Trick or Treat? Why Just Moderate Alcohol Use Is Messing You Up.
One of my favorite things is getting together with good friends and sharing a delicious meal along with a few shots of tequila, good wine or both. What a fun combination! But recently, I have purposefully limited my “moderate” alcohol consumption and now classify it as it “sparse”. Over time I realize that the less alcohol I drink, the better I feel. I looked into why this is true and found that alcohol negatively effects many systems in the body, and that moderate drinking was just not worth it. Do I drink sometimes? Yes. But, I am selective about the dose and the occasion, and I consider alcohol as something that makes me less healthy. Every sip. Every time. That means I have a fewer drinks when I am on vacation, on special occasions, and sometimes with friendly get togethers.
However, collectively that means much less than one drink a week.
I don’t mean to be a curmudgeon, but I am a realist. Many of you don’t want to hear this and you might not read past the first paragraph, but if you are serious about your health you will read this article and at least give it some consideration.
It is too often that I hear about casual alcohol consumption in everyday conversation. For many it has become a daily ritual, a part of most dinners and of many lunches. It gets people through hard times, a staple for survival. Just listen and you’ll hear it: “I can’t wait to get home and have a beer”, “hey, make sure you pick out a nice wine for dinner”, “I’m eating really well and have one glass of wine a day to get in my antioxidants”. It is a part of our culture and goes largely unnoticed as cause of several underlying health problems. Am I asking you to quit drinking altogether? No, but be aware of how much you are consuming it and what effects it may be having on your health. Pick your battles. Treat it like fast food: you have it once in a while, on vacations, or on special occasions. It can be fun, and tasty, but the bottom line is it is a sugary, hormone imbalancing neurotoxin. Are you having some issues with your health? Tired? Aches and pains? Feeling “off”? Here are some reasons you could be suffering from even moderate alcohol consumption and not know it:
It is like a sugary dessert.
You can calculate your calorie intake and get specific about how much each serving of alcohol is adding to your daily calorie intake, but let’s keep it simple, it is sugar, and each serving is like a small dessert. A glass of wine can range from 160 to 280 calories per glass (one scoop of ice cream is generally 137 calories). Nutritionally wine is all carbohydrate. Alcohol will negatively affect your blood sugar. If you are healthy then having a drink won’t matter once in a while, but if you are drinking several times a week, just consider the realities. For those with blood sugar dysregulation, cortisol dysregulation and issues with fatigue and body pain, know that alcohol is a pro- inflammatory unless it is consumed in “very small quantities.” It could be crippling your long term well-being.
It is a hormone disruptor.
In general alcohol increases estrogen. That is why peri-menopausal and menopausal women crave wine. It also decreases testosterone. For men it is likewise bad news (man boobs and beer guts). For women it feels like good news because it makes you feel so much better in the short term- but, look out! It will mess with your psyche in the long term. For women, having a dysregulated amount of estrogen can cause mood swings and other negative side effects. Would you take estrogen in an inconsistent way if it were a prescription? Two pills one day and none the next, and then 3 pills the next day? That is effectively what moderate wine intake can do. Alcohol is also a cortisol inducer, which will make people initially feel good. However, our cortisol generally goes up in reaction to stress and chronically elevating cortisol is a bad thing. You’ll feel good after a drink especially if your cortisol production is low, because it will temporarily bring your levels up a notch. If you don’t have a lot of cortisol to spare because your secretion is low, alcohol will burn up your precious stores it is fighting to produce. The end game with alcohol is that it is a stress on the body and that increases the rate of aging. Want details? Read THIS.
It’s a solvent.
Solvents are generally bad. Alcohol is classified as a solvent. (I’m talking the wood kind not the water kind.)
It is bad for digestion.
Not only can alcohol penetrate the gut causing “leaky gut,” but it also can cause small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Leaky gut is when the tight junctions in your intestines are compromised and they let unintended things into your bloodstream. This can cause inflammation anywhere and everywhere in your body, and, it is not favorable to health when it is chronic. Alcohol can also put you at risk for SIBO which can cause many kinds of stomach problems from constipation, heartburn, bloating and diarrhea.
It is a neurotoxin.
If you were to give me one reason to steer me away from alcohol, it would be the negative neurological effects that alcohol has on the brain. Cognitive decline (MS, Alzheimers, Parkinsons, etc.) is on the rise for many reasons and I have decided that taking alcohol out of my diet is a “no-brainer”. Moderate alcohol consumption disturbs brain function on so many different levels it is frightening. Blood alcohol levels of .08% are enough to affect the brain’s plasticity. I won’t cover them all in this article. You can read some of the details yourself HERE.
It makes you act stupidly.
When our inhibitions are low, we say and do stupid things. Can you recall the dumbest things you’ve done? Did they happen while you were under the influence? They may be “hilarious” in hindsight because we got lucky, but as I recall from my own experiences, drinking has been the catalyst to some really silly things. Let me amuse you with some personal recollections: inner-tubing down a mogul run, dancing in front of video cameras, shedding my clothes in inappropriate locations, eating weird things and even drinking more alcohol! It was fun while it lasted but in retrospect I realize how lucky I was and now I am limiting my opportunities for craziness. No doubt you have your own antics that are replaying in your mind.
As a wrap up, I urge you to monitor your alcohol consumption. Casual and moderate drinking is all too common in our culture. It is compromising our health in varied ways. If you are having chronic health issues that you just can’t figure out, try abstaining from alcohol and see how you feel. By reading this article and realizing improved health and well being through temporary abstinence, I hope that you can find a dose that will be fulfilling but recoverable and not damaging in the long term.
Here’s to your health!