We’ve been told that a little bit of alcohol is healthy for us, for example a glass of red wine will provide us with resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant. There may be some health benefits, but there is increasing incidence of women especially, consuming beyond the recommended amount of alcohol, often binging at the weekends. It’s very easy for us to consume over the recommended 2-3 units per day – that one large glass of wine may equal this! How many of us consume way more than this in an evening out or at home?!
Women are more physiologically sensitive to alcohol than men. This is because we have a lower body content of water and we have a higher fat content, therefore alcohol becomes more concentrated in our systems and is retained in our bodies longer. As a result women develop liver disease at lower levels of alcohol intake than men do, and are at increased risk of osteoporosis (due to reduced absorption of nutrients).
Five reasons not to drink alcohol, or at least to reduce your intake:
- Protect your liver – The liver is an amazingly robust organ, and is the only organ that has the ability to regenerate itself after certain types of damage. Unfortunately alcohol is one of the toxins that the liver doesn’t handle as well as other toxins, and it cannot regenerate after being severely damaged by alcohol. The liver processes 95% of alcohol ingested. Alcohol is seen as a toxin and therefore the body will preferentially process it before anything else. As a result alcohol is absorbed and processed before nutrients and food; therefore it’s not a good idea to consume alcohol whilst eating!
- Optimise your nutrient absorption and prevent excess aging – Repeated consumption of alcohol inhibits the liver’s production of digestive enzymes, which then majorly reduces the body’s ability to absorb proteins, fats and the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E and K), as well as the B complex vitamins especially B1 (thiamine) and folic acid. Many essential nutrients are not retained by the body and are ‘washed out’ rapidly through the urine. This means that alcohol consumption causes a major loss of valuable nutrients and antioxidants. Without these vital elements, we may not have the adequate ingredients to make collagen, meaning we may produce wrinkles more easily. With the loss of antioxidants, we may age much more quickly, losing our vitality and looks.
- Avoid excess weight gain, especially around the middle – Because alcohol prevents the body’s ability to digest fats properly, excessive amounts of fat may accumulate in the liver. Leptin is a peptide hormone involved in the regulation of appetite and energy metabolism. High levels of leptin are known to contribute to fatty infiltration of the liver. Alcohol prevents the release of glucose from the liver and can cause hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels). This drop in blood sugar often produces a craving for foods, especially foods that raise blood sugar such as more alcohol or sugar – not good for anyone, especially those concerned about weight gain, especially fat around the middle! For anyone with diabetes and are taking insulin, this can have very serious negative results.
- Alcohol can negatively affect your sex life and fertility – Alcohol reduces the body’s storage of the essential mineral zinc. Zinc is involved in hundreds of reactions in the body, so without it, many processes suffer, including your hormonal balance and fertility. For men! For men it can reduce testosterone production and cause erectile dysfunction, and for women it can disrupt your menstrual cycle, and if you’re thinking about having a baby, alcohol consumption increases your chance of miscarriage and birth defects.
- Alcohol may be making you depressed and anxious – As alcohol reduces the absorption of many essential nutrients, it may be having a major impact on your brain chemistry in a negative way. For example, those consuming excessive alcohol may have lower levels of tryptophan (the amino acid that is converted to serotonin). Low serotonin is a major feature of depression. Selenium deficiency may occur as a result of alcohol intake and is associated with depression, anxiety, confusion and hostility. The absorption of B vitamins are majorly affected by alcohol consumption, and deficiency in these crucially important vitamins will add to stress, nervous tension and energy levels.
So there are many reasons why alcohol is not recommended. Ultimately it will age you quicker and with regular consumption may potentially cause damage to one of the most important organs of the body. It is the master toxin remover, and needs to last our lifetime. Let’s help it function more optimally and we will be rewarded with looking and feeling younger and happier, whilst maintaining more optimal weight and more!
Elouise Bauskis – Naturopath, Nutritional Therapist & Herbalist