Health: Drinking done right

By Stephanie Vilendrer

College is a time for career preparations, personal growth, making friends…and drinking. Unfortunately, for many college students—about 40 percent—that includes binge drinking. For underclassmen especially, living at college might be the first time students have had easy access to alcohol, and oftentimes the consequences are poor for one’s health. While binge drinking is obviously toxic, even more than just one glass can have negative physical effects, too. No reliable study has proven that alcohol consumption in moderation (as opposed to binge drinking) extends lifespan. There is evidence, however, that points to a correlation between the two, meaning that it is likely that people who are already healthy to begin with are also those who drink in moderation. Drinking causes changes in brain chemistry, damages the liver, upsets hormonal balance, and increases the likelihood for reckless behavior and accidents. I cite these negative effects because they serve as motivators for careful drinking. Notice that I say careful, because I realize most people won’t sacrifice their booze habits for perfect health. If you read my column last year, you might remember that I already wrote about healthier alcohol use. This is such an important topic that I want to reiterate it with a few changes. The bottom line is that if you are conscientious about what and how you drink, and if you put a little extra effort into caring for your body, maintaining your health while occasionally enjoying a few drinks can be no problem. If you’re planning to indulge, you should follow some rules to help your body cope and detoxify. 1.Eat a cleansing diet on a regular basis and especially on the days before and following drinking. This includes as many fresh, raw vegetables, leafy greens and whole fruits as possible (if you have a blender, making “green smoothies” is an easy and delicious way to do this). A clean liver is an efficient liver, and these are the foods that will provide the enzymes and antioxidants necessary for detoxification. Avoid high-sugar and processed foods. Eat healthy fats high in omega-3s, including olive oil, coconut oil, avocados and raw nuts. Herbs and spices also promote liver detoxification. 2.Drink pure water prior to and after drinking. About 65 percent of your body weight is water. Without hydration, detoxification is hindered; hangovers are largely caused by dehydration. Even better than drinking water: drinking herbal teas, especially right after drinking alcohol. I recommend Tulsi, ginger, dandelion, nettle leaf or simply some freshly squeezed lemon in hot water. 3.Replace your intestinal flora. Besides causing liver toxicity, alcohol kills off the healthy bacteria that live in your gut. These critical microflora help the body absorb nutrients and counteract the effects of “bad” bacteria, which produce toxic waste, amongst other functions. This is why it’s so important to take probiotics or eat fermented foods every day. I enjoy drinking Kombucha, a fermented tea that is rich in antioxidants and probiotics (available at Whole Foods and Cub). However, you could also take a probiotic supplement or eat foods like organic or hormone-free, unsweetened yogurt, high-quality cheese and raw sauerkraut. 4.Don’t drink mixers! Alcohol alone is more than enough for the liver to handle. Add sugar, artificial dyes and preservatives, and you’ve got a Toxic Cocktail. This includes chasing or mixing liquor with soda, fruit juice and energy drinks (especially Red Bull fans). If you’re intent on continuing to drink rum and cokes, I suggest trying rum and tea next time and see if you feel any better the next day; tea is a great alternative mixer. Always avoid or minimize sugar. Stay away from diet beverages as well, which are just as bad. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to a variety of serious health issues and have been shown to actually stimulate appetite. If you really want something sweet, try stevia extract, xylitol, raw honey or coconut sugar. 5.Eat a healthy snack before you go to sleep. Having some food in your stomach will help to prevent queasiness the next day as well as stabilize your blood sugar so that you don’t wake up feeling shaky or having a headache. Plus, eating something healthy will provide your body with the extra nutrients it needs to help neutralize alcohol toxins. A banana and almond butter, some oatmeal and nuts, or yogurt and fruit are all good options. Consider purchasing a high-quality multi-vitamin (make sure it’s a reputable brand) containing vitamin D to take on a daily basis and especially on nights after drinking. 6.Finally, have a great attitude! If you think you will get sick from drinking, then you probably will. Take the above steps to minimize the likelihood of feeling down and out. Even if you do drink, it’s far more enjoyable to be hungover and happy than sick and miserable, too. As always, remember to drink responsibly. Cheers to good health! refresh –>