Recently fitness guru and business woman Michelle Bridges was caught drink driving. Of course, no mercy was given in the media. However, is it only when someone does something potentially dangerous or illegal is drinking considered to be problematic? I believe we all need to take a good look at our social, physical and mental relationship with alcohol. We are constantly talking about clean eating, going hard at the gym, keto, no carb, mindfulness and vegan diets. However, vary rarely are we ready to fess up and admit our relationship with the bottle is hampering all our best efforts. Is it easier to give up sandwiches than to give up Friday drinks?
The following article is not judgmental, it is purely supportive and informative. Each is free to indulge and live the way they see fit, but sometimes we need to reset and recheck ourselves. Every year we go through cycles of punishing ourselves to get fit and lose weight. For many people they are not going to get the results they deserve simply due to the effects of alcohol.
IS ALCOHOL FATTENING?
Alcohol is often associated with weight gain and high carbohydrate intake. This is true, however swapping your white wine for vodka with soda may not be enough to save your waistline. The calories from alcohol come from alcohol itself not just from the sugary mixers, the fermented fruit or grains. Alcohol measures 27 kilojoules per gram. For those who believe that choosing a Martini which contains no sugar is a better option, it still delivers 124 kilojoules. Of course, cocktails fair the worse, the expresso martini will love you back with 900 kilojoules in a little 125ml glass.
This may not be new information; I am sure many have heard this before. However, I feel it needs to be reinforced since so many people will say no to pasta, steak and fruit as they deem them to be fattening but not assess their liquid calories. It really is ridiculous to avoid good nutritious food to allow for alcohol.
I never give my clients caloric guidelines. I prefer clients to focus on changing habits and increasing nutrient dense foods. It is only when explaining the weight of alcoholic drinks and liquid calories that I do stress caloric intake.
How many kilojoules in that drink?
ALCOHOL AND THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
As we know alcohol has to be metabolised in the liver. In order for the liver to do this, all its other functions need to be queued. Primarily this affects our digestion. I find it is not uncommon for someone to be on an elimination diet of gluten, dairy, lectins and fructose etc but not consider that it could be their alcohol consumption causing their discomfort.
I see so many chronic cases of GERD (reflux). Medication for GERD involves medication (Proton Pump Inhibitors) that inhibits gastric secretion and long-term nutritional absorbency. If you do suffer with reflux either acidic or silent it is worth noting that alcohol is making it possibly much worse. Regardless of the type and dose of beverage involved, alcohol facilitates the development of gastroesophageal reflux disease by reducing the pressure of the lower oesophageal sphincter and oesophageal motility. Fermented and non-distilled alcoholic beverages increase gastrin levels and acid secretion. Succinic and maleic acid contained in certain alcoholic drinks also stimulate acid secretion.
In the last 10 years or so we have seen a massive surge in the understanding and importance of gut health. Our microbiome is so important to our overall wellbeing but we really do disturb our intestinal flora with alcohol. Dysbiosis, or overgrowth of the wrong bacteria is evident in drinkers and causes a range of disturbances from bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, low mood and candida.
Many people I see struggle to follow through with expensive probiotics and gut healing formulas. Possibly the first thing to try is cut back on your drink, especially the champagne, white wine, beer and fermented brews. We often associate liver disease/damage with being obese or having a beer belly. This is not true all the symptoms can be present in even underweight drinkers. As part of trying to reduce the impact of alcohol undertaking a protocol of liver cleansing and digestive repair is vital.
ALCOHOL AND YOUR HORMONES
Studies show that even moderate intake of alcohol reduce progesterone in peri and post-menopausal women. Incidentally, women who are heavier drinkers are more likely to go through early menopause.
Moderate alcohol consumption increases testosterone in women and decreases in men. Women were shown to have higher levels of ingested synthetic oestrogen. Heavy drinking men and women present with higher prolactin levels. This causes amenorrhea (absence of cycle), dysmenorrhea (abnormal cycle), low libido and increased PMS. In men increased prolactin reduces testosterone, lowers libido and increases gynemastia (AKA man boobs).
With the liver having 200 functions in the human body it is worth considering the livers role in hormone metabolism. If you feel that you are hormonally imbalanced, reduce your alcohol intake and your hormones will thank you for it.
HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
The current guidelines from the NHRMC is that Australians’ should not in the interests of better health consume more than 10 standard drinks a week, and no more than 5 in any one session. This is pretty generous and doesn’t give a lower dose for women. Women need to consider their personal health status, in particular their mental health, weight and hormonal profile. For these reasons there is a push to lower the guidelines womens alcohol intake from 10 to 6 per week.
Socially our perception of alcohol being a coping mechanism needs to change. How often do you see posts and memes that make light of stressed busy mothers’ dependency on alcohol? “the only loyalty card you ever need: The Dan Murphy’s loyalty card". It is not humorous, fair or healthy to blindly accept that alcohol is every struggling woman’s crutch. Women need support, friendships and the ability to speak up when they just can’t cope. A bottle of wine is not what women need.
If you are someone who struggles with their alcohol consumption, please consider reaching out to those who can help. If you know someone you are concerned about offer them an alternative to a drinks catch up. Consider talking about it and giving them nonjudgmental support.
Bujanda, Luis, MD, PhD The Effects of Alcohol Consumption Upon The Gastrointestinal Tract
American Journal of Gastroenterology: December 2000 - Volume 95 - Issue 12 - p 3374-3382
Bishehsari, F., Magno, E., Swanson, G., Desai, V., Voigt, R. M., Forsyth, C. B., & Keshavarzian, A. (2017). Alcohol and Gut-Derived Inflammation. Alcohol research : current reviews, 38(2), 163–171.
Rachdaoui, N., & Sarkar, D. K. (2013). Effects of alcohol on the endocrine system. Endocrinology and metabolism clinics of North America, 42(3), 593–615. doi:10.1016/j.ecl.2013.05.008