Its Alcohol Awareness Week - How Aware Are You?

Its Alcohol Awareness Week and we are fast approaching the Christmas season where alcohol consumption in the UK increases by 40 %. Christmas parties can see us consuming 2500-3000 extra calories on snacks and alcohol.



However, alcohol consumption does not just happen in December!   We are leading increasingly busy lives, dealing with stress, financial worries, family issues, and busy workloads.   Alcohol is readily available and surprisingly cheap. Who can blame anyone for cracking open the bottle of wine, kicking off your shoes and chilling out after a hard day?

Years ago, you would tend to only drink on special occasions or when you went to the pub, but we are now seeing more people drinking at home. We have more awareness of the dangers of alcohol, but I certainly see a lot of clients in my clinic who are unaware of how much they are drinking every week.   Sipping your wine or G&T whilst watching your favourite TV show is relaxing, however, a glass or 2 of wine, every night, has a have a negative effect on our health, skin, mood, bowel health, sleep quality and weight.


Statistics on alcohol

· More than 9 million people in England drink more than the recommended daily limits

· In England, in 2012 there were 6,490 alcohol-related deaths, a 19% increase compared to 2001

· Alcohol is 10% of the UK burden of disease and death, making alcohol one of the three biggest lifestyle risk factors for disease and death in the UK, after smoking and obesity.

· An estimated 7.5 million people are unaware of the damage their drinking could be causing

· Alcohol misuse costs England around £21bn per year in healthcare,

· crime and lost productivity costs

· Alcohol is 61% more affordable than it was in 1980 


Obviously, the short-term effect is the hangover that comes with drinking.   Long-term depends on how much alcohol you are drinking and for how long. Just drinking over the festive period should not cause long-term damage but if you have a drinking problem or health issue, that is an entirely different thing. Alcohol consumption increases in the UK by 40% in December. Alcohol can also increase our appetite and weaken our willpower, so you are more likely to overindulge on those festive nibbles. Alcohol can have a negative impact on the health of our liver, which, in turn, can manifest as skin problems such as acne, blemishes, and dull skin. We are also more prone to bloating and digestive problems as our liver struggle to detoxify. We become dehydrated. Our bowel movements can become erratic. Our mood changes. Our sleep becomes more disturbed. Alcohol consumption, especially if regularly, can also deplete us of Omega 3, making us more prone to inflammatory conditions, impaired brain function and has even been linked to depression and anxiety. Generally, long-term alcohol damage can cause liver damage, nerve damage, mental health, increased risk of cancers, nutritional deficiencies, increased risk of heart disease, sexual problems (for example erectile dysfunction).


What are the short-term and long-term effects of drinking?

Obviously, the short-term effect is the hangover that comes with drinking.   Long-term depends on how much alcohol you are drinking and for how long. Just drinking over the festive period should not cause long-term damage but if you have a drinking problem or health issue, that is an entirely different thing. Alcohol consumption increases in the UK by 40% in December. Alcohol can also increase our appetite and weaken our willpower, so you are more likely to overindulge on those festive nibbles. Alcohol can have a negative impact on the health of our liver, which, in turn, can manifest as skin problems such as acne, blemishes, and dull skin. We are also more prone to bloating and digestive problems as our liver struggle to detoxify. We become dehydrated. Our bowel movements can become erratic. Our mood changes. Our sleep becomes more disturbed. Alcohol consumption, especially if regularly, can also deplete us of Omega 3, making us more prone to inflammatory conditions, impaired brain function and has even been linked to depression and anxiety. Generally, long-term alcohol damage can cause liver damage, nerve damage, mental health, increased risk of cancers, nutritional deficiencies, increased risk of heart disease, sexual problems (for example erectile disfunction).


If you’re going to drink over the Christmas period, what are the healthier options? 

It depends on what you are looking for. You can opt for drinks that are lower in calories, lower in alcohol or alcohol-free or low carb options. Obviously, the healthiest option is to opt for alcohol-free! We are now realising the damage sugars can cause so we need to avoid/limit too many sugary drinks. The drinks that tick the boxes of low carb, low sugar is wine and spirits but spirits must be mixed with sugar-free options, this can include soda water as well as diet mixers. Be careful of cocktails as they can be a powerful mixture of alcohol. It is a good idea to alternate your drinks, one alcohol and follow this by a non-alcoholic drink, etc.   Also, drink plenty of water before sleeping which will help reduce the effects of the hangover.


Do women suffer more than men when it comes to the effects of booze?

Women are naturally smaller and carry less water than men, hormones can also affect the absorption of alcohol, all meaning that yes, women can reach the point of feeling the effects of alcohol faster than men. Different diets can also make you feel the effects quicker. For example, a low carb diet can make you ‘drunk’ much quicker on very little alcohol. This is because their bodies are more likely to be in ketosis and therefore can’t absorb as much alcohol so get drunk much quicker. You also get drunk quicker if you are dehydrated or on an empty stomach.


What’s the best cure for a hangover?

I love Tomato Juice – the perfect cure for a hangover. Add a few drops of Milk Thistle Tincture and you can get on with your day.   To detoxify after an overindulgence, drink plenty of water and top up on vitamin-rich alkalising vegetable smoothies, combining with some super green powder to add a range of nutrients such as magnesium, B vitamins, and antioxidants. You may feel like doing very little, especially when hungover, but exercise, even a brisk walk, helps kick your lymphatic system into clear-out mode, helping you detoxify.

• Vitamin C – helps replace lost nutrients and balance electrolytes

• Rehydrate! This is vital as alcohol and its effects are dehydrating. It will also help remove toxins from your system quicker.

• Milk Thistle is an excellent herb for overindulgence! It helps cleanse the body and in particular, the liver of toxins.

• Eat and protein/healthy fat meal such as bacon, eggs, avocados.


Why do hangovers seem to get worse as you get older?

Not only do we become less tolerant of these excesses, our bodies are less able to recover as quickly as it once did. Life becomes more stressful as we age, we are often multi-tasking and not as carefree as we once were. Recovering from a hangover is not so easy when you have a family, work commitments, etc. Medications, body fat, hydration, lack of sleep all play a part in the intensity and length of a hangover.


What signs are there that you might be drinking too much?

My instant reaction to this question is to say look in you’re recycle box! We often turn to a drink to relax after a hard, stressful day, one glass of wine seems innocent enough but if this is a daily occurrence, you may need to take action. Drinking daily, even if you convince yourself it is just one or two, is too much. You may find you have built up a tolerance for the alcohol and one or two drinks now have no obvious effect which convinces you they are fine. Try to go without and see how it makes you feel. If you find you ‘need’ to have a drink, it would be advisable to seek some advice. Drinking too much can also lead to health problems including insomnia, gastrointestinal problems, dental cavities, mental health issues including depression, as well as the more serious increased liver, heart and cancer risks.


Do fizzy drinks get you drunk quicker?

Yes, when you drink a fizzy/carbonated alcoholic drink, it is absorbed by the small intestine faster than non-carbonated drinks.

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