Do I need to detox from alcohol?
As I sit here and write this, off the back of three independent Christmas parties in a row, all influenced by alcohol, I wonder how bad this is for my liver, and we haven’t even met the main event yet! I often think back to my youth, when drinking large volumes of drink was “normal”. In those good old days we would quote “the liver regenerates”, which is in part true, but like anything, it can only take so much. So, since Christmas, New Year and anything in the same vicinity generally involves a tipple or two, could January be the booze detox month?
The revised number of units of alcohol is now 14 for both men and women. A unit is 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, so it varies from drink to drink. Half a pint of beer and a single 25ml shot counts as 1 unit, while a small 125ml glass of standard strength wine and a standard pub shot (35ml) already counts as 1.5 units. Binge drinking, where you consume more than 4 units in one sitting, is bad for your health. You shouldn’t save all your units to consume on one night.
Drinking too much can lead to long-term health conditions, such as cancers, stroke, brain damage, high blood pressure as well as obesity and liver disease, while the short term effects can lead to loss of sleep as alcohol can disrupt your sleep cycle. According to the NHS, most people who have alcohol-related health problems aren’t alcoholics. They’re simply people who have regularly drunk more than the recommended levels for some years. Regularly drinking above recommended daily limits risks damaging your health. If you have drunk too much you should detox from alcohol for 48 hours to give your body a chance to recover.
Alcohol is high in calories. 1 gram of alcohol is equivalent to 7kcal (fat is 9kcal and carbohydrate is 4kcal). A unit of alcohol contains 56kcal, but add that to the other ingredients in the drink, or the juice or cream you mix it with and it’s easy to consume your day’s calorie requirements in just drinks. Added to the fact that alcohol is an appetite stimulant, we may find ourselves eating more at the dinner table, eating late into the night, or even over eating the following day.
Alcohol is also a diuretic, meaning you can become dehydrated if you only drink alcoholic beverages. Try to alternate alcoholic drinks with water or a (unsweetened) soft drink to avoid dehydration, and reduce the risk of a severe hangover.
If you are looking to reduce your intake of alcohol, have a go at a few of the following tips:
- Set a limit of how many drinks you are going to have before the night out
- Make sure you eat before you go out. Aim for something healthy and filling, such a soup, a sandwich or a vegetable smoothie
- Don’t drink an alcoholic drink if you are thirsty – drink water
- Try to avoid salty snacks – these will only make you thirstier and those drinks go down faster
- Look for drinks with less %ABV (alcohol by volume) in them, or make drinks lower by turning them into a spritzer with soda water
- Drink slowly and enjoy it
- Don’t top up your glass before it’s empty – you can easily loose track of how much you have drunk
- Choose a smaller measurement, such as a half pint, a small glass of wine or a single measure of spirit
If you have drunk too much over the festive season, how about signing up as a Dryathlete for Cancer Research UK and join the 1 in 6 people taking on the challenge of ‘one month of no alcohol’ and see what you can achieve.
For more information about alcohol, units and health visit drinkaware.co.uk or speak with a health professional.
Cheers (with my glass of water and lemon) and wishing you Happy Festivities!