A glass of bubbles, a cheeky G&T, Mummy's wine time, a smooth whisky (my Dad's Glaswegian, hence the spelling), a bevvy with your mates, cocktails with the girls, summer Pimm's, Christmas Baileys; there are lots of ways to drink; some of which have strong associations with certain holidays, or times in your life, but one thing which is really well known is the British drinking culture. It's a social thing; we Brits love a trip to the pub, after work on a Friday, to watch the footy, to celebrate milestones; but in lockdown, with bars and restaurants closed, and social catch ups limited, have us Brits, and in fact the world over, been drinking less? Nope! the fact is that drinking alcohol has increased 30% since the first lockdown was introduced last year. For many it's a chance to 'wind down', have some 'me time', to relax, or as a coping strategy for strained days or weeks of exhausting work/life/family/kids/homeschooling* (*delete as appropriate). But is it a good crutch to lean on? 10% of the population have an addictive association with alcohol, and in my experience far more than 10% have a sticky relationship, which may have been exacerbated by life in lockdown. So what's the deal?
Most of you reading this will have experienced a hangover at one time or another; headaches, nausea/vomiting, an upset tum, grogginess, poor concentration, fatigue, feeling jittery. These are all common side effects from over indulging and as a result of the physical impact of alcohol onto your body. It's a diuretic, so makes you pee more, contributing to dehydration; blood vessel dilation increases headaches and irritability, high sugar content in alcohol often leads to overproduction of insulin and therefore resultant sugar crashes which can leave you feeling shaky and weak. Inflammation of the digestive tracts leads to diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, whilst sleep is often less deep and more wakeful leading to fatigue and tiredness due to alcohol's disruption of our sleep hormone, melatonin.
It actually does. Dr Sarah Gottfried details how over the age of 40, the blood-brain barrier becomes thinner, meaning hangovers last longer and the detrimental effects of alcohol are more pronounced, with irreparable damage actually occurring to the memory parts of our brain. In women, the effects are even more deleterious; just three servings a week significantly increases the risk of breast cancer; menopause and PMS symptoms statistically increase, with hormone balance being seriously affected and oestrogen dominance common; this alone is a risk factor for several types of cancer, heart disease, stroke and dementia, and let's not get started on the weight gain.......
Alcohol consumption can affect fertility, and our immune response. Our brain literally shrinks. Sobering thought isn't it? (Pun entirely intended).
Don't get me wrong; I'm no angel. My friends and family have some seriously juicy and mortifying stories which are alcohol related, and certainly in my 20s I drank far more than my fair share, but as I've got older and more interested in nutrition and hormone balance my relationship with alcohol has changed. It's virtually impossible to sabotage my own body knowing the effects that alcohol can have, so why would I do that to myself? Being fully informed helps us make appropriate choices in life, and I'm all about education, as you know. I'm not saying I'll never have a glass of bubbles again in my life, but I am more considerate about how and what I choose to drink as I get older...and maybe a little wiser
If you find that you're leaning on alcohol a little more these days, gently ask yourself what it's doing for you. Is there a better way to wind down or relax? Is there an element of your life that needs dealing with in another way? Your emotional and physical health will thank you for it in the long run, and as sleep is one thing which is massively affected by alcohol, a good night's rest to allow the body to repair as it should and lower cortisol levels would be a good place to start.
>If you choose to take some or all of this information on board that's great, and if you'd rather keep drinking your Friday tipple, that's fine too. As a health professional I have a developed interest in the human body and things which affect it positively or negatively, but I will never judge you for your choices. I will however, continue to write about other topics and just so you know, have the occasional glass of vino myself; in moderation of course
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