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Internationally Acclaimed Nutritional Biochemist, Author & Speaker

Alcohol: how much is too much?

Many people knowingly or unknowingly consume too much alcohol, having come to rely on it as a wind down tool at the end of their working day. And since it is also a common feature of many social gatherings, it can quickly become something that people consume every day without really thinking about it.

Some take the yo-yo approach to alcohol – perhaps hitting it hard on certain months and winding it back or abstaining from it on others, maybe joining challenges such as Dry July or Octsober. While your liver will thank you for any ‘break’ you give it, this scenario can still easily lead to too much alcohol consumption throughout a year, adding to your liver’s overall load and detracting from your health and daily sparkle, your motivation and overall zest for life.

The effects of too much alcohol may silently or loudly reverberate through your life, not to mention the lives of those around you. In excess, it can have traumatic effects in people’s lives, or drive some major or minor health concerns. The load that it places on your liver can lead to increased body fat, lousy energy, persistent fatigue, mood fluctuations, sleep disturbances and can worsen PMS and menopausal symptoms. As fun as it may momentarily be at the time, too much, or consumed too often, alcohol can rob you of your clarity and purpose, take the edge off your vitality and in a way your greatness.

When was the last time you paused to consider your relationship with alcohol? If you are really honest with yourself, are you drinking too much for YOU? Has it become a crutch to help you cope with perceived stress or to dampen down painful emotions? Does that actually work? Do you feel as though the only time you can let loose and enjoy yourself is with a drink in your hand?

These questions may be uncomfortable to consider, yet getting to the heart of your relationship with alcohol can make all the difference to your health now and into the future.

Many people I have worked with over the years feel immense resistance when I suggest that they take a four week break from certain substances, such as alcohol, that can add to their body’s load, to see how it makes them feel. This sense of resistance can offer insight into a person’s relationship with whatever the food/drink is. Sometimes it highlights that a substance is being used in an attempt to bring pleasure, avoid pain or mask what is really true for that person. Sometimes all of that might be at play. Recognising any of this may not always be easy.

We might also justify our choices by linking the drink to doing something we enjoy. We might pour a drink and chat with the person we love the most in the world, for the first time that day, for example. It’s usually the connection we relish most and we could pour ourselves some sparkling water or a tea and connect with our beloved as an alternative. Or it might be wine and the chat two days a week, sparkling water and that chat five days week, as these scenarios can lead to very different life qualities and future health outcomes.

Four weeks is such a short time in a very long life and a small investment that may lead to an immense change in your wellbeing and vitality. Yet, it is not enough to simply take a break from it and then go back to your old habits. This is not truly getting to the heart of your relationship with the substance, after all. And the over-consumption of anything, is not about the substance – it’s showing us our beliefs, if we want to dive deeper.

The current recommendations provided by heart organisations say that two standard drinks per day with two alcohol-free days per week is okay. Yet, for optimal health, I would encourage you to flip this and have five alcohol-free days with only two standard drinks on the other two days, if you choose to drink alcohol. Even this will be too much for some – even this can be enough to take the edge off hormone balance, robust gut function, mind clarity, stable moods, energy and vitality. Beyond this too, listen to your body. It’s all very well to say, “Dr Libby said it’s okay to do xyz”, yet, whenever you adopt any recommendation from an external source, I encourage you to check in with yourself to make sure it is truly making a difference. Your body may not have a voice, but it still communicates with you every day and it is so important you listen to it and act on what you know to be true for YOU.

To give you an idea, this is what a standard serving of alcohol is for each type of drink you may choose is in millilitres.

As you can see, a glass of wine you pour yourself can very easily become two or even three standard drinks if you are filling up a large glass! 

I’m not suggesting that you don’t drink alcohol – many people can take it or leave it – they’re not attached and no change is necessary. I simply want to appeal to you to get honest with yourself about how alcohol affects you. In your heart you know if you drink too much and when it is impacting on your health in a lousy way. Are you curious to know how robust, energised and clear you might feel without it for a while?

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