Depression, Liver | July 21, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
Drinking in moderation (no more than 2 standard drinks each day) for most people is generally considered ok. But for others who are alcoholics, binge drink or have conditions which make them more sensitive to the damaging effects of alcohol – perhaps it’s time to consider giving up the grog. Some people, even drinking in moderation, are sensitive to the effects of it – leading to problems with sleeping, migraines, fatigue, weight gain, high blood pressure, high blood sugars and even allergies. And if you find yourself pregnant or breastfeeding, the latest research suggests it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether.
There can be a myriad of reasons why you might want to stop drinking alcohol. It may be to decrease your risk of alcohol-related diseases. Others may do so for religious reasons, or simply as a move towards a healthier lifestyle.
Drinking too much on a single occasion or over a prolonged period of time can have series ramifications for your health. Here’s how alcohol can affect your body.
Brain: Alcohol interferes with the way our brain looks and works and communicates with the rest of the body. These changes can disrupt mood and behaviour –making it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.
Heart: Drinking can damage the heart and cause problems by increasing your risk of an irregular heartbeat, stroke, high blood pressure and cardiomyopathy (stretching and drooping of the heart muscle).
Liver: Heavy drinking can take its toll on the organ that has to process it—the liver. Heavy drinking can lead to liver problems such as fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis and cirrhosis.
Pancreas: Alcohol can lead to inflammation of the pancreas which can impair proper digestion of foods.
Immune system: Drinking alcohol weakens the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections including pneumonia and tuberculosis.
Cancer: Alcohol also increases your risk of developing certain cancers.
While excessive alcohol intake has been linked to a myriad of conditions and diseases, did you know even small amounts can increase a women’s risk of developing breast cancer? An article published in the British Journal of Medicine, has found that lifestyle factors, such as how much alcohol a woman drinks really does matter. Danish researchers tracked the alcohol consumption of women over a period of 5 years. They found that if women increased the amount they drank over this period, it increased their risk of breast cancer. For example, women who drank two or more alcoholic drinks per day over 5 years saw a 30 percent increased risk of breast cancer compared to women with a stable alcohol intake. Interestingly they found a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease in the women who drank more. However, the researchers noted that there are other ways to decrease your risk of heart disease without increasing your risk of breast cancer.
Another meta-analysis found that even women who drank about 3 standard drinks a week, experienced a moderate increase in breast cancer risk. Alcohol consumption has also been linked to an increased risk of other cancers including head/neck, mouth, oesophageal, liver and colorectal.
Firstly, if you believe you have a serious drinking problem you should consult your doctor or another medical professional as soon as possible. There are a number of alcohol support services that you can go to for advice and care if needed. Remember—giving up may not be easy, especially if you have been a heavy drinker in the past but the following tips and techniques may make it that bit easier.
Reward your progress. Reward any progress such as an alcohol-free week or month by doing an activity that gives you pleasure such as eating at a nice restaurant, buying new clothes or getting a massage. The money saved from refraining from alcohol can quickly add up, so why not use it to reward yourself.
Tell your family and friends. Explain your intentions of giving up drinking to people you’re in close contact with. This way, you can feel supported and hopefully they will understand when you decline an invitation to the pub.
Give up gradually and reduce your intake. Giving up grog cold turkey may not be realistic for everyone. Reducing the consumption may be a more realistic short-term goal while making the long-term goal of complete avoidance more obtainable in the future.
Often alcohol can mask underlying problems including insomnia, anxiety and depression. Addressing these concerns will make the transition to an alcohol-free life even easier. For anxiety and insomnia support your nervous system with anti-anxiety herbs, magnesium and a good quality B complex. For depression consider taking additional St John’s wort, SAMe, zinc and omega-3. For alcohol cravings and to avoid behavioural changes from its withdrawal, N-acetyl cysteine may be helpful. It is also a potent antioxidant that has been shown to reduce alcohol-related damage to the body. N-acetyl cysteine is only available through a prescription from your naturopath or doctor.
It’s important to have time to unwind during the day and find other techniques for stress reduction such as meditation, yoga and exercise. Eating healthy will support a healthier lifestyle and improve mood naturally.
Seek the advice from a counsellor, especially one that specializes in addictions, if you require further coping strategies and support.
Now that you’re off the grog, why not support your liver to help undo some of the damage from all that alcohol. St Mary’s thistle, has been shown to improve the function of this important organ, while helping in its regeneration and repair. This popular liver herb can be taken as part of a liver formula with other antioxidants or on its own.
No matter what your reason is for quitting alcohol, refraining from its use can significantly improve your health. Just remember to seek additional help, if you have a history of heavy drinking.
Dam MK, et al. Five year change in alcohol intake and risk of breast cancer and coronary heart disease among postmenopausal women: prospective cohort study. BMJ May 2016;353:i2314
Morais-Silva G, et al. N-acetylcysteine treatment blocks the development of ethanol-induced behavioural sensitization and related ΔFosB alterations. Neuropharmacology. 2016 Nov;110(Pt A):135-42