How to healthily consume alcohol

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OVER the past few weeks we have been speaking about alcohol- what it does to our mind and body – and whether our consumption is too much.

Most experts on alcohol and addiction will tell you that the safest amount of alcohol is none at all but there are quite a number of things that we can do to drink healthier.
There are two aspects to this- individual and the role of society/policymakers.
Today we are going to focus on the individual- what you personally can do to ensure the safest level of drinking.

As previously revealed, there are countless factors (both in and out of our control) which will determine how alcohol affects us, how much we consume and even whether we become addicted. Absolutely everyone responds to alcohol differently.
Therefore, these tips on healthier drinking are basic and general but can be successfully implemented based on your personal situation or current level of use.

The first and one of the most important to healthy consumption is to always eat before you start to drink alcohol. Alcohol is not broken down in the stomach but rather the small intestines which means that a full stomach will slow down the absorption of the alcohol. Without this, the intoxication happens much faster and is additionally dangerous.

Also, if you are drinking for long periods of time, a few snacks in between can’t hurt.
The second is to avoid binge drinking which means large and dangerous amounts in one sitting or during a short period of time. This amount differs between men and women with it being five or more for men and four or more for women. This is an important rule to follow as our liver can only process one drink per hour. Whatever cannot be processed in that time will remain in our bloodstream.

It is advised to have a glass of water or coconut water between every two or three drinks – depending on the amount you drink. The water concentration in your body is one factor that determines how drunk one can become. It will also fill up the stomach so you automatically drink less. This also makes a hangover much less likely as a hangover is basically severe dehydration.

While the over-consumption of any alcohol is ill-advised, there are some types of alcohol that are healthier than others.

Wine (not high wine!), in moderation, for example, is known to be physically healthier than most for a number of reasons. It contains small amounts of iron and potassium as well as it reduces the possibility of heart disease. It also holds a smaller amount of calories than most liquors which avoids weight gain.

Surprisingly, Guinness is known for having similar antioxidants and benefits as red wine, also reducing the possibility of blood clots and heart disease. It has a bit more calories than wine though!
However, do remember that nothing is healthier if it is multiplied by five. Moderation is key.

Another option which makes a huge difference is to switch to liquor with a lower alcohol content, especially if you are going to drink for long periods of time. Spirits usually contain about 40 per cent alcohol while beer or wine range from 5-15 per cent, a much safer and healthier choice.

An additional good tip is not to mix the type of alcohol that is being consumed – something that many of us do. We may start out with beer then switch to rum, have some shots in between then back to beer for a ‘wash down’. This confuses the body and liver on how to proceed to break down the alcohol and therefore brings about a much faster intoxication and dangerous interaction. Research on the topic also shows that mixing drinks puts you more at risk for alcohol poisoning.

Try to avoid alcohol or mixed drinks that are high in sugar as these are more likely to raise blood pressure, disrupt our metabolism as well as contribute to other issues such as

diabetes and obesity.

After a night of drinking, make sure you take your vitamins, mainly C and B and refuel on electrolytes. Alcohol depletes these, especially potassium and calcium so have a banana (for example) the next day for a better and healthier recovery.

Finally, stop drinking alcohol at least an hour before you go to sleep. Make sure you drink water for that hour. This is just to ensure you lessen the intoxication, have a better quality of sleep as well as a slightly less painful hangover.

It may sound difficult but just be aware of how much you are currently consuming and make an effort to cut it down during every session. For example, keep track of how many alcoholic drinks you consume during this week or next weekend. If you have counted 10, ensure that it does not s eight the following week. Even the smallest step is progress. No one should really drink more than one drink per day. However, ideally, everyone should have at least three non-drinking days. Just set small goals and stick to them.

There are also indirect behavioural changes that one can make to ensure safer drinking.

 

Not drinking and driving is a good place to start. Utilise the resources we have; buses, taxis etc. Avoiding people who usually make you aggressive or emotional unstable in general would also be a good idea. You can also help out others. If you notice that a friend or family member has drunk too much, ensure their safety. Make sure they get home okay or don’t practice any unsafe behaviours themselves.

It is important for me to mention that anyone with physical health problems such as diabetes, liver or heart diseases or an active mental illness, particularly substance abuse should not be consuming any alcohol at all. The same goes for women who are pregnant.
In the upcoming weeks, I will provide the necessary knowledge and tips to make this a possibility.

Please read next week to see what society, as well as policies, can help to lower the consumption of our people.

Thanking you for reading. Please keep sending any topics you’d like to talk about to caitlinvieira@gmail.com

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