Thursday, 3 July 2014

Can alcohol be good for me?

I understand that alcohol, though enjoyable, is not that great for people. I always thought that generally, it would be best to avoid it.  However, it seems a shame to cut it out all together if I don't need to.

Today, Dr Verburgh has been warning me about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, but also suggesting that some alcohol in moderation is actually a good thing.

Taken to excess, alcohol damages the liver, causing cirrhosis, so far no surprise. Alcohol damages the intestinal walls and stomach wall. After a night of excess drinking our stomach would look swollen and sore if only we could see it. With prolonged excess consumption the gut cannot cope with the usual bacteria that is found in the intestines and so toxins leak out into the blood stream. The liver has a hard job dealing with this extra workload and produces inflammatory substances as it would for an infection. These inflammatory substances damage the liver. So the liver sets about damaging itself.

Excess alcohol can also damage the heart, pancreas and the brain.

Even if we don't drink to excess, occasional over indulgence is not good for us either. Alcohol is broken down by the body and produces acetaldehyde, which is the substance that gives us that hang over feeling. It also damages cells which age more quickly. Which means we age more quickly.

But if we stick to a glass of red wine a day we could be doing ourselves more good than harm. This moderate intake of alcohol is good for the blood vessels and protects the heart. The consumption needs to be spread out however.  Drinking seven glasses on friday night and none the rest of the week will not have the same effect. Actually, although studies have shown that red wine is slightly better for us than other alcohol, the protective effects are clear however the alcohol is taken. Wine, beer and spirits all have this protective effect when taken in moderation.

I've been drinking a glass of red wine most nights with my evening meal. The only danger is that once the bottle is open, it easy for one glass to turn into two, and as a woman, that doubling of intake can make all the difference between protecting my health and increasing my risk of ill effects including breast cancer. So the one glass a day comes with a health warning.

 I've also started to have the wine in a small glass so that it is full with a small measure. Some of the wine glasses produced today are so big they can easily fit two measures, and we can kid ourselves that we've only drunk one glass.

I have found that I can really savour a glass of wine knowing that I won't be pouring another. I also put the bottle away when the glass is poured so it's out of sight. I usually have another non alcoholic drink ready for after the wine is finished so that I don't get lazy and just have more wine. So far it's working fine.

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