As the new year rolls in and we gaze despairingly at our post Christmas blabbiness reflected in the shop windows, as we rush by looking for the best reduction in loo roll holders, the decision is made to give up the booze for the month of January. Come February, it is bottoms up as before. Is this a wise course of action? Could a little of what we crave do us good?
There seems to be overall consensus that alcohol is good for us, but in moderation and regularly. One or two alcohol free nights a week is recommended – principally to give the liver a rest, but it also is a measure of how much on an alcoholic we have become! I have written three alcohol blogs, one on wine, one on alcohol in general and one on beer and spirits.
Is alcohol good for everybody?
Actually, no. Alcohol is a poison and if we drink it regularly, we produce digestive enzymes that break the alcohol down. Some people do not produce these enzymes genetically, so alcohol makes them very drunk and very ill. This tends to be noticed by the drinker, who normally will not want to drink. A wise decision.
What is the best way to drink alcohol?
Slowly and after eating something fatty – nuts can be a good pre-drink snack. Because the stomach takes time to metabolise fat, fatty food is held in the stomach along with the alcohol and this gives our digestive system more time to deal with the alcohol. Also, a by product of breaking down alcohol is acetaldehyde, another poison that makes us feel sick. So drinking more slowly helps us not feel so bad – and does us less damage.
Drinking plenty of water if out partying really is an excellent idea.
If we drink, we also need to drink regularly so we maintain the ability to produce the helpful digestive enzymes. This is why erratic drinking is so bad for us. We lose the capability to deal with the alcohol and it causes even more damage to the liver and stomach than it would if we drank little and often. But for us all, heavy drinking does us no good. Which leads to the question:
Why do we drink heavily? Why can it be so hard to stop drinking once started?
One of the healthy effects of alcohol is it relaxes us. This happens very quickly with the first drink. In our very stressed lives, anything we do to relax is good for us. But this only takes a bit of booze. With our first drink, the happy neurotransmitter, GABA goes up. GABA is the opposite neurotransmitter to glutamate – the anxious one. Too much glutamate leaves us feeling as if we’ve drunk too much coffee. Unpleasant. So GABA rises, glutamate goes down and, briefly, we feel we can cope. The brain is pleased – give me more of that, it demands. And so one glass becomes two, three, the bottle. And we then feel dreadful from the effects of too much alcohol – plus a possible dose of guilt.
So the answer is to raise GABA levels. Then we will find we have a stop button – a feeling of having had enough to drink this evening. As a small aside, whenever we lose control of the biscuit eating brakes or can’t face exercise or generally can’t be bothered, this is not laziness nor is it lack of will power. It is just our body talking to us, so we either self medicate to make ourselves feel happier- by drinking too much, or eating too much lovely cake, or we don’t exercise because it hurts too much. Joy will be much greater is this is recognised and dealt with, rather than feeling guilty or just giving up.
Alcohol and PMS and the menopause.
Excellent remedy. Just a small glass of red wine will do nicely. Along with a few squares of dark chocolate. This will increase our antioxidants, raise magnesium levels and make us calmer – and help reduce hot flushes. Since we have raised our GABA levels, so one glass feels like enough, life can only get better.
Is it good to be tee-total?
Provided we can metabolise alcohol, the people that drink a little regularly are healthier than those who do not drink at all. However, the shape of the curve is like a J, so as we drink more than a little, we rapidly get less healthy than non drinkers. There are three principal reasons why alcohol is good for you: the first is that it is relaxing. The second and third applies to wine only: again those that drink wine with good control, tend to be slimmer than non-drinkers. And, again, we have a J shaped curved, so as more wine is glugged, the waist line rapidly outstrips the non-drinkers. The third reason applies to red wine only – and not all red wines at that – some red wines are a good source of anti-oxidants. The best have the tasting note: good aging potential. These wines are actually best drunk young for their health benefits. The best vines grow up high, so struggle to survive, and this increases their anti-oxidants; they are organic or biodynamic and the wine produced using traditional methods.
So slamming down five pints of beer with a whiskey chaser will make us fat and unhealthy, whether we do this nightly or occasionally. Daintily slurping a small glass of chewy red wine a few nights a week, will indeed make us happier, slimmer and healthier. If this cannot be achieved, then being teetotal is a better option. But do make sure the alcohol is not replaced by crisps/sweets or diet coke.