Save the last beer
At a bar, at a restaurant, at a club, with family, with friends…Many of us love the occasional drink. Many of us love a regular drink. However, overconsumption (defined here as consuming over the recommended weekly limit of 14 units for men and women) of alcohol can impact the body in many ways. For example:
1. Increased risk of oral infections
2. Vomiting and nausea
3. Dental caries
4. Increased risk of renal tract infections
5. Increased risk of spontaneous abortion in pregnancy
6. Cause/aggravate skin conditions such as eczema and spider veins
7. Cause/aggravate asthma
8. Digestive issues, including malabsorption of micronutrients
9. Folate deficiency
In the long-term, alcohol has the potential to affect many different tissues and organs (there are over 200 pathologies and disorders related to overconsumption of alcohol). For example:
1. Liver damage: including fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis (NB women are especially vulnerable to alcohol-related liver damage)
2. Increased risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke
3. Increased risk of neuropathy
4. Increased risk of cancer, including oral cancer
5. Impaired bone formation and increased risk of fractures (very common)
Alcohol is also full of ‘empty calories’. Therefore, so long as these calories are not compensated elsewhere (e.g. increased intake of juices and bar snacks), individuals who choose to abstain from alcohol may well lose weight and/or find it easier to maintain their weight.
Abstaining also helps increase energy levels and motivation to exercise, thus increasing the effectiveness of any exercise programme. As a sportswomen this is first and foremost why I stoppped drinking at 23 years old; I saw HUGE improvements in my fitness and it really was the best feeling in the world smashing PB after PB!
However, I know everyone is different and some people like an occasional drink now and again. If this is you, I always advise clients to:
1. Stay below the maximum recommended intake of alcohol per week (14 units for both men and women, 1 unit= 1 small glass of wine). This should also be spread across the week rather than consumed all in one or two ‘binges’.
2. Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach.
3. Stay hydrated before, during and after drinking alcohol by drinking plenty of plain water.
4. Choose red wine; it contains resveratrol (an antioxidant linked to improved cardiovascular health).
5. Savour your drink; drink slowly and mindfully.
6. Don’t drink if you’re pregnant or hoping to get pregnant.