Next to the holidays, summer is a common time for many of us to bump up our alcohol intake right along with our social activities. But now that fall — a time akin to the new year for focused health and weight-loss efforts — is here, there are a number of reasons to consider hopping on the sobriety wagon (like non-drinker Blake Lively pictured above) or curbing your alcohol intake.
1. Burn fat faster
Alcohol causes weight gain, but not only for the obvious caloric reason. Your liver is the primary organ responsible for detoxification, fat burning, fat excretion (via the digestive tract) and ridding your body of hormonal waste. It is a major player in achieving hormonal balance because it controls the production of certain hormones, such as the T3 thyroid hormone, and the breakdown of others, like cortisol.
A 2006 study reported that toxins, including drugs and alcohol, can cause abnormalities in our fat-burning pathways in our liver. This causes less fat burning, and leads to an increased storage of fat in the body and possibly our liver cells too. Over time, excess fat stored in our liver cells can be harmful to liver structure and impair its function.
Bottom line: So, does an unhealthy liver cause fat gain? Just as obesity is linked to fatty liver disease, liver toxicity is known to cause increased weight gain. So if you want to achieve hormonal balance, lose weight and stay healthy, you need to love your liver and detoxify it regularly – which means putting a halt to your liver’s nemesis, alcohol. For more on how to cleanse your liver click here.
2. Avoid vitamin deficiencies
Not only does alcohol leave you with an excess of calories, it also depletes certain vitamins, leaving you deficient in key nutrients. This is particularly true of the vitamin B family that is essential for enabling your body to handle stress effectively. B vitamins are necessary for the proper breakdown and elimination of alcohol in the body.
To show how prevalent this is, in one study, vitamin B6 reduced the number of hangover symptoms by approximately 50 percent. In fact, women should always take a B complex high in folic acid after consuming alcohol because it helps to negate the increase in breast cancer risk that’s associated with alcohol consumption. Research even suggests that alcoholic cravings are due to a deficiency in B vitamins and zinc, and an overall improvement in nutritional status can reduce the desire to grab a glass of vino.
Bottom line: Adding a serving of L-glutamine powder to your smoothies or a glass of water, which helps boost the neurotransmitter GABA and reduce anxiety levels, can also help curb cravings as you reduce your alcohol intake.
3. Wave goodbye to your sleeping problems
While there may be a few times (ahem, university) when you’ve found yourself passed out after a night of drinking, you may be surprised to learn that you didn’t have the deep, restful sleep you thought you did. Although alcohol makes you drowsy, the effect is short-lived. The body metabolizes alcohol as you sleep, resulting in symptoms that cause sleep interruption.
Alcohol may also cause sleep disorders because it affects the brain chemicals that affect sleep. It can influence the time it takes to fall asleep, total sleep time and even your ability to get into a deep stage of sleep according to extensive studies. While alcohol increases slow-wave sleep (SWS) during the first part of the night it reduces REM sleep (the state in which dreams and healing occurs) in the latter half.
Bottom line: One glass of wine with dinner will most likely not affect your sleep, since it takes about 90 minutes to metabolize one ounce of alcohol. However, one ounce (or more) within two hours of bed may heavily disrupt your sleep. Putting a halt to your drinking, or slowing it down significantly, can rejuvenate your beauty sleep and have you feeling better almost instantly.
4. Age in reverse
From dehydration to vitamin deficiencies, you can imagine that alcohol isn’t the best remedy for healthy, supple-looking skin. A survey of rosacea patients revealed that two out of three experienced flare-ups from alcohol, particularly red wine.
Over time, too much alcohol also causes the blood vessels in your face (particularly around your nose) to dilate. The end result? Red and spider-like veins that aren’t too pretty. The more you drink, the larger these veins can get as well.
Alcohol can also cause an imbalance between estrogen and testosterone levels in your body, which can have an adverse affect on your skin by stimulating excess oil secretion and causing unwelcome pimples to surface. The dehydrating effect of too many glasses of wine will also make you more prone to wrinkles.
Bottom line: Though it may not seem like the most fun option, choosing water as your drink of choice will have you looking younger in no time. It will also leave you looking years younger than your alcohol-consuming friends down the road.
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is now available across Canada. She’s also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique and a regular guest on The Dr. Oz Show. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.