Well, I must admit it was rather nerve wracking watching to see how many of you would vote for me with your clicks last week! Thank you for sticking around; I’m glad to hear you enjoy the things I send to you.
If there is anything you would like to read about, please do let me know; I am always open to suggestions.
The question of today is ‘would I be healthier if I stopped drinking’?
Boozy drinks seem to show up a fair bit during our week – a glass of wine to mark the end of the day, a couple more because its the weekend… Its totally socially acceptable to have a drink most days, and the consensus seems to be that a few drinks a week doesn’t really play a huge part in what is otherwise a fairly healthy lifestyle. But I know many of you still wonder.
Are we justifying something we shouldn’t?
If we want to be fit and healthy, how does alcohol fit in?
There are some potential good sides to drinking. Red wine is pretty well documented as being rich in antioxidants, and a moderate alcohol intake is actually associated with a lower risk of diabetes, gallstones and heart disease. It reduces your risk of cardiac arrest and clot-caused stroke by 25-40%.
And, there have even been several studies showing that drinkers outlive non-drinkers too.
But, the bottom line is that no one knows whether drinking is actually GOOD for you. Health experts recommend that if you don’t already drink, you shouldn’t start.
The studies which result in the headlines we’re all familiar with usually say that the result they’ve found is correlated with whatever they’re studying – this is different to saying that the result is caused by the item in question. There might be other things going on in the lives of the people involved in the studies – perhaps they have a good set of genes, perhaps they have a higher resilience to stress, perhaps they live a particular lifestyle… We don’t know for sure.
Most of the research suggests you’d need to be a light to moderate drinker with no heavy drinking episodes to see a potential heart benefit.
Like food intake, people tend to underestimate the amount they’re drinking. A glass of wine three times a week, plus a cocktail and a glass of wine on Friday night and a G&T and two glasses of wine on Saturday night bumps you into the heavy drinking category.
Heavy drinking comes with a much higher risk of major health problems – from heart health, to brain health, to immune system resilience, to hormone function, liver function and metabolism issues.
The devil is in the dose, but all alcohol requires some processing by your body. How well your body can process alcohol depends on your genetic make up, your age, your size and your gender.
So, how can we sum up all of this information?
The best guess from research suggests that staying within the light to moderate drinking category is likely to result in less harm than drinking heavily. That’s obvious.
If you’re going to drink, do it because you enjoy it and not because its a habit or routine, or because you need it to cut your stress levels after a tough day, and certainly not because ‘its good for you’, or because it seems polite to!
Forget about the potential health benefits (you know as well as I do that there are plenty of more definite ways to improve your heart health!).
Here’s a plan of action for you.
Start by observing and writing down your drinking habits. How much do you drink, and for what reasons? And when you look back through your notes, are you actually drinking more than you thought?
Then try to look at how alcohol affects your body. Do you always miss your Saturday morning workout after a few glasses of wine on Friday? Does your sleep quality always suffer? How does your body feel the next day – do you have an upset tummy, are you bloated, do you feel puffy? How do the extra calories you’re drinking affect the goals you’re working towards? What about other indicators – what did your latest medical tests say?
Next, look at how alcohol affects your emotions. Are you in control of your drinking – are you choosing to have a drink, or do you ‘find yourself’ on autopilot half way through a glass of wine? What are you thinking while you’re drinking – are you feeling relaxed and fun, or are you trying to drown out a bad day? How would you feel if you had to stop drinking for a week?
Try to get yourself into a place where you make your choices consciously and mindfully, for the right reasons (fun!) and nothing else.