7 Reasons Not To Say Cheers!
In my quest to beat the Anti-GRL’s (read about that here), I have decided to go…
75 DAYS ALCOHOL FREE!
Does that header make you want to run, screaming in circles like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone? It does for me. Which is why I know it’s going to be really good for me. Although, if I ever refer to Home Alone again, please somebody slap me.
So to help me last the 75 days, I researched the top 7 health reasons not to drink.
I have always enjoyed drinking socially. It helps strangers to become friends, allows the stressed out to relax, boys to have enough gumption to talk to girls, and the senior executive at your firm to rub shoulders with the factory floor staff with ease, and vice versa. But there are times when one glass too many and I end up waking up the next day feeling like a marinated pickle – unable to do anything but mope around and lick my wounds.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not an alcoholic. I’ve had a month here or there of laying off the booze, and my drinking antics only occur once every couple months these days. But when I have fun, I do it well. In fact, I am the Captain of that ship! Well…why not, it’s all harmless fun right?
The times I’ve been on a detox or when I simply choose not to drink, the pressure I get from the people around me to break my detox and drink is quite astonishing and can be quite confrontational at times. They want drinking Nicole, because she is fun to be around. The other Nicole is OK, but the drinking girl is more entertaining!
Australian society is one that drinks together Not drinking means you are going against the grain and puts you on the outer.Not having a beer or joining in to cheers is simply Un-Australian, right?
Plus, my choice to abstain from alcohol might make other drinkers stop for a fleeting moment to look at their own lives, and sometimes people just don’t want to look in the mirror; it makes them feel bad about what they see.
Lately I am acutely aware of how quickly time is passing me by and then, add to this, how much time I have wasted in my lifetime due to post-party blues, all for a few fun hours the night before. It’s beyond depressing! It’s high time I decided to Get Real and take this distraction out of my life. Will I stop drinking forever? I doubt that. But for the time being, alcohol my dear friend…its time to go!
Starting today, for the next 75 days, I am off the booze! Why 75 days? Why does everyone else do 30?! 75 days seems like a good challenge. And to help me last the 75 days, I have researched 7 heath reasons not to drink. But before we jump into that, lets get to know the basics.
Once alcohol is consumed about 10-20% is absorbed directly into the bloodstream via the stomach and reaches your heart, brain, muscles and other tissues in under a minute. The other 80-90% is transported to the liver where it is broken down to acetaldehyde by the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase. Acetaldehyde is a close relative of formaldehyde (used to embalm or preserve human remains) and is toxic and highly reactive, more so than alcohol itself. It’s this excess of acetaldehyde that is the main cause of liver damage.
To further break down and remove acetaldehyde, the body releases the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), which is rate limiting, and glutathione (which acts like sticky fly paper attracting toxins) converting it to lesser toxic by-products – acetate and NADH. Acetate can then be used to form fatty acids (hooray, just what we want, more fat!) and carbon dioxide and water.
If we consume more alcohol than the liver can metabolise, acetaldehyde will continue to build up, cycling through the bloodstream until the liver can break it down. “Hey! Take a number dude, I’m busy!” It can take approximately 3 hours for just one glass of alcohol to be metabolised and removed from the body. However, some people have more ALDH than others, meaning they can metabolise alcohol faster. In general women tend to have less of this enzyme than men, meaning more acetaldehyde circulating in our system for longer, and more severe hangovers. Yes…it’s definitely a man’s world!
So what does excess acetaldehyde in the blood contribute to? It can lead to lowered blood pressure, more rapid heartbeat, and …tada… THE HANGOVER. No, not the movie, the painful and very much unwanted side effect of the night before.
I CAN’T READ ANYMORE!!! MY BRAIN IS FULL. Fine…watch this handy video by asapSCIENCE, which will explain the hangover in fewer words. WATCH VIDEO
SO DRINKING TOO MUCH MEANS:
- Increased Acetaldehyde formation (interfering with the activation of vitamins and listed as a possible carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer)
- Increased NADH production (leads to lactate acidosis & hypoglycemia, leading to weight gain, fatty liver, and heart attack)
- Increased hypoxia (the inability of cells to take up or utilize oxygen from the bloodstream)
- A reduction of antioxidants (the good guys who stop oxidation reactions that can lead to chain reactions that lead to cellular damage or cell death)
- Inhibition of glutamine – glutamine is the most abundant amino acid (building blocks of protein) in the body, and the predominant amino acid in muscles. Glutamine makes the antioxidant glutathione (the good guy that removes toxins). However, once you stop drinking, the body tends to overcompensate by overproducing glutamine, which can result in a restless sleep and heightened anxiety.
And before you say, “but I am not a heavy drinker so this doesn’t relate to me”…a heavy drinker is typically defined as consuming more than 2 drinks per day, or more than 14 drinks per week on average. And even less for women. Suddenly, I have come to the realisation that I know A LOT of heavy drinkers!!!
7 HEALTH REASONS NOT TO DRINK:
1. Alcohol promotes fat storage
Alcohol = empty calories, meaning alcohol is lacking in nutrients, but not calories. Well thats no newsflash, I mean we don’t really drink to get healthy and thin now do we?! It also has twice as many calories (39kJ/g) as macronutrients, protein (17kJ/g) and carbohydrate (16kJ/g). But…we don’t usually drink INSTEAD of eating all day (unless you stand by the old saying “eatin’s cheatin'”), so you can add the calories from your daily meals to the sum of all of your drinks to get your daily caloric intake. Not to mention, the calories you get from any added mixers such as Coke or lemonade and any hangover meals you devour on your crawl home (hello souvlaki van!)
To make matters worse, the byproduct acetate, takes over as the priority fuel to be burned for energy, meaning that the body chooses to metabolise the acetate, over any other fuel i.e. carb (glucose), fat or protein. Acetate is also metabolized to acetyl CoA, which is involved in lipid (fat) and cholesterol production.
So…any calories or fat in your system from last night’s extra helping of cake stay exactly where they are, thank you very much. Which = Fatty McFat Fat.
If losing weight is your goal, your liver can’t help you burn fat if it’s preoccupied with alcohol.
2. Fatty liver and cirrhosis
The liver is the largest organ in the body and bears most of the brunt of our alcohol consumption. It should be no surprise then that fatty liver, fat accumulation in the liver (also called steatosis), can occur from excessive drinking. Being overweight and eating a diet full of carbohydrates, or being skinny and eating a lot of carbohydrates along with alcohol, can also lead to…yep, you guessed it – fatty liver.
A fatty liver then further impairs the organs regular functioning, resulting in inflammation (steatohepatitis). Fatty liver is reversible IF the diet is corrected and alcohol intake is ceased.
If not reversed, fatty liver can lead to abnormal scarring (fibrosis), as the liver tries in vain to repair itself, leaving it irreversibly scarred – also known as cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis can then develop into diabetes, high blood pressure, liver failure, liver cancer, cardiovascular events and liver-related death.
Cirrhosis of the liver is the 10th largest overall killer of men in Australia.
Interestingly, one study noted that coffee drinking is associated with a reduced risk of cirrhosis. They also stated that more research is required to understand whether it’s the coffee itself that contains protective substances, or its the lifestyle related tendencies of coffee drinkers. Hmmm…that’s alcohol 0 : Coffee 1.
I could go on forever about liver disease, but just one more interesting point. There is considerable evidence suggesting that saturated fat (coconut oil, avocado) is protective against liver disease, while polyunsaturated fat a.k.a. Omega 6 (vegetable oils such as corn oil or sunflower oil and even pork) cause it *. But we can get more into fats and oils down the track…
Various studies on the impact of alcohol on fertility on both men and women have shown detrimental impacts such as; decreased probability of conception rate by over 50%, decreased implantation rate, increased risk of miscarriage and fetal death. These effects were speculated to be due to hormonal fluctuations. One study on 1050 women from seven infertility clinics investigated the relationship between moderate alcohol intake and fertility. Results showed an increase in infertility due to ovulatory factors (factors that prevent the maturation and release of the ovum from the ovary) or endometriosis with alcohol use.
Another study by Hakim et al, showed a 50% reduction in the probability of conception in participants who consumed alcohol during a menstrual cycle.
For the fellas, semen volume, count and motility is significantly decreased with heavy drinking, leading to an overall negative effect on male reproductive hormones and fertility.
It’s plain and simple folks – if you are trying to have a bambino (or you are pregnant), DONT DRINK!
4. Brain damage
Brain cells aren’t damaged directly by alcohol itself, but the by-products of breaking alcohol down (we discussed this earlier on) can cause brain damage. More importantly, chronic alcohol consumption can alter the way your brain communicates, as alcohol can damage brain cell neurons (the cells that transmit messages), specifically the dendrites (the end bits). So you might lose the ability to turn left. No, just kidding, I just made that bit up to see if you were paying attention.
Other causes of brain damage can result from deficiencies related to alcohol indulgence, such as thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency which can lead to Wernicke’s encephalopathy (WE). There’s also Wernicke– Korsakoff syndrome, hepatic encephalopathy (worsening of brain function due to the liver no longer being able to remove toxins) and pellagra (Vit B3 deficiency resulting in dementia, dermatitis and diarrhoea) — all deficiency diseases with correlated with heavy drinking, known to cause cognitive impairments and dementia.
An estimated 50–75% of long-term drinkers show cognitive impairment and structural damage to the brain. Further, alcoholism is the second leading cause of dementia behind Alzheimer’s disease.
5. The C word
Cancer. Alcohol can cause cancer. Really, that in itself is enough to make you put down your drink.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has warned that alcohol consumption is a cause of breast cancer, with the risk increasing with the amount consumed.
One meta-analysis (a comparison of previous studies), examined 53 studies of over 58,000 women with breast cancer, with results showing that women who drink more than 3 drinks a day, have 1.5 times the risk of developing breast cancer than nondrinkers.
Although the exact relationship is not yet understood, it is clear that alcohol is a cause of cancer. The toxic by-product acetaldehyde increases free radicals in the body (the bad guys) which increase the risk of cancer. Acetaldehyde also gives rise to an increase in oestrogen concentration, which can lead to breast cancer.
6. Decreased testosterone…
In one study, normal healthy men were given 220 grams of alcohol daily for 4 weeks. To put that into perspective, a schooner in S.A. and a pot in Victoria are both 285ml, so they were given less than one beer. After 5 days testosterone levels had declined and continued to do so as the study progressed
A lack of testosterone in men can lead to increased body fat, decreased muscle mass (yes, less muscle gain which means a lowered metabolic rate, which means a slower rate of burning off the pie you just ate), altered cholesterol metabolism, a reduced sex drive (boo!), accelerated osteoporosis and infertility. Further, there is a correlation between low testosterone, obesity and a prevalence of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
More importantly, a prolonged testosterone deficiency contributes to feminization in males, i.e. Gynecomastia – a.k.a MAN BOOBS!! Fatty McFat Fat strikes again!
Well congratulations! You’ve earned yourself a hangover. Lets see what you’ve won. Behind door number 1 we have a dry mouth, or you can have door number 2 – a splitting headache, then we have fatigue, thirst, or perhaps you prefer sensitivity to light and sound, sweating, the shakes, anxiety or an insatiable appetite?
Yeah, we’ve all been here before. None of these symptoms are great, and if you’re like me, you usually get about four of these unlucky door prizes at once.
Hmmm…Only 74 days to go.
What distraction could you do without for 75 days? Why not join me and take 75 days off your major distraction too?