Picture this – you’ve had a long day and you’re feeling absolutely burnt out. You long for the moment you get home, put on a comfortable pair of sweats, and cuddle on your sofa with a blanket and a healthy a glass of wine. Your favorite bottle is waiting for you in the kitchen and it’s calling your name!
I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been there. I’ll be the first to admit that there’s something truly relaxing about this scene. I’ve indulged this way many times. I’ve also enjoyed many cocktails over the years during the holidays, while on vacation or as I was out on the town with my friends. Whichever way you slice it, for many of us, alcohol is present in our lives. In order to take control of our own wellness and progress, it’s important that we truly understand the physical effects of alcohol consumption and how it can negatively impact our bodies:
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One: Does Alcohol really contribute to weight gain? Ladies, we’ve heard this claim our whole lives. It’s been featured in every magazine we know and love, it’s been a constant factor in celebrity diets and it was one of the many cautionary tales our mothers told us long ago – alcohol can make us gain weight. And it turns out it’s true! This is because alcohol holds empty calories, meaning it gives your body the added caloric intake without much (or any) nutritional value at all. This is essentially like filling your gas tank with water – you’re adding fluid, which in essence will “fill up” the empty space in your tank, but you’re not giving your car the fuel that it needs to run.
Another thing to keep in mind – many alcoholic beverages that you dream about are chock-full of sugar. Sugar and extra, empty calories are no help to women trying to maintain their weight. In fact, after menopause, women lose muscle mass and suffer the effects of a slower metabolism. This means that the number of calories that we need to keep our bodies running also decreases. If and when we binge on sugary, alcoholic beverages, our bodies are likely to store those calories as fat.
Two: Can alcohol affect my skin? Yes, it certainly can. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes your body to expel water at an increased rate. In other words, it dehydrates you – big time! Not only can this contribute to feeling icky – headaches, bloating, etc. – it also wreaks havoc on the skin. By reducing water levels in the body, alcohol can make skin dry and flaky. This results in fine lines and wrinkles being more visible to the naked eye. The worst part? Alcohol consumption also makes it fairly difficult to properly re-hydrate the body. This means it takes a lot of work to restore your skin to its normal state.
Three: Is there a link between alcohol consumption and cancer? It’s important to understand that alcohol affects men and women differently. Recent studies indicate that there is a correlation between alcohol consumption and breast cancer amongst women. This is due to a few reasons – according to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, when women drink alcohol, “it triggers changes in a women’s body that could potentially lead to cancer.”
Just how strong is the link between alcohol and breast cancer? Menopause.org claims, “Any amount of alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer. The increase in risk is there, but small, for women who drink one drink a day. Women who drink two to five drinks a day have about 1.5 times the risk of nondrinkers. (The increased risk doesn’t seem to have anything to do with alcohol’s effect on estrogen levels.)”
Four: Am I imagining it, or are my pants tight? You’re not imagining it, alcohol absolutely contributes to bloating in men and women alike. The “why” is simple – alcohol is an inflammatory substance that causes the body to swell. Ladies, you’ll see the effects on your waistline, your face and even your hands!
The inflammation doesn’t stop there, though. If you suffer from gastrointestinal issues, as many of us do, alcohol can also inflame and irritate your stomach from the inside out. This can be particularly debilitating for those of us who suffer from things like Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Crohn’s Disease. The nasty truth is, alcohol can impact acid production in our gastrointestinal tract and it can affect the nature of our bowel movements.
Five: Does Alcohol Play a Part in Depression? It’s true – alcohol is a depressant and can directly impact your mental state. Whether or not you’re already suffering from anxiety or depression, it’s fair to assume that consuming alcohol can affect your mood. In fact, according to Menopause.org, “heavy drinking itself can lead to depression, and women who show signs of alcoholism are two to seven times more at risk of developing depression than men.”
Now that we’ve covered the negative effects of consuming alcohol, I will say that drinking alcohol in moderation – like all things – is perfectly acceptable. My advice here would be to chat with your doctor and get their input on any medical conditions you’ll need to take into account. From there, be mindful of your alcohol intake and pay attention to the way your body responds to what you’re drinking. On some nights, you’ll reach for that glass of Moscato – and that’s okay! Other nights, it’s just as relaxing to curl up on the couch with a blanket and a good book.
Do you have an experience you’d like to share? Please leave a comment below:
If you’re looking got uncover more truths, then this post is for you: MYTH BUSTERS: FIVE LIES ABOUT WOMEN AND FITNESS.