Stay healthy by limiting your alcohol intake with the help of our expert Riccardo Di Cuffa
How do you relax at the end of a stressful day? A couple of glasses of wine? A cool G&T? While you might feel the stress floating away with every sip, it is not just the empty calories that could be playing havoc with your health. On one hand alcohol can feel like it relaxes an over-stimulated mind, but it also disrupts sleep, increases blood pressure and saps energy levels. Read on to find out just some of the benefits of cutting back.
Having a drink before bedtime makes you fall asleep quicker, but the sleep you get may not be restful.
“Alcohol can affect your sleep patterns because it reduces your R.E.M (rapid eye movement) sleep and this is the best type for feeling that you have woken up refreshed,” says Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa, director and GP at Your Doctor. He further explains that “alcohol produces a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid, which helps your body stay relaxed throughout the day. When it is produced in excess it makes you feel tired.”
Snoring and extra trips to the bathroom are also side effects, so cutting your alcohol intake during dinner may help you to get a more restful night and wake up feeling rejuvenated and more alert than if you had an alcoholic drink.
The more alcohol you drink, the higher the chances of gaining pounds, because our body prioritises digesting this before anything else. “Your body breaks down alcohol first, and since it takes longer to burn off sugar your metabolic rate is slowed,” says Dr Riccardo.
Put simply, this means that carbohydrates and fat are stored while the alcohol is being processed. “Alcoholic concoctions also contain almost the same number of calories as pure fat. He continues “if you cut down your levels, you have a far better chance of maintaining a healthy weight and boosting your metabolic rate.”
“Drinking alcohol in excess on just one occasion can cause an immediate temporary spike in blood pressure,” says Dr Riccardo. “If you drink excessive amounts of alcohol over the long term, you may develop chronic high blood pressure which can increase your risk of suffering a stroke. Alcohol can also interfere with drugs that are designed to lower blood pressure.”
According to the UK Chief Medical Officer’s (CMO) alcohol unit guidelines, it is advised that men and women should not drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. If you would like to lessen your alcohol intake, consider buying a measure for your home. Checking your drinks’ labels can also be beneficial in advising you on how many units they contain.
Eliminating alcohol from the diet will help your body to perform better. “The reason you can’t think clearly when you have drunk too much is because alcohol suppresses the production of glutamate,” explains Dr Riccardo. He goes on to say that “glutamate acts as a neurotransmitter that enables brain activity and energy, which means it becomes hard to think clearly when its production is stunted.”
But if you are feeling good, that may only be a temporary reaction due to increased levels of dopamine. Continue to consume too much and you could possibly alter other brain chemicals that enhance feelings of depression. So to get the most out of your day-to-day routine, opt for healthier drink options to improve your balance, strength, coordination, and energy levels.
In pursuit of clearer skin? The dehydrating effects of alcohol can lead to inflammation, which can become a permanent feature over time. The histamine counteraction that is created causes the redness, and in time can become a permanent feature. “If you cut down your intake your skin condition may improve as alcohol is dehydrating,” says Dr Riccardo. Give up your boozy ways and your skin will thank you for it.