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Here’s to Your Health!

Alcohol may be inhibiting you from living your best life

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Here’s to Your Health!

Alcoholic beverages are one of the most broadly used and socially accepted drugs on the planet. Paradoxically, they are also one of the greatest obstacles to peak mental and physical health. The trillion-dollar question: is the use of this generally accepted social lubricant really worth it to you, and what are the alternatives?

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The silly juice packs a punch

Aside from making you a suddenly spectacular dancer, a fearless and pitch-perfect karaoke star, or a comedian of Seinfeldian proportions, alcoholic beverages (which I will refer to as “alcohol” henceforth) have a significant impact on our bodies.

Health Canada has recently updated its Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines to state that negative health implications begin to surface when weekly consumption of any kind of alcohol (beer, red wine/white wine, spirits, etc.) exceeds two drinks. Yep, that’s right, more than two drinks in a week and you are increasing your risk of developing certain cancers. More than six per week increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.

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It’s okay: I have plenty of practice

Not only do you not get better at drinking as you age, but you actually become more of a lightweight. Your decline from Animal House hero is due mainly due to a decrease in muscle mass and total body water percentage, a greater quantity of which in your youth helps to slow the metabolism of alcohol in your blood system.

More concerning is that, in recent years, regular alcohol consumption and binge drinking have increased among those over the age of 55, but they remain more susceptible to the negative effects of inebriation: falls, cardiovascular events, and hangovers. In plain English, you lose your inhibitions without any of the bounce.

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A glass a day keeps the …

You may have heard that a glass of red wine each day helps facilitate positive heart health. Well, maybe … and maybe not. The relationship between fitness and alcohol consumption is a funny one. Believe it or not, those who exercise more also tend to drink more.

But we know that health habits tend to cluster—meaning that, if someone practises one healthy habit, they tend to practise more than one. As an example, those who subscribe to “a glass a day” are also more likely to subscribe to the health-conscious Mediterranean diet, exercise multiple times per week, and lead a more active lifestyle.

However, here is a reality not up for debate: alcohol consumption interferes with your body’s ability to synthesize protein. For those striving for a toned physique, this means that not only will your ability to build muscle be stunted, but you’re likely to actually lose some of the muscle tone and strength that you worked so hard for.

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Sober curious? You can still experiment as you age.

Sure, it’s fun to tip a few drinks back with your besties at the lake or take the edge off a particularly stressful day with your favourite vino, but knowing what you now know about regular, or even semi-regular alcohol consumption, you might consider cutting back or even going cold turkey. Why?

  • You get to avoid feeling like hot garbage for the next three days.
  • You get to utilize first-hand memory rather than relying on flattering Facebook pictures.
  • You start a continued trajectory toward optimal health and longevity.
  • You get to be an excellent health role model for any little ones (or big ones) in your life.

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But I don’t want to be Captain Buzzkill

Want to be the most popular person in your friend group? Volunteer to be the designated driver! When was the last time you were upset that someone offered to chauffer you around town while you imbibed? Here are some other strategies to test-drive social sobriety.

  • Substitute your dinner drink with an alternative such as “fancy water” (for example, water with a slice of cucumber) or a mocktail from alive’s library of delicious recipes (com). (If you haven’t tried the Melon Fizz, you ain’t livin’!)
  • Be honest with your own intentions when you’re going out with friends whose intention it is to binge; better yet, avoid situations where drinking is convention.
  • If you use alcohol as a coping mechanism, identify your triggers and substitute drinking with another healthier coping activity (jogging, yoga, hiking, or cycling).
  • Still unsure? Test the waters with the #SoberFebruary social movement!

Gen Z—the sobered generation?

Among Gen Z, there’s a notable trend of drinking less alcohol compared to older generations. This includes having their first drink later in life, drinking less frequently, and drinking smaller amounts or abstaining altogether.

While part of this pattern can be linked to a more proactive and informed approach to protecting their health, different leisure-time activities compared to older generations, and an increased acceptance of individuality, research suggests that the broader driving factors of Gen Z’s reduced consumption of alcohol are complex socio-economic realties that present Gen Z with an uncertain future. These realities include climate change, financial insecurity, and an increase in reported feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anxiety, as well as increased pressure to perform.

In this context, steering away from the alcohol use patterns of previous generations is suggested to be tied to Gen Z’s general desire to stay in control as they work toward safeguarding what they can for the future, whether it be getting a good education, career building, protecting their public/online image, securing a stable financial position, or making conscious diet decisions intended to protect environmental health.

When alcohol consumption becomes a concern

The number of drinks per week associated with a substance abuse problem varies by the individual. For this reason, rather than a specific number or range, a better indicator of an alcohol abuse problem may include …

  • feeling a constant need to have a drink
  • not meeting obligations at work, home, or school due to drinking
  • friends and relatives expressing concerns about an alcohol abuse problem

Services aimed at helping with alcohol abuse

If you or someone you know needs help with substance use, services are available to anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Resource Information Contact
Wellness Together Canada   ·       immediate, free, and confidential mental health and substance use help 24/7 ·       virtual services in English and French ·       interpretation services available ·       ca.portal.gs ·       1-866-585-0445 ·       Adults: text WELLNESS to 741741 ·       Youth: text WELLNESS to 686868
Drug Rehab Services   free, confidential, professional help and resources for drug and alcohol addiction in Canada ·         drugrehab.ca ·         1-877-254-3348
Alcoholics Anonymous free meetings and support .        aa.org/find-aa
SMART Recovery ·      free support meetings (in-person and virtual) ·      science-based, self-empowered addiction recovery .    meetings.smartrecovery.org/meetings/location/

Quick facts

  • Up until the early 1900s, milkshakes were an adult drink that reportedly contained whiskey.
  • It takes 90 seconds or less for your first sip of alcohol to reach your bloodstream.
  • The strongest beer in the world, “Snake Venom” from Scotland, is 67.5 percent alcohol.
  • Dark drinks give you worse hangovers (it’s not the sugar, it’s the congeners—naturally occurring compounds in alcoholic beverages).

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