Opinion

SPOTLIGHT ON NATUROPATHIC MEDICINE: Beer, Wine, or Water?

By Dr. Andrea Hornyak, Spotlight on Naturopathic Medicine

(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

In 2012, three million deaths worldwide were due to alcohol, which is more than lung cancer and HIV/AIDS combined.

Alcohol is a drug that is toxic to the nervous system, liver, heart and pancreas. Long-term consumption of alcohol can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and alcohol is associated with an increased risk for colon cancer, breast cancer, and cancers of the larynx, pharynx, esophagus, and liver.

A maximum of seven alcohol beverages per week is recommended. However, it is common for people to consume an average of 12 drinks on Friday and Saturday alone. Many people joke about how much alcohol they drink, mainly because it is socially accepted and even tradition at special events. Alcohol is often used as a pleasurable way to deal with stress, like after a long day at work or relaxing on vacation.

Alcoholic drinks that have some health benefits include vodka, gin, rum, tequila or whiskey mixed with soda water or ice as it has very little sugar, red wine and Guinness beer for its antioxidants. However, this is in moderation only, as in one alcoholic drink per day on average. It’s best to wait a couple of days between drinking alcohol to allow your liver to recover properly and metabolize the drug out of your system. Many people do not realize the totality of effects alcohol creates in the body.

After Just A Few Years of Drinking Alcohol:

1) Your brain cells actually shrink, which contributes to a decrease in motor skills, sleep quality, memory and concentration.

2) Your liver cells become damaged, which decreases the ability of your body to detoxify, resulting in bloating, gas, heartburn, constipation, abdominal obesity, headaches, muscle/joint pain, anxiety or depression.

3) Your heart muscle becomes weak and incapable of properly pumping blood throughout your body. This results in breathing difficulty, chronic fatigue, and edema.

4) Your thyroid gland does not function, leading to over or under metabolism.

5) People who consume three or more alcoholic drinks per day have a greater risk of developing oral, pharynx, larynx, esophageal, liver, colorectal or breast cancer. The risk is substantially higher if these people also smoke tobacco.

6) Approximately 20 per cent of heavy alcoholic drinkers develop cirrhosis of the liver after 10 years.

Alcohol as the Root Cause of Several Conditions

If a patient of mine has a history of chronic alcohol consumption, I order laboratory tests to assess vitamin/mineral deficiencies, inflammation, immunity, hormones, liver and thyroid function.

Since long-term alcohol consumption raises estrogen and decreases progesterone, it is beneficial for those with hormonal problems, including infertility, hot flashes, night sweats, erectile dysfunction and low libido to avoid drinking alcohol.

People with acid reflux, stomach ulcers, IBS, Crohn’s Disease or Colitis also benefit from not consuming alcohol as it causes inflammation in the lining of the stomach, which often produces pain and diarrhea.

Chronic alcohol intake also inhibits the absorption of vitamin B1, B12, folate and zinc. This contributes to anemia, fatigue and poor immunity.

Depression is also strongly correlated with daily alcohol consumption, as it is a common way to cope with the emotions people would rather suppress.

Good Reasons to Cut Back on Your Alcohol Consumption:

- It is high in sugar, which decreases energy, increases stress and appetite, and adds fat to your body

- It contains pesticide residue, which is linked to Parkinson’s disease and Cancer

- The negative after effects from alcohol including frequent urination, dry mouth, headache, diarrhea or vomiting

- It can alter the normal way you make decisions and lead to bad choices, regrets and memory loss

- Drinking after a workout causes dehydration and inhibits muscle recovery

- Alcohol disrupts sleep, depletes oxygen in the blood and inhibits the release of human growth hormone, needed to repair the body

- You will save a lot of money

- Your mood will elevate, as alcohol is actually a depressant

- You will reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes, heart attack and stroke

- The decrease in caloric intake will contribute to weight loss

- Your cholesterol and blood sugar values will decrease

- You will improve the health of your liver and decrease fatty liver disease

- Your memory and concentration will improve

- You will do better at work

- Your skin will improve

- Your libido will increase

- Your energy will improve so you can exercise and reward your body by being healthier and feeling happier

Dr. Hornyak has been in private practice as a Licensed Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine since 2006. For more information, phone the Norwich Medical Centre at 519-863-2338 or visit www.vitalforcenaturopathic.ca.