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The Impact Of Alcohol

Last updated on June 18th, 2019

Most people are aware that alcohol can impact health in a detrimental way when regularly over-consumed. However many people are naive to the extent at which this can occur. Dry July can be the perfect time to assess exactly how alcohol affects you.

For you, alcohol may lead to an increase in body fat or cellulite, less energy and vitality, worse bouts of PMT or mood fluctuations . . . or perhaps your get up and go has got up and left. As fun as it can be at the time, alcohol can rob you of your clarity and purpose.

We drink for wide and varied reasons. For some, it is the way they socialise, or the way they wind down from the day. Some use alcohol to distract themselves from thoughts and feelings they’d rather avoid. It can be a way that people cope. Regardless of the reason, many of us over-drink without even realising it.

A standard drink is one hundred grams of alcohol in whatever form that comes. In New Zealand, 100 grams of alcohol is a 330 millilitre bottle of four percent beer, a 30 millilitre nip of spirits, 170 millilitres of champagne, and it is a measly 100 millilitres of wine; about four swallows! Next time you pour yourself a glass of wine, measure it, and see what your natural pour is. For most, it is considerably more than 100 millilitres, and, as a result, many of us are over-drinking without intending to.

The current recommendations provided by the Australian Heart Foundation in concurrence with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) now suggest for those who already drink alcohol it is safe to consume no more than two standard drinks per day for both men and women. Other organisations add that the evidence suggests that that must include two alcohol-free days (AFDs) per week. However, I also encourage you to consider many of the cancer organisations from around the world’s position statement on alcohol, which says that if you have a family history of cancer, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, which is a very powerful statement to contemplate.

I’m not suggesting you don’t drink alcohol, unless that appeals to you or you feel this will be necessary to break a potential addiction. Alcohol consumption can be immensely pleasurable for those who partake. I simply want to appeal to you to get honest with yourself about how alcohol affects you. You know in your heart if you drink too much and when it is impacting negatively on your health. Alcohol can affect the way we relate to those we love the most in the world, and of course it affects how you feel about yourself. So, if you drink, drink for the pleasure of it rather than the misconstrued message that alcohol is good for your health.

The link between the consistent, over-consumption of alcohol and breast cancer is undeniable. Research has shown this time and time again and for many years now. Yet, we rarely hear about it.

The human body cannot excrete alcohol; it has to be converted into acetaldehyde by the liver, and then the acetaldehyde can be excreted. This is the nasty substance that can give us a headache the day after a big imbibe. If the liver didn’t do its job properly and alcohol accumulated in our blood, we can go into a coma and die. Alcohol is that poisonous. And I don’t say that lightly. But, thankfully, our liver jumps to action and starts the conversion process and we can carry on. Over time, though, this can take its toll.

The trouble is, when we drink daily, or, for some, just regularly, the liver can be so busy dealing with alcohol as its priority, other substances that the liver has to change so they can be excreted don’t get any attention and are recycled. Estrogen and cholesterol are two examples. It is often the reabsorption of these substances that leads to elevated levels in our body, and that can lead to health challenges.

If you want to cut back or cut out alcohol for a while, or even if you just want to break your habit of regular drinking, still pour yourself a drink at the time you would normally have a glass of wine, and do what you would normally do. Sit and chat to your partner, make dinner, talk on the phone to a friend. So often we have mentally linked the glass of wine to a pleasurable activity when it is actually the pleasurable activity that we don’t want to miss out on! So have sparkling water in a wine glass, with some fresh lime or lemon if that appeals, and add a few more AFDs to your life.

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