My name is Stephen Pennack, I’m a fitness coach and nutritionist. I’ve been invited by the lovely team at Candra to write some articles, centered around nutrition and drinking.
This article is the first of a mini-series delving into everybody’s least favourite part of drinking; the dreaded hangover.
We get away with the odd hangover or a weekend blow-out, but what about the long-term effects of chronic alcohol consumption?
Alcohol has an intoxicating effects on the central nervous system, impairment of cognitive function and our neurotransmitters; the chemical messengers within your body that send signals that make your body do actual things! These impairments lead to blackouts, disruptive sleep, and also sleep apnea (aka snoring).
Although light to medium drinking does not seem to be associated with long-term weight gain, heavy and binge drinking is , not only because of the calories within drinks, but also the foods we tend to eat when drinking; very tasty things from a restaurant or takeaway that are typically higher in fats too, coupled with our inhibitions, tend to result in a a larger intake of calories when we drink.
We eat, we drink, we eat again, so why do we always feel so tired the morning after? In the previous post I mentioned that alcohol prevents the breakdown of stored energy (as glucose), leading us to feel fatigued.
But there is another nutrient that takes a back seat when drinking, and this is dietary fat. Rather than our bodies metabolising and using fats for energy, they will more likely get stored around the liver, and this can cause something you may of heard of before, Fatty Liver Disease.
High consumption of alcohol can also cause the cells that become inflamed to eventually die, leading to cirrhosis. When liver tissue becomes scarred it will never regenerate.
Now the liver is pretty much the main pathway for metabolising and removing alcohol. What happens if alcohol intake becomes excessive for prolonged periods of time? Well an alternative pathway needs to ‘muck in’ to convert this high intake. This involves the membranes of our actual cells.
Unfortunately this causes a byproduct that enables a thing called ‘Free Radicals’ (aka ‘Reactive Oxygen Species’ or ROS for short). These free radicals can bind to cell membranes and even DNA, causing mutation and damage. In turn, this can be a factor in the development of cancer, or Alzheimers
Other problems may arise such as; Gastrointestinal issues due to alcohol irritating the stomach or oesophagus, cardiovascular problems, sexual dysfunction, diabetes and heart disease
Having gone through all of the negative effects, it has to be said that alcohol has and still plays a role within culture. A glass of wine alongside food, a drink with good friends. So what can we do?
Eating balanced meals before and after drinking, can help mitigate some of the effects of alcohol consumption. At least by slowing down the absorption of alcohol means your body has a better chance of processing it and not being overwhelmed. The nutrients within plant-based foods contain vitamins and minerals to help your body function, and antioxidants that can neutralise some of those free-radicals we talked about earlier.
Also, slowing down your drinking pace, switching to low or non-alcoholic beverages, staying hydrated with water, and avoiding (or at least sipping, not necking!) those shots that get handed out from time to time, are some things that may help you with reducing your weekly intake.
Limiting yourself to drinking in moderation now, may prolong the amount of time you are able to actually drink for!
Next up Coffee…
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