When it comes to alcohol, moderation is more important than you may realise.
Women are statistically more likely to overindulge and suffer the consequences of excessive alcohol consumption these days. It can lead to more than a hangover – weight gain, fatty liver disease, heart disease, disrupted sleep… the list goes on.
In Australia where I live, alcohol is an actively encouraged part of social gatherings and occasions. It’s is rolled out at celebrations and commiserations, it’s used to end a “bad day” or to celebrate a good one.
In fact, it’s quite a challenge to get through a meal or social occasion without drinking. Ask anyone who either doesn’t drink, or is trying to cut back, and they will report comments like “oh go on, just one won’t hurt” or “don’t let me drink alone“. No one would ever say that if you said you were cutting back on a cocaine habit.
Unfortunately it does us more harm in the long run, than the short term pleasure it may provide.
Maybe it’s time to re-think our relationship with the bottle.
Significant long-term risks
Increased risk of certain cancers
The Million Women Study was conducted in the UK study looking at the incidence of cancer in women drinkers over a period of 7 years. Here’s what they found:
- 25% said they didn’t drink at all
- 98% of those who did drink consumed fewer than 21 drinks per week and consumed an average of 10g of alcohol (1 drink) per day.
- During a follow-up period, 68,775 invasive cancers occurred.
- Increasing alcohol consumption was associated with increased risks of cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, oesophagus, larynx, rectum, liver, breast and total cancer.
- There was no difference between those who drank wine and those who drank other forms of alcohol.
The researchers concluded that “Low to moderate alcohol consumption in women increases the risk of certain cancers.”
As with so many lifestyle induced cancers, a change in behaviour (alcohol moderation) can have a big, positive impact.
It’s now well known that drinking during pregnancy or just before isn’t advised, but excessive drinking can disrupt the menstrual cycle and increase the risk of infertility. If you’re planning a pregnancy in the near future alcohol moderation (or total abstinence) may help your fertility.
Women have a higher risk than men of cirrhosis of the liver as well as other alcohol-related liver diseases.
Long term excessive drinking increases the likelihood of women suffering memory loss and brain shrinkage.
Studies have shown that excessive drinking puts women at increased risk of heart muscle damage. Heart disease is the biggest killer of women, so alcohol moderation could significantly lower your risk profile.
That’s all well and good, but I’m not drinking that much…
I can hear you thinking “but that’s not me, I just have a glass at the of the day to unwind”. However, that one glass can easily become a second or a third.
Alcohol moderation is recommended with 4 -5 alcohol free nights for good health. Not only do people report waking with a clearer head, but also better skin, more energy, improved sleep quality and reduced waist line.
With many non-alcoholic drinks available in the super market now, it’s a good time to assess how often and how much you’re consuming and making adjustments according to your health goals.
Alcohol and menopause
If you’re over 40, you’ll be heading into peri-menopause (the years leading up to menopause) which is when many of the typical symptoms associated with menopause can start to become noticeable.
For many women in their 40s and 50s, life gets busier than ever with family commitments, careers taking off and stress levels sky rocketing. It can be a time when a daily drink (or two) seems necessary just to get through.
However, this is a time when cutting back will have far reaching benefits.
Aside from the weight management, clearer head and skin mentioned above; cutting back during menopause can help minimise night sweats, sleepless nights, brain fog, hot flushes and joint pain. For more information on managing menopausal symptoms naturally, click here to read about Unpause: the natural menopause program.
Have the conversation with your friends, daughters, nieces etc too – it’s not about scaring people, but rather making informed choices.
Click here to read more in our blog
Click here for GoForFit exercise class timetable