When you’re a healthcare provider, there’s an unwritten rule to follow when it comes to alcohol: Take whatever amount of alcohol the patient actually admits to drinking, and double or triple it to get the real picture. For some reason, it’s something that almost everyone lies about. Maybe because we intuitively know that even in “moderate” amounts, it’s damaging our bodies, our relationships with others, and preventing us from coping in healthier ways.
The media loves to justify your nightly glass of red wine and say “it’s good for your heart”, or “people who drink daily live longer”. Not only that, but thanks to social media, ‘mommy wine culture’ now tells us that the best way to parent is with a glass of wine in hand. Maybe instead of encouraging moms to drink wine to cope with impossible expectations and infinite to-do lists, we could encourage slowing down and as a society, decide that if our expectations of mothers are driving them to drink on a nightly basis, we’re doing something very wrong. That’s a rant for another time though.
Let’s stick to the facts regarding alcohol and your physiology:
- People who drink just 1-7 drinks per week have measurably smaller brains than people who drink less than that. (And when it comes to brains, size MATTERS.) Of course, the more the number of drinks goes up per week, the more shrinkage we see. This impact is even more profound if alcohol is consumed before the brain is fully formed (ie, underage drinking)
- With heavy drinkers, the amount of blood flow to the brain decreases as well. This means brain fog, impulsivity, and increased risk of dementia. Even moderate drinkers can have up to a 57% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s!
- Just 1-2 glasses of wine per night specifically shrinks the hippocampus–the memory center of your brain! Can’t remember what you had for breakfast or the new coworker’s name? Maybe it’s the wine…
- Are you still pretending it helps you sleep? Definitely not true. You might feel like you fall asleep faster, but the sleep quality is so much poorer. Not to mention it will make your sleep apnea worse (meaning far less oxygen to your brain overnight!)
- Alcohol, even in small amounts, is known to alter our immune response as well. This can mean anything from more frequent illnesses to increased risk of cancer!
- Weight gain or struggling to lose weight can also become a problem if you drink. Not only is alcohol a big source of empty calories, but it inhibits leptin and GLP-1, hormones that inhibit your appetite. Don’t complain that you’re “doing everything right and still not losing weight” if you’re not willing to swap out your happy hour habits.
- Hormone health. Studies show that women will INCREASE their androgen production (male hormones–hello, PCOS + acne!) and men will DECREASE their testosterone production with drinking. That leaves us with some not-so-fun symptoms, not to mention fertility issues.
- Alcohol also has the potential to make our guts leakier and make bacterial imbalances even worse. You know by now, gut health is the cornerstone of whole-body health.
- Have you been told you have issues with histamine? Alcohol is HIGH in histamine and will make symptoms significantly worse.
- Lastly, it goes without saying that your poor liver is unable to keep up with detoxifying the daily toxin exposures you encounter when it’s bogged down by your alcohol consumption. This creates a beast of its own that can increase risk of nearly every chronic disease.
Just because its a social norm, doesn’t mean it’s not impacting your health. If you’ve got issues that just won’t resolve, weight that refuses to come off, or traumas that you’ve avoided processing, maybe it’s time to consider completely cutting out alcohol–you know, before you literally ‘lose your mind’.