Okkkayyyyyyy before we get into this convo, lets get something out out in the open right out of out the gate.
I am not a purist.
I enjoy my bub’s made from scratch margs for poolside sipping, froofroo blended dranks like the Chambers Punch on the dock on Lake Tahoe, and bougie speakeasy style cocktails with names like "The Bees Knees” or “The Lavender Rosemary Rickie”.
I am all about enjoying life’s pleasures, whether it’s craft beers at the cool hipster brewery or the stupidly delicious Better Than Sex cake that my colleague makes okay.
I believe life is meant to be enjoyed, and I am NOT about to tell anyone to forever give up the things that genuinely bring them joy (including the glass of pinot or the sexy cake).
That being said, I DO believe that moderation is absolutely key in all things life in general, and especially when one is on a healing journey.
I mean, it’s hard to heal your hormones, trim your waist line, and heal your adrenal fatigue when you’re sipping cocktails and eating ooey gooey sexy cake every night, amiright?
I think there can be a place for some of these less than healthy things like booze, but I believe the negative effects of booze and the regular consumption of the stuff, need to be talked about.
Also — when we are conscious of why and how we are using alcohol, we become more in tune with what our bodies really need.
THERE IS NO AMOUNT OF ALCOHOL THAT IS “SAFE”. SIMPLY SPEAKING, ALCOHOL IS A POISON
Booze And Its Effects On Your
Brain & Body
ALCOHOL WRECKS YOUR GUT
It creates dysbiosis, meaning it disrupts the balance of good gut bugs to bad gut bugs. It contributes to leaky gut, and increases inflammation in the entire body. Remember, chronic inflammation = bad news bears.
ALCOHOL DOWN-REGULATES METHYLATION
Methylation is a metabolic process in the body that takes place in every single cell of the body. This translates to BILLIONS of times per second. Efficient methylation is absolutely essential to optimal health. Some of the processes in the body that are affected by methylation are:
Proper gene expression
Healthy cell division and proper DNA/RNA synthesis
Cellular energy metabolism
To name a few. There are literally hundreds of other things that methylation does. Can you see that methylation is a big deal?! Alcohol impairs that big time. No bueno.
EXCESSIVE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION IS ASSOCIATED WITH INCREASED RISK OF BREAST CANCER
Alcohol is highly estrogenic, meaning it elevates levels of circulating estrogen in the body. Most breast cancers (as well as uterine and ovarian cancers) are estrogen-dominant. Excessive alcohol consumption is also associated with menstrual irregularities, osteoporosis, and birth defects. The Nurses’ Health Study found that the risk of breast cancer was 60% higher in those who had one or more drinks per day than those who did not drink.
ALCOHOL CONTRIBUTES TO HORMONAL IMBALANCES
Even one alcoholic drink can increase circulating estrogen by 10%. Alcohol burdens your liver, and we all know that the liver is responsible for processing and filtering out toxins (like alcohol). The liver’s other very important job is to conjugate estrogens and usher them out of the body. So when we drink booze, our liver has to focus all its attention on getting the POISON (alcohol) out of your body, BEFORE it processes out all the used up excess estrogen that ALSO needs to get out. When estrogen isn’t eliminated from our body efficiently, we get symptoms of estrogen dominance: headaches, weight gain, tender boobs, heavy periods, irritability, mood swings, etc. (read: hormone imbalance!)
ALCOHOL SCREWS WITH YOUR ABILITY TO GET ADEQUATE SLEEP
As little as 2 drinks per night effectively wipe out REM sleep, the type of sleep associated with dreaming. In studies, rats who were deprived of REM sleep had shortened life spans, from years to weeks. REM sleep is the deeply restorative sleep where our brains form new neural connections and integrate the skills that we learned throughout the day.
ALCOHOL IS TOXIC TO YOUR BRAIN
(This is kind of a Duh for everyone who has ever been a little tipsy or a lot tipsy … and then a little or a lot hungover the next day, but lets talk about it nonetheless)
Alcohol affects the brain by way of the blood brain barrier. Once alcohol is in the central nervous system, it acts on different parts of your brain and elicits various side effects.
Here’s the quick and dirty on your brain and booze:
Frontal Lobe and Prefrontal Cortex
This is the area of the brain responsible for decision making, judgment, problem solving, planning, impulsive behaviors, and social interactions.
This is the area of the brain responsible for hormone regulation, learning, memory and emotion. The hypothalamus is part of the limbic brain (or primitive brain), where we store pain and trauma (ever had too many drinks and couldn’t stop crying for whatever reason?)
This is the area of the brain responsible for motivation, spatial navigation, emotion, and memory creation. The hippocampus is one of the few sites in the brain where neurogenesis occurs (the creation of new brain cells)
This area of the brain is only about 10% of the brain’s total mass, but it contains half of the brains total neurons. The cerebellum is involved in coordinating our voluntary movement and balance, eye movement, and is also involved in our cognition and emotions.
Alcohol alters our brain chemistry by altering the levels of neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and glutamate. Neurotransmitters are hormones that help keep our bodies and minds in balance. This why when we drink, we are more impulsive with our words and our actions, don’t have as much spatial awareness, we may have personality changes, and we tend to make riskier decisions because our decision making abilities are altered.
Long story short…
ALCOHOL IS A NEUROTOXIN, WHICH IS EXACTLY HOW IT SOUNDS: IT IS TOXIC TO THE NEUROLOGICAL (BRAIN) SYSTEM.
Now that you know the truth about booze, lets talk about moving forward with this newfound knowledge.
Here are some of my tips that I apply whenever I know I’m going to be drinking at the BBQ next weekend or when Boo and I are going to be splitting a bottle of pinot noir at our anniversary dinner.
Damage Control After Booze
Make sure your pathways of elimination are open
What are your pathways of elimination? Liver, Lymph, Lungs, Skin, Colon, Kidneys, and the Blood. You want to support your liver and make sure you are pooping enough! What’s enough? 2-3 times a day. Castor oil packs on the liver twice a day plus consider adding a tonic such as this one that I love, Liver Life (liver), 25-35g fiber daily (colon), and dry brushing to stimulate lymph flow and elimination of toxins (lymph). Breathe deeply throughout the day and go for a 20-30 minute walk (lungs + blood). Drink plenty of water to flush out toxins (kidneys), and get your sweat on with infrared sauna (skin).
Do a coffee enema
This is my absolute go to when I have a hangover. Actually I do these even if I don’t have a hangover, and always after a night of drinking. The coffee enema is a powerful liver detoxifier and helps to eliminate stagnant bile from the liver so it can do its job more efficiently. It is also a great way to increase the body’s natural production of glutathione, the epic mother of all detoxifiers in our bodies. I actually haven’t used Ibuprofen in years because the coffee enemas help so much with post-drinking headaches. It’s my sure fire way to stop a hangover in its tracks!
Support your body with food and supplements
Take a dose of inositol (a nutrient that helps detoxify the liver), acerola berry for vitamin C (powerful antioxidant to combat the stress to your cells), and a B-vitamin complex (to recover more quickly from dehydration and help your liver detoxify). I personally take the B complex before bed and again when I wake up the next day. Roasted dandelion root tea is wonderful for helping the liver detoxify. I also take bitters with each meal the day after I drink because it helps get the bile flowing to a) enhance digestion and b) help move out stagnant bile/toxic bile. I am a big fan of juicing, especially when I need extra nutrition after a night of drinking. Make a juice of spinach, cilantro, parsley, cucumber, lemon, green apple, and ginger. Sip throughout the day after drinking.
Recommit the next day
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t “coulda shoulda woulda”. Just take today in stride and recommit to your healthy habits. Many times after a night of drinking, our breakfast the next day often consists of lots of carbs, cheesy omelets, coffee and anything we can get our hands on that’s crunchy and salty and does the trick. Try a sexy breakfast of pasture raised eggs, some turkey sausage, quinoa, avocado, and a side of fruit. It’s hearty, it’s filling, and it’s nutrient rich (and won’t leave you with a gluten hangover after either!). Bonus points if you sip your green juice in place of coffee ;)
When you start to establish a new, positive relationship with your body and you feel good all the time, you’re likely to want to KEEP feeling fabulous. We all know that booze derails those feelings of feeling fabulous. It just does.
BUT. For when the times arise where its just not in the cards to avoid booze, here are some of my tips that will help you do it in a “safer” way and not derail your hormones too too much.
For When The Occasion Arises…
Choose alcohol with a low glycemic load
Think: organic red wine, sake, and champagne. Avoid beer, hard alcohol and mixed drinks that are loaded with sugar
Limit your intake to no more than 2 drinks in a day
Nothing more to say on this haha
Follow each alcoholic beverage with 8 ounces of water
Hydration is never to be underestimated, especially while drinking
Never eat on an empty stomach
When we drink alcohol with food in our stomachs, it slows down the glucose uptake to your brain and liver. Make sure there’s a good quality fat in there (nothing fried), and this will slow the glucose uptake even more
Have a spritzer
Have half a glass of white wine of choice and fill to the top with bubbly water like Gerolsteiner or Mountain Spring bubbly water. Hydrate while imbibing!
It’s very important to examine your relationship to alcohol. Be honest with yourself. No one is judging you. So please be gentle with yourself as you learn more about your tendencies and how you lean as it relates to alcohol.
One last thing …
Pro tip: when you have an adequate supply of B vitamins from your diet, adequate protein, and when you decrease the amount of sugar you consume, your cravings for alcohol will decrease :)
What tip are you going to take away next time you imbibe?! Tell me in the comments!