April marks Alcohol Awareness Month, a nationwide campaign intended to raise awareness of health problems that excessive alcohol consumption can cause. The nutrition department at Artman counsels clients on the effects of alcohol in their diet but also coaches them in ways they can incorporate safe amounts into their lifestyle. Our staff nutrition counselor, John Fairchild, has helped many clients overcome their weight loss barriers that include; healthy substitutions, proper portion control, recipe planning and weekly coaching sessions. Here is some information he provides to his clients, when it comes to alcohol and leading a healthy lifestyle.
Definition of a “drink”:
- 5oz. of wine
- 12oz. bottle of beer
- 1.5oz. shot of alcohol
Moderate drinking is defined as “the consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men,” according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Women are often more vulnerable than men to the long-term health effects of alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol over a significant amount of time can lead to:
- Cancer: Alcohol consumption increases the risk for breast cancer and cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
- Liver Disease: The risk for cirrhosis and other alcohol-related liver diseases is higher for women than for men.
- Heart Problems: Studies have shown that women who drink excessively are at increased risk for damage to the heart muscle than men.
- Brain: Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.
- Heart: Drinking a lot over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems including: Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle, Arrhythmias – Irregular heartbeat, Stroke and High blood pressure.
- Liver: Heavy drinking takes a toll on the liver, and can lead to a variety of problems and liver inflammations including: Steatosis, or fatty liver, Alcoholic hepatitis, Fibrosis and Cirrhosis.
- Pancreas: Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.
- Immune System: Drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease. Chronic drinkers are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much.
Avoid drinking any amount of alcohol if pregnant or planning to become pregnant. When trying to control your alcohol intake, take several days day off a week to abstain from alcohol if you are drinking too much. Keep track of how much you drink by writing in a journal, avoid places where overdrinking occurs and find new ways to deal with stress.
Many health issues can be prevented by reducing your total alcohol consumption. If you need help cutting back there are many organizations to which you can turn to for help.