With summer sadly coming to an end, I know many of us are re-evaluating our health and re-focusing on "getting back on track" for the "new school year" (back to school/back to work/end of summer...you know what i mean). And with that likely comes a re-evaluation of our lifestyle choices, including alcohol. Many of us have likely over-indulged throughout the summer months as we have been more social & been on more vacations...it happens! But, it also begs the question of: what role should alcohol play in our lives? And is there a healthy amount of alcohol to consume?
I often get asked a myriad of questions by my patients about all aspects relating to alcohol consumption. Is alcohol healthy? How much is too much? What kinds of alcohol are best? How to minimize the side effects of alcohol? And how does alcohol consumption fit into other health goals (ie. Weight management, hormone balancing, gut health)?
So I thought I’d give a summary of my suggestions are around “healthy” alcohol consumption….
First of all, let’s just remember that although alcohol has been touted to have certain health benefits (ie. the anti-oxidants in wine, the bitter component in some beers, etc) the reality is that it is a toxin to the body. In fact, the body will prioritize metabolizing and breaking it down over other important processes in the body (which is why in excess it can lead to all kinds of imbalances). So like all guilty pleasures in life, it should be enjoyed in moderation and with a healthy mindset.
So, what is a healthy mindset around alcohol?
Well, part of my process in determining this involves exploring a person’s reason for and behaviours around consuming alcohol.
Some questions I explore may include: Do you use it to bury or minimize stress? Is it used to boost confidence or to be able to engage socially? Do you use it to relax your mind/body? Are you able to limit your consumption (can you have just one)? Do you feel regret the morning after? Does drinking interfere with your relationships, job, sleep, motivation etc? And so on….
These questions provide a lot of insight into whether a person has a “healthy” relationship to alcohol. At the end of the day I employ my patients to do more of what makes them feel alive, feel good and feel connected. And to do less of anything that doesn't….which for some may include alcohol consumption.
So next question is…what does drinking in moderation mean?
The CDC defines moderate alcohol consumption for women as no more than 1 drink/sitting or 5 drinks/week and for men as no more than 2 drinks/sitting or 10 drinks/week.
And remember that a drink is defined as:
So with all that off the table, let’s now discuss which individuals I often advise against drinking until their health concerns have been addressed (I do not discuss substance abuse and/or other serious mental health concerns as this subject is beyond the scope of this blog):
And so if you do fall into one of the categories listed above, it is important to understand that consuming alcohol may be preventing you from achieving your optimal wellness. Ultimately, we all have to make decisions on what we’re willing to and not willing to give up in order to feel our best…it’s a push and pull, give and take…but knowing what factors influence your ability to do so is a first step.
For those who do choose to consume alcohol I’ve outlined some key things to consider that will help minimize the side effects and keep alcohol as a friend, not foe.
Bottom line…choosing to drink alcohol involves weighing the benefits vs risks unique to you. Everyone Is different….metabolizes alcohol differently, has different health conditions to consider, uses it for a different purpose, etc. Carefully considering whether it adds or subtracts to your quality of life is a key part of enjoying it responsibly.
Dr. Rachael Lovink, ND
Dr. Rachael Lovink is a licensed Naturopathic Physician in Victoria, BC. She has a passion for helping you uncover the root cause of your illness. Her special interest is in the treatment of mental illnesses (such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, etc) with the use of non-pharmaceutical intervention such as targeted supplements, dietary intervention, IV nutrients/injections and lifestyle counselling.
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