Anytime is a good time to talk about healthy drinking but it is especially important as we head into Christmas and New Year celebrations. Don’t get us wrong, we are not suggesting you can’t enjoy a few beverages (naturopaths drink too!), but we want you to make informed choices and create healthier habits when it comes to drinking.
There are some excellent benefits when it comes to cutting back on alcohol consumption including reduced risk of disease, decreased anxiety, improved mood, better sleep, aid in weight-loss efforts and more. If this sounds like something you want in your life, please read on.
Let’s start with some facts.
What is a healthy amount of alcohol?
- 1–2 drinks per day for women, maximum 7 in a week
- 2–3 drinks per day for men, maximum 14 in a week.
This is the amount recommended by many health experts as being a ‘safe’ limit. Drink more than this and your body really starts the feel the effects.
Excessive drinking can affect:
- hormones – exceeding the above amount can have a deleterious effect on hormones especially in women
- gut – we have all been using alcohol to sterilise our hands this year, so think of what it does to the microbiome. Consistently consuming high amounts of alcohol can cause dysbiosis in the gut.
- the brain – it is a known neurotoxin and can cause neuroinflammation, which is highly correlated with conditions such as Alzheimer’s
- the liver – alcohol is metabolised through the liver, putting excess strain on what is already a highly used organ.
Alcohol inhibits the absorption and usage of vital nutrients such as thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamin B12, folic acid, magnesium, electrolytes and zinc. These are crucial for energy production and important for the formation of neurotransmitters and the reason behind why you may feel low and exhausted after a night of drinking.
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In addition to how much you drink, what you drink is important to think about and we suggest always choosing good quality alcohol. Many alcoholic drinks are high in sugar and contain preservatives and sulphites (which can cause increased hangovers and allergic type symptoms).
Clear spirits are a good place to start as they contain fewer toxic compounds that are formed when alcohol is fermented. When it comes to wine, again quality wins so look for organic and, ideally, wild fermented. Aim for a darker wine, for the benefit of the range of polyphenols and resveratrol found in red wine, and a drier style of wine to limit the amount of sugars per glass.
Tips for the festive season
- Get as much sleep as possible before your drink. Alcohol shunts the secretion of melatonin so getting that deep, restful sleep in beforehand is crucial.
- Increase your polyphenol content pre-party to help mitigate oxidative damage caused by alcohol. This means eating lots of colourful vegetables, olive oil, dark chocolate, herbs and spices.
- Ensure you eat even a light meal before you drink. Most drinks contain a decent amount of sugar and slowing both this and the alcohol into the blood stream is important. Aim for a balanced meal containing protein, fats and complex carbohydrates.
- Drink water between each alcoholic beverage. Alcohol is a diuretic and dehydration plays a significant role in the severity of the hangover.
Give your drink a health boost!
- Add lemon or lime. These influence liver detoxification, helping you to remove the alcohol from your body more quickly. This also helps with bile production which aids in protecting the gut – 25 per cent of waste is removed through the gut.
- Add bitters. The bitter taste stimulates receptors on your tongue to help the digestive process and improve liver function.
- Mix with soda water instead of tonic. Tonic contains a substantial amount of sugar which adds up over a few drinks and worsens the hangover.
- Try kombucha as your mixer! This is our favourite way to supercharge your drink. It is bubbly and sweet without containing too much sugar. It also contains beneficial bacteria. Add a sprig of mint and you’ve got yourself a cocktail!
If you would like to learn more about supporting your body and what good health really means, please book an appointment with us. We’d love to help you. Bookings available here.
Written by Ally Stuart BHSc