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How Unhealthy is Alcohol?

By Amanda Beckner, CN, HHP, PhD

Moderate alcohol consumption has been touted for its health benefits. It is often stated in the media that it is healthy to have a glass of wine for the resveratrol it offers the heart; however, you should consider that eating half a cup of red grapes offers more resveratrol for the heart with no side effects to the rest of your body.

If you should decide to participate in moderate drinking, here are a few facts that may help you manage – or even reconsider – your alcohol consumption.

Physiological Effects

Alcohol is a toxic substance to the body’s cells; it works like some poisons by way of the hygroscopic effect – it “steals” water from the cells which in turn causes dehydration. When the body becomes dehydrated, undue stress is added to the entire system causing blood pressure to increase, cholesterol to rise, and blood sugars to go up. A rise in glucose causes a spike in hormones which in turn affects cortisone levels. The more you drink, the quicker you deplete glycogen stores – especially when you are carbohydrate deficient, so people on high protein diets are affected the most. Regardless of the consumption or frequency, many studies have shown that each time alcohol is consumed it will negatively impact blood sugar levels.

Sustained use of alcohol over time eventually decreases the ability of the small intestine to reabsorb essential substances including proteins and vitamins like A, B1, C, fluoric acid, sodium and water. Over time, impaired intestinal function can cause somatic nervous disorders, extreme anxiety about physical symptoms such as pain or fatigue where the person has intense thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to the symptoms that interfere with daily life.

Consider that only a little alcohol causes the body to work harder using a lot of energy and oxygen just to eliminate the alcohol. The liver alone uses 80 percent of its allowance of oxygen to metabolize alcohol. This causes stress on other organs and normal metabolic function is paralyzed; heart and brain cells suffer oxygen deficiencies while removing the alcohol from the cells.

The Heavy Load

Alcohol is often high in calories as well. Most 6-ounce glasses of wine contain 100 calories, and while that may not sound like a lot, drinking one glass per day over two weeks adds up to about 1,400 extra calories. One pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, so you just added half a pound of fat back with the nightly consumption of one glass. That would add up to 13 extra pounds of body fat per year just in moderate wine drinking alone.

Age Matters

We got away with consuming alcohol when we were younger, but as we age, processing alcohol becomes more and more challenging for our bodies, and if you have health problems, energy that could be used for healing is being diverted.

Does it mean you should never drink again? No, it means take a break if your body needs energy to heal itself and work to maintain moderation. Just choose your occasions and habits wisely.

Dr. Beckner is owner of Your Body Code in Palm Desert which offers personalized nutrition and wellness programs. For more information, visit www.yourbodycode.com or call (760) 341.BODY(2639).

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