Is healthy drinking possible?
This is a common question I get from my clients, and the answer varies based on the health of who is asking the question and a bunch of many other factors.
Almost everything is good in moderation and when it comes to alcohol, how much you drink, what types of alcoholic beverages you go for, and even gender are important considerations in order to decide what’s right for you.
What’s alcohol, really?
A sugar in a form so absorbable that you can feel it within minutes in the brain. Unlike carbs, protein and fat, our bodies are not equipped to store large quantities of it. This means that the liver has to stop whatever is doing and devote itself fully to the break down of alcohol sugars, putting on the back-burner many essential tasks that keep us healthy and happy.
The bad news first
Even moderate quantities of alcohol can increase the risk of many types of heart problems, accelerate liver, kidney, and pancreas complications, and potentially lead to osteoporosis, and cancer.
Alcohol interferes with your sleep and good digestion, messes up your blood sugar, makes you tired, and a little depressed - hard to appreciate when you’re in the midst of feeling happily tipsy and on top of the world. It also dehydrates you so much that the only way your skin can communicate its unhappiness is through breakouts and rosacea.
Gender matters….a lot!
Women absorb into their bloodstream about 30% more alcohol than men do. That’s a statement! Wait, What?! Why?! 2 reasons. 1) We have significantly lower levels of alcohol dehydrogenase, a key enzyme that metabolizes alcohol sugars, and 2) We have more fat (unfair, huh?) and therefore less water to dilute alcohol, feeling the tipsy effect longer.
Alcohol also raises estrogen and lowers progesterone, potentially leading to estrogen dominance, a common hormonal imbalance that can result in PCOS, fibroids, and endometriosis. If you’re in your 40’s and drink more than your body is comfortable with, menopause can happen earlier than you ever wanted.
Your testosterone can get compromised too, which beyond affecting your libido, can impact muscle formation, bone regeneration, and brain health.
And to top it all off, women are more vulnerable to addictions than men. Tell me about it and my addiction to chocolate! Good thing I found a healthy dairy-free dark chocolate that I love from my skin to bones.
Now, I’ll stop being the “Debbie Downer”. Here are the better news
Some studies suggest that moderate consumption of alcohol can lengthen life expectancy, protect against heart failure, improve circulation, and reduce the risk of diabetes. In moderation, of course!
And we’ve all heard about the antioxidant benefits of red wine. Although this has been highly over-praised, it is true the polyphenols found in the skin and seeds of grapes used to make my favorite drink in the world! have great anti-cancer and other health benefits. If you prefer white wine, you should know the antioxidant benefits are lower than in red wine because white wine is not made using the entire grape.
How, and how much should you drink?
- Regarding quantity, it very much depends on your health and lifestyle goals, but also your fave drink. This is my rule of thumb for us women: one drink per sitting and a maximum of 3 times per week.
- Drink on a full stomach. Stock up on lean protein, healthy fats, and if you can, add a natural probiotic - quinoa, avocado, eggs, nuts, and sauerkraut/kimchi are great.
- Don’t binge. It takes our body one hour to metabolize alcohol, so it’s better to drink more frequently than all at once. If you can drink a glass of water for each glass of wine, beer or other alcoholic beverage, even better!
- Keep it simple. Have your drink on the rocks, with lemon and seltzer or sparkling water. Avoid mixers, cocktails and energy drinks as they're loaded with sugar.
- Quality, quality, quality. Vodka, tequila, and mezcal have less sugar than wine and beer, but I won’t be hypocritical here and advocate for those over wine. If wine is your non-guilty pleasure like mine is, choose biodynamic and natural wines which are not treated with pesticides or chemicals and don’t have added sulfites. If your poison is beer, go for the lighter type as it has less yeast.
Oops, I did it again!
Life, and drinking-more-than-you-should’ve, happens, especially over holidays and key festivities. These tricks will help:
- Have a glass of warm water with lemon to hydrate you, flush toxins out and improve digestion. Even better - add turmeric and raw honey to make it a super anti-inflammatory alcohol-free elixir.
- Enjoy a healthy smoothie. Idea: unsweetened almond milk, spinach or kale, apple, parsley, ginger, and flaxseeds.
- Drink coconut water to replenish your electrolytes and magnesium.
- Your body will crave for unhealthy fats and carbs after a long night out, but what you really need is protein, healthy fats and lots of sulfur. Quinoa with avocado and broccoli, Brussel sprouts and kale are excellent choices.
- Do some yoga to bring oxygen into some parts of your body you didn't even know they existed. Yoga also helps balance your estrogen levels.
- Get a massage to increase circulation and drain toxins.
- Take a bath with Epsom salt to restore your magnesium and sulfur levels, and detox.
Book a 20-minute complimentary intro session with me to discuss how I can best support you to create strong, healthy habits that will become lifelong tools.