We all know that alcohol isn’t the greatest thing for us, but it doesn’t hurt to drink once in awhile. Right?
Well, the latest research in health and sleep doesn’t exactly support this. Alcoholism got the flack for negative health effects, but even sporadic binge drinking or daily nightcaps are wearing away at our bodies. If you drink, you have five reasons to stop.
(1) Alcohol Is A SERIOUS Toxin
Whether we’re drinking beer, vodka, or wine; it’s all alcohol (ethanol, to be specific). Ironically, the damage from drinking doesn’t come from booze itself. It’s metabolizing it that’s the problem.
In order for our bodies to process alcohol, our liver has to break it down two different times. The first time that the liver breaks it down, alcohol is converted into acetaldehyde — a compound that’s about 30x more toxic and resembles formaldehyde (alcohol = cancer risk). Luckily, we have our livers to convert acetaldehyde into harmless acetic acid. The downside to our super-helpful liver is that it can only metabolize about a drink an hour. Of course, alcohol content varies so, sip down three drinks in an hour, and you’ll have acetaldehyde floating around in your bloodstream and making rounds through tissues and the brain. We know this means trouble for our biological filter (the liver), but acetaldehyde’s impact on the body connects alcohol consumption with increased risk of oral cancers, breast cancer, and other serious health conditions.
(2) Alcohol “Hangs Out” In Our Bloodstream
This may not seem like a big deal, but consider this…our blood serves as a highway to transport nutrients and carry away wastes. That means blood has access to every single organ and tissue within our body; brain included. Well, the moment alcohol hits the stomach, it begins to leak into the bloodstream. Drink more than a drink per hour, and toxic acetaldehyde will circulate throughout the body, beating up cells and tissues everywhere it goes.
Our body has the ability to flush alcohol out, but it takes some serious measures that raise blood pressure and drop blood sugar (hello 2am munchies). All that “flushing” also leads to dehydration and the loss of vital electrolytes. This is a bad thing as anyone who’s been hungover knows. Water loss plus acetaldehyde is absolutely brutal on the brain, belly, joints, muscles, and — most embarrassingly — the bowels. Meaning those post-work drinks aren’t so great after all.
(3) It Destroys The “Second Brain”
The latest research on the microbiome has revealed the gut to be the brain’s secret sidekick. Our digestive system is lined with hundreds of trillions of microbes. Yes, they help out with digestion as all yogurt eaters know, but they also receive and even produce signal molecules. Some of these molecules are neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. These “brain chemicals” have a big role in mood and mental well-being, as most of us know, but these good-mood neurotransmitters and hormones aren’t exclusive to the brain. Actually, new research shows that as much as 90% of serotonin could be produced in the gut. So, probiotic supplements and fermented foods are like nature’s antidepressants!
A healthy microbiome is a must-have for a healthy body, and now we’re seeing it’s just as important for mental well-being. The kicker here is that alcohol disrupts microbiota balance and increases gut permeability. Because booze feeds harmful yeasts and bacteria, colonies of unfriendly microbes begin to overpower our microbiome, and keep it from performing its many tasks. That can lead to all sorts of trouble.
(4) Alcohol Ages Our Skin
Whatever your drink of choice may be, alcohol will have negative effects on that pretty face. Alcohol acts as a diuretic by suppressing the production of antidiuretic hormone, thereby causing our body to release water reserves to help flush out the alcohol (and making for some ridiculously long bathroom lines).
In addition, alcohol is a hepatotoxin that does serious damage to our liver. Considering that the organ is in charge of keeping us detoxified and performing at our best, it’s a no-brainer that healthy skin takes a healthy liver. Sweet drinks are even worse for the skin because of the inflammatory effects sugar has on the body. But sweetened or not, alcohol causes dehydration and toxicity that will look bad on all skin types.
(5) Booze Ruins Our Zzzzz’s
Have enough drinks, and we may pass out before we even make it to bed. But whether we fall asleep on on the couch, or we curl up on the floor; we won’t be sleeping like a rock.
Study after study shows that alcohol does not cause deeper sleep. Drinking absolutely makes us drowsy by increasing delta waves (slow wave sleep patterns), but as we sleep off our night out, this is joined by a spark of alpha wave patterns. Alpha wave activity happens when we’re in a wakeful state, so the brain and body aren’t getting the rest they need. Scientists still have a thing or two to learn about the connection between alcohol and sleep, but the myth of the ole alcohol nightcap is debunked .
Saying No To Alcohol
If you’re looking for a healthier body and state of mind, then cutting out (or back) on alcohol is a sure way to help make that happen. For drinking habits on the lighter side, a healthier lifestyle with a correct detox regimen to maximize health (note: if you’d like help with the “healthier lifestyle” part, check out our Healthy Body Blueprint).
If you’re drinking daily or excessively, then there are special detox considerations to take into the equation. Just like people suffer headaches and shakes from caffeine withdrawals, sudden withdrawal of alcohol can have some ugly symptoms. The physical and chemical changes of going “cold turkey” can cause seizures, so it needs to be taken much more seriously than a hardcore caffeine habit.
To conclude, beer and red wine may come with a few minor health bene’s, but they only come in drinking small amounts now and then. Alcohol will always have more negative health effects than positive ones, and the consequences on health only rise the more often we drink, and the more drinks we kick back. If our goal is to be healthy and destress, alcohol can’t compete with exercise, relaxing routines, fun activities, a tall glass of kombucha, or a cup of hot tea.
Of course, long workdays and holiday parties can have us hugging a drink in our hand. If we do find ourselves drinking, then we should follow these important tips.
- Limit drinks to one per hour (make it even less than that if you’re driving, please and thank you!).
- Eat before and during drinking to slow down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.
- Sip on a glass of water between drinks to dilute the concentration of alcohol in the body. This precaution also means a dilution in the beloved buzz of alcohol, but it guarantees that we’ll feel 100x better the next day.
- Offset alcohol’s negative effects with a dose of vitamin C (for faster detoxification). Eat eggs (for cysteine) to help the liver with glutathione production. And don’t forget to drink up electrolytes to offset all the electrolytes being flushed down the toilet.
- Pay attention to how drinking makes your body feel. The more “time off” you take from drinking, the more you’ll notice alcohol’s unpleasant effects on the mind, body, and behavior.
Now, we could avoid booze altogether by getting into virgin mixology. The detoxifying mocktails from Liquid Muse are the perfect addition to any party. They use kombucha, apple cider vinegar, matcha, and homemade fermented lemonade, They’re the “night cap” of a health nut’s dreams!
Sources for this article include:
Acetaldehyde Formed After Alcohol Consumption Damages DNA, May Increase Risk Of Cancer — Medical News Today
Is High Alcohol Consumption Linked To Oral Cancer? — Our Dental Care
The Mind-Gut Connection: Could Your Gut Microbes Be Affecting How You Feel? — WBUR
This Is What Alcohol Does To Your Sleep — TIME
How Long Does It Take To Detox From Alcohol — Pinnacle Peak
4 Surprising Ingredients For Delightfully-Detoxifying Mocktails — The Liquid Muse