Did you know that our liver is the organ responsible for metabolising all our sex hormones such as oestrogen? It’s also the organ that metabolises alcohol. Our body sees alcohol as a toxin and potentially life threatening therefore, when we consume it our body stops the metabolism of sex hormones to focus on the processing of alcohol.
When alcohol is being consumed regularly or over extended periods of time and particularly if combined with other things such as trans fats, sugar and possibly combined with constipation there can become a problem of congestion in the liver. This means the oestrogen does not go through its proper detoxification cycle to be excreted. This can mean oestrogen is recycled back into the blood stream. This can lead to an excess of oestrogen and symptoms such as PMS, bloating, heavy or painful periods, sore breasts, headaches/migraines cellulite and fat deposits that won’t budge in the lower back, abdomen, hips or backs of arms. This kind of recycled oestrogen has been found in higher amounts of women who have had certain types of breast cancer. There have been very strong links between alcohol consumption and the risks associated with breast cancer.
For the people who believe it’s good for prevention of heart disease the WHO has changed its stance. The World Health Organisation and other key groups now recommend that people should not commence or maintain drinking to achieve health benefits and that there is no merit in promoting alcohol consumption as a preventative strategy for cardiovascular disease.
The largest ever study to assess alcohol and disease has concluded that there is no safe level of drinking alcohol. This news is especially concerning for women because alcohol is more toxic to women than men, and takes longer to process. This is due to the smaller percentage of water in a woman's body, and because the protein that breaks down alcohol is produced in smaller quantities in smaller livers. With this in mind, let’s look at the guidelines for alcohol consumption in Australia.
Guidelines and standard drinks vary in country to country however, a standard drink in Australia is defined as 10g of alcohol. This equates to a 100mL glass of wine. At bars and restaurants, wine is often poured at 150ml for a regular glass of wine, this can make it hard to monitor how many standard drinks you’re consuming.
The current guidelines advise:
· Drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day
· Drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion
· Children under 15 and up to 17yrs are at the greatest risk of damage from alcohol, drinking it should be delayed as long as possible
· No drinking for women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy, or breastfeeding
Drinking alcohol is a personal choice and one that in our culture can be taken too lightly. A 2018 poll by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education found 45% of Australian drinkers consume alcohol to get drunk, and – not surprisingly – that 73% of people believe that excess drinking is a problem in Australia. The takeaway? There are plenty of health reasons not to drink so why do we? Sometimes finding out our why? is the key to helping us change behaviours.
If you would like to cut down your drinking or stop all together, there are a lot of resources online. However, you could start by tracking how many standard drinks you’re consuming and aim to have at least three alcohol free days a week. You will probably find your sleep gets better, your skin will improve, increased energy and less digestive symptoms. Hopefully these will be the stepping stones to a happier healthier you.