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Wellness

Alcohol: Paying the Health Tab

Alcohol consumption in this country is highly variable. Thirty percent of Americans do not consume a drop and another 30 percent consume less than one glass per week. To the opposite extreme, the top 10 percent of the country (approximately 24 million people) consume more than 10 drinks per day.

ALCOHOL CHOICE: BEST TO WORSE

Different alcohols vary in the toxic load created in their production process. Sweet mixers are commonly added to alcohol, and this combination can increase and accelerate many of the adverse effects of drinking.

Vodka. Vodka is the cleanest choice, because it is clear and goes through a more rigorous charcoal filtration process to filter out added toxins.

Gin. Simply flavored by juniper berries, gin is an age-old alcohol with some antioxidant capacity.

Tequila. Tequila is made from agave, a sugar high in fructose. Thanks again to the distillation process, the sugar is filtered out and what is left is mostly alcohol. Depending on the tequila, the increase in color can contribute to a worse hangover.

Whiskey. Whiskey is made from grains, which can be inflammatory. With the distillation process, the grains are eliminated, leaving mostly alcohol.

Champagne and wine. With the production of wine, there are nat-ural mold toxins left behind after filtration. These toxins can affect liver detoxification and cause imbalances in healthy gut bacteria. Of all wines, champagne has the lowest level of mold toxins, followed by dry white wine; however, both white and red wine have the highest content of mold toxins. Because these toxins are a part of the natural process, there is no avoiding them. People can also be sensitive to wines high in sulfites (think stuffy nose).

Beer. Last, one of the most common drinks in the country: Beer is made from grains and has the highest mold contamination. Beer can be extremely inflammatory, which may lead to other chronic conditions.

MYTH: ALCOHOL TURNS INTO SUGAR

Alcohol can certainly affect your blood sugar balance. But instead of turning to sugar and raising your blood sugar, it actually drops it. When you consume alcohol, your body’s primary priority is to get it out of your system effectively. During this activity, your liver is not focusing on healthy energy production. Depending on your liver’s efficiency in detoxification and the amount of alcohol consumed, this can become a lengthy process.

The drop in blood sugar leaves you craving carbohydrate and fat-rich foods. Those who suffer from low blood sugar or hypoglycemia may experience more intense hangover symptoms.

THE SCIENCE OF HANGOVERS

There is a wide range of ways people experience hangovers after the same amount and type of alcohol consumption. Some are simply tired, while others are tired, nauseated, and in physical pain. The severity of someone’s hangover experience is dependent on multiple factors, including hydration levels, the liver’s capacity to detoxify, and the color of the liquor.

STAVE OFF A HANGOVER

Moderation is key. Despite the research showing some health benefits associated with wine consumption, moderation is essential. Though it is more fun to use wine for antioxidants, you are actually far better off with colorful fruits and vegetables and dark chocolate. At the end of the day, your body is taking on a toxin load that causes stress. The American Heart Association considers moderation as an average of 2 drinks per night for men and 1 drink per night for women.

Alcohol choice. When out on the town, your choice in the type of liquor can affect how you feel the next morning. The lighter liquors like vodka and gin contain less congeners.

Hydration. Alcohol is considered a diuretic, which can leave you extremely dehydrated. As a rule of thumb, it is helpful to drink one glass of water between each drink to compensate for water loss.

B-complex. Drinking alcohol adds stress to the body, and we burn through our nutrients in these cases. B vitamins aid in the liver’s ability to detoxify and improve energy. Taking a B-complex before and after drinking can help mitigate the side effects.

Vitamin C. A simple yet powerful antioxidant, vitamin C before, during, and after alcohol consumption lowers toxins associated with premature aging. Like B vitamins, vitamin C is water-soluble, so your body will use what it needs and excrete the rest.

Activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is a common tool for absorbing toxins from chemicals, drugs, and even alcohol. The charcoal stays within the digestive system and binds toxins that are in circulation to help excrete them.

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Thalia Farshchian is a naturopathic doctor at Discover Health. Her background includes both conventional and alternative modalities, and her practice is primarily focused on weight management, hormone imbalances, and gastrointestinal conditions. E-mail: [email protected]

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