After a long and busy day, it can feel like there is nothing better than a glass of wine, beer or other alcoholic drink to help us unwind. It can feel like the reward we deserve. Sound familiar?
The trouble is, it’s easy for these ‘rewards’ to mount up, and over time, this can have a really detrimental effect on our health, mood, energy levels and weight.
As a nutritionist, I already knew that drinking alcohol lessens your immunity, increases the risk of catching infections, taxes the liver and can make your skin dull and dry. It also puts you at higher risk of more serious illnesses. However, when Dr. Triona McCarthy of the National Cancer Programme appeared recently on the 2018 Operation Transformation series and said that alcohol is a Class 1 Carcinogen – it took my breath away and was a sobering moment.
The carcinogenic effects of alcohol are not well publicised. Drinking can lead to cancer ten to twenty years later in life. In Ireland statistically 1 in 8 breast cancers are caused by alcohol and every year in this country, 500 men and women lose their lives to various alcohol related cancers. People need to know the risks they are taking, so that they can make informed decisions. I certainly wish I had been told this during my student years!
In recent years there has been a huge increase in home drinking, often on a nightly basis. Many of us develop an emotional and psychological dependency on alcohol. Women in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s are increasingly presenting with fatal liver disease. Worryingly, 40% of alcoholic liver disease and cirrhosis are presenting in women between the ages of 45-65 according to Dr Orla M Crosbie, consultant hepatologist. This is damage that is being done primarily at home. We don’t tend to relate the consequences of alcohol to the uses of alcohol. Women have less of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol. If women drink more than 4 standard drinks a day the risk of developing cirrhosis is increased 13-fold. Cigarettes legally must carry a health warning – should this also apply to alcohol?
It’s time to be honest about how much you are drinking…. I have just measured out a standard unit (75mls) into one of my oversized wine glasses. It barely touches the sides! It would probably still look insignificant in a more modest glass. One glass does not always mean one standard drink. It would be fair to say that one generous glass of wine is more like two, if not three standard drinks. Measure yours and find out what you are really consuming….
A 750ml bottle of wine has 10 units of alcohol and 600 calories. A pint of beer has 2 units and 165 calories and 1 unit of spirits has 65 calories. Women should be consuming no more than 10 units weekly (formerly 14) and should have at least 2 alcohol free days per week.
As a nation, we need to seriously address our relationship with alcohol. By cutting out alcohol or at least cutting right back, you will feel the benefits pretty much immediately. You will sleep better, wake up feeling refreshed, you will have much more energy, you will feel less tired during the day, your mood will improve, you will look much better and you will start to reduce that hard to shift weight around the middle. You can often experience a ‘natural high’ as your sense of wellbeing begins to improve.
Yours in health