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Cheers? Bottoms up? A toast to good health?

What do whiskey, rum, beer, brandy, gin, vodka, wine, sake, ouzo and koumiss have in common? These beverages all contain ethanol - a form of alcohol. Even though each gram of alcohol provides 7 calories of energy, alcohol is not a food nutrient but a mind-altering drug. Each standard drink (45 ml liquor or 150 ml wine) has 13 to 14 gms of alcohol.

Alcohol consumption is now a part of celebrating life’s milestones….whether it is barhopping with friends on their birthdays or toasting the bride and groom with champagne at their wedding or downing vodka shots on a Friday night with office colleagues to celebrate a promotion.

When consumed in moderation, alcoholic beverages can make social situations more enjoyable….and can even have some health benefits like offering cardiovascular protection. Consuming small amounts of alcohol can raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels, reduce blood levels of fibrinogen (an important blood-clotting factor) and decrease platelet stickiness. Red wines and beers have beneficial antioxidants (but you can get those from purple grape juice!) However, more and more people are now experiencing serious health problems as a result of their excessive alcohol-drinking habits.

Alcohol does not require digestion and readily passes through the tissues lining the inside of the mouth, esophagus, stomach and small intestine. When alcohol is consumed with a meal or after a meal, food delays its absorption from the stomach and lowers the rate at which it enters the bloodstream. If a person consumes excessive amounts of alcohol on an empty stomach, tremendous damage is done to the liver and the kidneys. In fact alcohol poisoning is a life-threatening condition and binge drinking can be fatal.

Drinkers can be classified as:

Abstainers - consuming none or fewer than 12 drinks/year
Light drinkers - consuming 1-12 drinks/month
Moderate drinkers - consuming 4-14 drinks/week
Heavy drinkers - consuming 3 or more drinks/day
Binge drinkers – consuming 5 or more drinks/occasion (males)
consuming 4 or more drinks/occasion (females)

Not everyone who drinks alcohol regularly abuses the drug, but you might be abusing alcohol if you:

- Drink to relax, forget your worries, improve your mood
- Lose interest in food because of your drinking habits
- Find more and more “reasons” to drink
- Consume drinks in few quick gulps
- Lie about or try to hide your drinking habits
- Often drink alone
- Hurt yourself or others while drinking
- Were drunk more than 3 times in the past year
- Need to drink more than previously to get “high”
- Feel irritable and resentful when you are not drinking
- Have medical, social or financial problems caused by your drinking habits
- Have been fined by the traffic cops for drinking and driving

Harmful effects of alcohol:
- Brain: impairs brain functioning and damages the brain
- Esophagus: increases risk of esophageal cancer
- Skin: causes skin flushing and heat loss
- Heart: damages heart muscle, resulting in heart enlargement and heart failure
- Liver: causes fatty infilteration of the liver, cirrhosis and liver failure
- Pancreas: impairs pancreatic functioning, causes pancreatic inflammation and increased risk of pancreatic cancer
- Small intestine: interferes with nutrient absorption
- Abdomen: increases fatty deposits in abdominal region
- Colon and rectum: increases risk of colon and rectal cancer

When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, her fetus also “drinks” alcohol because alcohol flows freely from the mother’s bloodstream to that of the fetus. An infant born with “fetal alcohol syndrome” has certain facial and heart defects as well as extensive often irreversible damage to the nervous system causing mental retardation. The infant may also have delayed and abnormal physical development.

So if you think you are abusing alcohol or are dependent on it, seek help asap

Stay blessed with good health ...always!!!

Warm regards,

Charmaine D’Souza


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