Ever wondered if that glass of wine or vodka tonic is hurting your health? If you have, then you're just like most of my patients. This can be confusing, because (like most other things), the answer is different for each person.
With the summer upon us, many people find they're given the opportunity to drink more than usual because there will be more socializing, barbeques and vacations. For this reason, I’d like to offer some guidelines so that perhaps you can make better choices.
Is Alcohol Good or Bad?
The answer is, it depends. While studies have shown that red wine contains resveratrol, a compound that is protective for heart disease, other studies have shown that any alcohol at all increases your risk for cancer.
What to do?
You need to weigh your own personal risk factors to decide what makes sense for you.
When Alcohol Is Good For You
Red wine is good for your heart. For people who want to prevent heart disease, or are at high risk, a glass of red wine every day seems to be not only OK, but actually good for you. And while red wine is best, other alcohol in moderation is okay too.
What does high risk mean? You are high risk for heart disease if you have angina, atherosclerosis (narrowing of your arteries), or have failed a stress test; if you had a heart attack, bypass surgery, or a stroke. You're also considered high-risk if one of these things happened to one of your parents when they were in their 50’s.
When Alcohol Is Bad For You
If you have cancer or a family history of cancer
Any amount of alcohol consumption of any kind, increases your risk for cancer. If you're concerned about cancer because you have a strong family history, or you've had cancer yourself, you should not drink. Period. Does this mean that an occasional cocktail will hurt you? Probably not. But chronic daily consumption, or drinking several days every week, is not a good idea.
If you have known issues with your liver
Another thing to keep in mind: alcohol stresses your liver. If you have known issues with your liver, other toxin exposure like mold or heavy metals or pesticides that are affecting your health, you shouldn’t drink. Or if you do, keep it to an occasional glass.
If you have multiple chemical sensitivities
If you can’t tolerate smells like perfume or cigarette smoke, this can be a sign that your liver is stressed with too many toxins. If you’re looking to do a safe and medically-sound detox check out my free online program.
If you have diabetes, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, or are trying to lose weight
Keep in mind that when you drink a glass of wine or a cocktail mixed with juice, you are consuming a glass of sugar. This can trigger cravings for bread and dessert and other starchy foods, and cause you to make poor food choices that undermine your healthy eating goals.
This isn’t a deal-breaker, but rather a warning to be careful, and to choose lower sugar options when you drink — which means avoiding martinis and cocktails with added syrup and juices, and opting for wine or a cocktail with club soda or fresh lime juice.
The bottom line
If you're low-risk for cancer and believe that your liver is generally healthy, then alcohol in moderation seems to be OK, which to me means alcohol socially on the weekend, and avoiding high sugar cocktails.
If you want to protect your heart, then red wine seems to be good for you, and you can enjoy a daily glass of your favorite Pinot Noir guilt-free.
If you're going to drink, here's how to be smart about it:
There are two things to consider when you drink. The first is your liver, and the second is the sugar.
Alcohol is viewed as a toxin by the body and needs to be processed in the liver just like mercury, pesticides, plastics and everything else to which you're exposed in the environment.
It also can deplete your body of B vitamins, especially B12, folate and B6. Therefore, make sure to take a good B-complex to protect yourself against this depletion.
We also suggest supporting your liver with supplements like milk thistle or doing a liver support detox program once or twice a year. Another great tip: before drinking alcohol, pad the lining of your stomach with healthy fats like nuts and seeds, avocado, or something made with olive oil or coconut oil.
This will slow the emptying time of the stomach so that alcohol will be absorbed slowly into the body resulting in less accumulation of toxins.
To enjoy alcohol healthfully this summer, drink small amounts with a meal that contains healthy fats.