With the festive season upon us, there is no time like the present to remind you of the dangers of alcohol. Not wanting to be a kill joy – just a reminder to play safe, because our great Aussie past time of “getting on it” has astonishingly grave effects to not only your brain and reproductive function, but every cell within your body, inevitably leading to severe nutrient deficiencies. Meh, nutrient deficiencies you may say- well let me give you the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the effects of nutrient deficiencies.
Alcohol displaces foods- what does this mean?
The liver will always choose to metabolize the toxin first- the alcohol first. Vitamins B1 and B3 are the predominant vitamins in the breakdown of alcohol, so while there is alcohol in your system, the liver will not do ANY of its other functions. One functional example of this is whilst the liver is busy breaking down the toxic poison you have drunk, B1 & B3 are absolutely utilized and will not be available for use in the breakdown of carbohydrates and sugars and will instead convert them to fatty acids that are left in your liver instead of being exported off to other parts of your body. This is one way in which “Fatty Liver” develops.
Fatty Liver change occurs even after one night of heavy drinking, however once alcohol consumption is ceased, the liver begins to package and export the fats and the liver returns to normal. However, if alcohol continues to be consumed- as might occur in an alcoholic, the liver may become inflamed, developing hepatitis, scar tissue may form and ultimately irreversible damage may occur- Cirrhosis.
When the cells of the liver are full of fat, damaged or inflamed, they cannot perform their usual tasks as efficiently.
- Reduced ability to activate Vitamin D- which leads to the inability to absorb Calcium and eventually osteoporosis
- Reduced ability to produce and secret bile, which stop you from being able to breakdown fats – the fats keep circulating in your system leading to Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries and heart disease) this also, reduces the excretion of cholesterol.
- The liver breaks down the amino acids within proteins and uses them to produce enzymes that are required for functions in every single part of the body’s metabolic process. If the liver function is compromised by high or continual alcohol or sugar consumption, the whole body is compromised.
- Reduced ability to metabolise other drugs- ANYTHING at the usual rate.
Alcohol directly interferes with the body’s use of nutrients- intestinal cells fail to absorb B Vitamins B1 Folate B12, Vitamin D activation is inhibited.
Alcohol is high in energy and supplies 7 calories per gram (carbs and proteins provide 4grams) Alcohol provides empty calories- that is, it provides energy, but no nutrients. Alcoholics often replace foods with alcohol due to decreased appetite.
Alcohol increases heat in the body- flushing, inflammation and high blood pressure which can bring on early and or heavy menstruation and eventual irregular period.
Alcoholics experience withdrawal pains symptoms when they stop taking alcohol- these pains subside if even a small amount of alcohol is consumed- addiction.
Alcohol interferes with metabolism, storage, activation, excretion, absorption and use of a large amount of vitamins and nutrients required for the body to simply function!
The vitamins most affected by alcohol include:
Folic Acid– The Liver loses the ability to retain folate and the kidneys increase secretion of it. The lists is long when it comes to detrimental effects of Folate deficiency, below is just a few.
Folate deficiency devastates digestive function.
Folate plays a role in reducing inflammatory processes in the body- inflammation causes heart disease.
A lack of Folate decreases other proteins used for cell division especially in the small intestine and blood.
The combination of poor folate status and alcohol consumption has been directly linked to cancers of the colon.
And of course, Folate is absolutely essential for conception – not only women, but it has also been found that a lack of Folate in men also contributes to a lack of fertility.
Vitamin B6- Acetaldehyde- the toxic substance produced when alcohol is broken down dislodges Vit B6 from its protective binding protein, so it is destroyed. B6 Deficiency leads to lowered productions of Red Blood Cells and a lot of women that suffer with PMS know that almost lifesaving effects of a good B6 combination!
Vitamin B12– is depleted; Vitamin B12 is required for DNA synthesis, the formation of red blood cells and neurologic function- to name a small few.
Vitamin B1– Wernicke- Korsakoff Syndrome is characterised by paralysis of eye muscles, poor muscle co ordination, impaired memory and damaged nerves.
Vitamin D– Alcohol consumption inhibits the livers ability to activate Vitamin D. Without adequate Vitamin D Osteoporosis will develop. There is recent and mounting evidence that links low levels of vitamin D to an increased risk of type 1 diabetes, muscle and bone pain known as fibromyalgia, and more serious, cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, ovaries, oesophagus, and lymphatic system- Vitamin D deficiency is very serious, so to the beach with you!
Vitamin A- Cells in the retina of the eye which normally process Vitamin A into an active form required for vision, find themselves processing the forms back to front and hence not providing the eyes with required nutrients for vision – Alcohol!! Who knew!
Minerals– Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium and Zinc are used up in alcohol metabolism and not able to be used by the body in other functions. A couple of those other functions are beating the heart and building bones!
Alcohol causes stomach cells to over-secrete both gastric acid and inflammatory processes. Beer in particular stimulates gastric acid secretion, irritating the stomach and oesophagus linings, making them vulnerable to ulcer formation- this leads to gastritis, gastritis left untreated or misdiagnosed lead to stomach cancer.
And hey- If you are one of those people that will indulge in the ultimate of death dancers and enjoys a cigarette with a drink, well that little chemical combination puts your cancer risk through the roof, the combined chemicals of alcohol and cigarette also smoke block Omega 6 production- your anti inflammatory pathways- hence, induces inflammation. You only need to read last week’s article on inflammation to understand the dire consequences of inflammation.
One standard drink is equal to:
- One 425ml glass (a Schooner) of light beer- 2.7% alcohol
- One 285ml glass (a Middy) of regular beer- 4.9% alcohol
- One 100ml glass of wine- 12% alcohol
- One 30ml nip of spirits- 40% alcohol
- One 60ml glass of port of sherry- 20% alcohol
General population guidelines for men:
- Drink no more than 4 standard drinks a day on average
- Drink no more than 6 standard drinks on any one day
- Have 2-3 alcohol free days each week
And for women:
- Drink no more than 2 standard drinks a day on average
- Drink no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day
- Have 2-3 alcohol free days each week