Christmas is a wonderful time of the year to share with family and friends; kicking back and enjoying a break from the daily grind, tucking into too much food, spending too much money and probably imbibing a little too much alcohol. All things are fine in moderation, but going over the top can lead to longer term problems especially where the booze is concerned.
A drink or two during the festive season is fine but if you find it difficult to wind down at the end of every day without a glass or two, you could be in danger of damaging your health.
Regular drinking leads to your body developing an alcohol tolerance. Doctors define ‘tolerance’ as the physiological response our body exhibits to any drug, including alcohol. In other words, the more you drink the more your body becomes accustomed to it. When you drink regularly, enzymes in your liver are produced to help metabolise the alcohol you consume. Heavy drinking over weeks or months causes levels of the enzymes to increase which in turn causes your tolerance to build. Conversely, if you stop drinking altogether, the enzyme levels drop again.
As your tolerance rises, more and more alcohol is required to achieve the same high and so you begin to drink more heavily. Heavy drinking puts you at risk of heart disease, liver problems, stroke and even cancer. Fortunately, all you have to do to reduce your tolerance levels and therefore enable you to cut back on the amount of alcohol you drink is to take frequent booze breaks. Don’t have a drink every day. Make it every other day or better still every couple of days.
Another issue to be aware of relating directly to high tolerance levels is dependency. Alcohol dependence might make you think of meths-soaked vagrants staggering around blind drunk 24/7 but there are varying degrees of the condition. Even one or two drinks each day can result in a psychological dependence. You might not get the physical shakes if you don’t get your drink but you may find yourself becoming stressed, anxious, and unable to relax without one.
The best way to test if you are becoming alcohol dependent is to have a few days off. You may have a problem if you find yourself craving a drink on the very first day! The best way of dealing with a budding dependency before it becomes a real problem is to take regular breaks from alcohol.
You will experience immediate benefits from a few days off the demon drink too. Regular boozing can upset your system leading to indigestion, headaches and stomach upsets. Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns which can lead to you feeling tired in the mornings. Booze breaks will leave you feeling brighter, refreshed and more alert and in the long term will make you less likely to suffer from more serious health problems.
There’s no need to feel like a party-pooper if you’re off the booze. Alcohol-free cocktails (complete with umbrella and cocktail cherry if you wish) are very ‘in’ this season. Check out the BBC food page or some lovely, healthy alternatives.
Do your health a favor and have a very Merry Christmas, but without the hangover!
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.