With the festive season around the corner and spiced mulled wines luring you away from sobriety, it’s harder than ever not to over-indulge on booze. But alcohol is destructive to all sorts of bodily functions, including sexual function and mental health.
Our lead GP, Dr Luke Pratsides, tells us why cutting down on alcohol is so important and how simple tricks can be effective. He suggests the following tips:
1. Drink a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink
Drinking a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink will help you to slow down your alcohol intake and reduce dehydration, which also means you’ll feel less hungover the next day - win-win!
“Alcohol is a diuretic as it inhibits the production of a hormone called vasopressin. This hormone signals the kidneys to hold on to water. Alcohol affects the signalling of the brain, which interacts with this function. The hormone is released at a lower rate so that fluids pass through the system, including your kidneys and bladder, at a quicker rate than normal. This means that your body can’t maintain water at a normal rate and explains why you need to urinate more frequently when you’re drinking alcohol,” says Dr Luke.
2. Opt for low-alcohol or alcohol-free drinks
Low-alcohol and alcohol-free beverages are all the rage at the moment. Low-strength wine, alcohol-free beer and mocktails are all healthier alternatives that will help you to slice your alcohol consumption without disrupting your social life. So that you don’t feel that you’re missing out, opt for a drink that mimics an alcoholic beverage, but is alcohol-free, such as the Scavi & Ray Alcohol Free Sparkling Prosecco from Virgin Wines.
“In a single session, drinking more than 8 units of alcohol for men or 6 for women is considered binge drinking in the UK. That’s the equivalent of 2 pints of beer or 2 large glasses of wine,” explains Dr Luke. “There’s a variety of low-alcohol or alcohol-free drinks that can help reduce the risk of binge drinking. Alternatively, order a soft drink but try to avoid fizzy drinks that are packed with sugar.”
3. Select smaller measurements
Measurements vary from pub to pub, but you’ll usually be able to order a small glass of wine (125ml) or a half-pint. If you’re drinking a mixer, select singles instead of doubles and choose a cocktail that only contains one type of alcohol.
4. Eat a meal
Drinking on an empty stomach is a huge no-no and can make you very sick. “If you drink on an empty stomach, alcohol can be absorbed into the bloodstream within minutes as there’s nothing in your stomach or small intestine to slow the process,” says Dr Luke. “That means that it passes through your stomach straight to your small intestine where it’s absorbed to the bloodstream and hits your brain with greater speed and intensity than if you had food to slow the process. You’re more likely to experience adverse side effects, such as nausea, dizziness and headaches. It also means you’re at greater risk of waking up to a very unpleasant hangover.”
5. Don’t give in to peer pressure
Be more selective about who you choose to drink with, avoiding nights where you know you’ll be surrounded by heavy drinkers. If you go to an event and feel pressured to binge drink, don’t be afraid to leave early and remove yourself from the situation.
6. Set a budget
Setting a budget before a night out not only helps you to drink less but also means you’ll be saving money. Leave your card behind and take out cash if you think you’ll be tempted to spend more.
7. Be mindful of your mental health
“When people feel anxious, they often overindulge on alcohol. While this might feel like the right thing to do at the time, it actually leads to even more anxiety,” explains Dr Luke. “Alcohol affects the central nervous system, and that includes the brain. This means that neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine (key hormones to balance our mood and make us feel happy) are reduced. While having a drink may give you temporary relief from stress, anxiety is likely to worsen further down the line.”
The bottom line
Regular drinkers are vulnerable to all sorts of health issues, including infectious disease and depression. If you drink heavily it’s important to cut down on your alcohol consumption - but this isn’t always easy. Drink water, choose low-alcohol beverages, select smaller measurements, eat well, don’t give in to peer pressure, set a budget and be mindful, to easily cut down on your alcohol intake without noticing.
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