Alcohol – Is It Really That Bad? How Much Is Too Much?
If you’re health conscious but still love a glass of wine after work, a cold beer in the afternoon sun, or a nice long happy hour with your co-workers, you’ve probably wondered how alcohol affects your health.
If you’ve been following me on social media you’ve more than likely heard me harp on about everything in moderation. And I still stick by this, unless you have a serious health condition such as cancer, neurological disorders, then there are certain foods and drink (including alcohol) that may need to be avoided all together for you to have great health.
We all know that heavy drinking isn’t good for us. When alcohol intake is server it can lead to liver disease, bone damage, cancer, neurological complaints and so much more. But what about moderate drinking every now and then? The research on alcohol is very mixed, there have been some studies that have been published that say even small amounts of alcohol can increase your risk for certain illness, for example one study by the American Institute for Cancer Research showed that by drinking just one drink per day you could increase a person’s risk for breast cancer.
So what is moderate drinking? Moderate drinking is typically defined as one drink per day for females and two drinks per day for males.
When it comes to wanting good health, vibrant energy levels, great sleep, in my opinion drinking daily doesn’t benefit our health. The reason I believe this is because alcohol can disrupt sleep causing poor sleep habits, it can affect blood sugar, can contribute to increased inflammation, it can deplete the body of certain nutrients such as magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin C, it can lead to you to indulge in processed or high sugar foods, it puts a huge burden on liver health which can affect hormones, increase symptoms of menopause, it can affect gut health which can lead to leaky gut, this then drives widespread inflammation to the body and brain.
As you can see there are many negative effects to alcohol. I do also want to touch on the positive effects, some studies have shown alcohol, mainly red wine, has high concentrations of polyphenols which is an antioxidant that can benefit our bodies. Alcohol can also help some people to relax and unwind which can benefit mental health.
As you can see the research is very mixed. In my practice what I recommend to my clients is to treat alcohol like sugar. It’s a treat that can be consumed in moderation, on occasion. I do strongly encourage people to have at least 5-6 alcohol free days each week, and enjoy 1-2 drinks, 1-2 nights per week. That in my opinion is moderation.
When my clients cut back on their alcohol intake their health often transforms, I’ve had clients tell me that they have had the best sleep they’ve had in years, that their inflammation and pain has gone down, they’ve lost weight, their moods have changed and they feel less anxious.
One study from the University of Sussex showed that people who participated in “Dry January” reported improvements in their health and their relationship with booze. More specifically:
71% slept better
67% had more energy
58% lost weight
57% had better concentration
54% had better skin
So you never know, cutting back on a few bevvies per week could transform your health!
Hi I’m Natalie, a Registered Clinical Nutritionist, health influencer, blog writer & recipe creator. My own health complications prompted me to make positive diet & lifestyle changes, revitalize my health leading to a career change from the corporate world to nutritional medicine. I believe in a wholefoods approach to good health, focusing on simple strategies for modern, busy people.