Friday 07 July, 2017 0 Comments

Can anyone believe that it is already July? With the return of 'Dry July' it felt like a good time for us to talk about alcohol. 

Love it or leave it, alcohol is very ingrained into our Kiwi culture. Most social occasions involve some form of alcoholic beverage.  In fact, most people don't even realise just how much alcohol they're consuming. Have a think about it, what's the longest period you've gone without a drink? 

In this blog, we'll be looking at the positive and negative effects alcohol has on your body and what you can do about it.

 

So, what is alcohol?

Alcohol has a stimulating effect on our body. Like other stimulating substances such as; caffeine, sugar and refined carbohydrates, alcohol raises insulin and cortisol within the body. It's also a pure carbohydrate, so alcohol basically has the same effect on the body as drinking a soft drink.

Your blood sugar levels will spike, providing you with an immediate source of energy followed by a crash. Over time this contrasting peak, trough effect can let to health concerns such as Type 2 Diabetes. 

"I always say alcohol gives you a buzz, but it's not for free, it's stealing from your future – think of that hangover as paying towards your debt." 

When you drink an alcoholic beverage, 10% of the ethanol is broken down by the stomach as a "first pass" effect. Another 10% is metabolised by your brain and other organs - the ethanol that is partially metabolised in your brain is the reason you experience that familiar "buzz."

The remaining 80% hits your liver making it one of our biggest liver loaders. I always say alcohol gives you a buzz, but it's not for free, it's stealing from your future – think of that hangover as paying towards your debt.

I talk more about the effect alcohol has on your liver and therefore your body and health in the video excerpt below. 

 

Positive effects of alcohol on the body 

We'll start with the good news first. 

Moderate alcohol consumption is considered to be one unit (e.g. one glass of wine, a bottle of beer or a shot of liquor) a day. When looking at moderate consumption of alcohol, the research does show some health benefit.

Research hasn't yet been able to say exactly why this is – whether it's the effect of the alcohol itself or simply that when people have a drink at the end of the day they're usually taking 20 minutes to relax. My assumption is it's likely to be the second option. 

"When looking at moderate consumption of alcohol, the research does show some health benefit."

When deciding what to drink, you want to be focusing on your unpasteurised red wines and beers as they contain some probiotics, good bacteria, vitamins and minerals. Red wine contains resveratrol which is a molecule that comes from fermented grapes. Resveratrol can also help activate the sirtuin pathway which is beneficial to longevity.   

 

Negative effects of alcohol on the body

I tend to refer to modern alcohol as "empty calories," meaning that it provides little to no nutritional value and is something that we choose to consume for emotional reasons, not nutritional ones.

"I tend to refer to modern alcohol as "empty calories," meaning that it provides little to no nutritional value."

That's because most of the alcohol we drink today is pasteurised. On the flip side of the benefits we discussed above for unpasteurised alcohol, pasteurised alcohol retains yeast but none (or inconsequential amounts) of the probiotics, good bacteria, vitamins and minerals.

In addition, a glass of beer or a glass of wine contains between 100 – 200 calories - this is true even of unpasterised red wine and beer. That's roughly the same as two pieces of bread or a McDonalds Hamburger. If you have a glass of wine or a beer each night of the week, you have potentially consumed the equivalent in calories of seven McDonalds Hamburgers! It all comes back to food choices and enjoying treats on occasion and in moderation. 

"If you have a glass of wine or a beer each night of the week, you have potentially consumed the equivalent in calories of seven McDonalds Hamburgers!"

When looking at alcohol consumption over longer periods of time we are seeing people start to develop yeast intolerances as a result of leaky gut

Leaky gut  

What most people don't realise is that rather than a solid wall, your intestinal wall is actually comprised of many tight junctions. These junctions are the gateway between your intestines and bloodstream.

When you drink alcohol on an empty stomach it damages the intestines, weakening these junctions and causing gateways to open into the bloodstream. Pretty much anything you then eat is then able to flow straight from the intestines through these open gateways and into the blood stream.  

Your body knows that these undigested food particles should not be in your bloodstream, marking them as invaders. This causes an immune response and drives immediate inflammation within the body. Long term, food particles frequently labeled as an invader, such as yeast, cause your body to develop an intolerance to this food.    

Liver 

Like we discussed above, 80% of the ethanol your beverage contains will hit your liver and must be broken down there. Your liver converts ethanol into aldehydes, which produce free radicals that damage the proteins in your liver. 

"80% of the ethanol your beverage contains will hit your liver."

Some of these are converted to glucose, but in the process a large amount of excess citrate is formed, stimulating “junk chemicals.” These result in free fatty acids and very low-density, dangerous lipoprotein, which stimulates arterial plaque formation and triglycerides which contribute to obesity and heart disease. 

The resulting lipids, together with the ethanol, upregulate enzymes that induce an inflammatory cascade, causing hepatic insulin resistance, liver inflammation and cirrhosis*.

Fat globules also accumulate in your liver which can lead to fatty liver disease. Free fatty acids (FFAs) leave your liver and cause your skeletal muscles to become insulin resistant leading to Type 2 Diabetes. This risk is already exacerbated from the carbohydrate load of consuming alcohol in the first place. 

 

So what can you do?

1. Avoid drinking alcohol on an empty stomach or while eating.

2. Try to find other ways to relax and have fun. Meditation and yoga are great, try putting your legs up the wall, take a bath or read a magazine.  

3. Opt for a non-alcoholic beverage or alternate between the two. Kombucha and sparkling water are great during summer while a warm mug of chai or turmeric latte is lovely during the winter.  

4. Try to reduce your alcohol consumption to special occasions only and no more than 4 units per week.  

 

If you have any questions that were not covered in this blog post or would like more information on our BePure Programmes please get in touch. You can give us a call 0800 87 37 87 or email us at info@bepure.co.nz. 

*Cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver does not function properly due to long-term damage. This damage is characterised by the replacement of normal liver tissue by scar tissue.

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