happy healthy and balanced you,