Alcohol guidelines: the impact on your health

01.10.2022 Category: General Health Author: Dr Claire Braham

Cutting back on alcohol can be a really effective way to improve your health, boost your energy, loose weight and save money.

In 2016, the Chief Medical Officers in the UK reduced the recommended amount of alcohol you should consume a week due to concerns about the risk of cancer. New research confirmed that even drinking a small amount of alcohol per week can cause an increase in risk of cancer.

From then onwards, it has been recommended that men and women have the same weekly intake of units per week. According to the UK low risk drinking guidelines, you should drink no more than 14 units a week, make sure you have several drink-free days, and never binge drink.
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What does 14 units of alcohol look like?

Because alcoholic drinks come in different strengths and sizes, units are a way to tell how strong your drink is. 14 units is equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or six medium (175ml) glasses of average strength wine.

It’s safest for both men and women to drink no more than 14 units a week, spread over three or more days with several drink-free days, and no bingeing.

Your risk of death from long term illness, accident or injury, is increased if you ‘binge drink’ 1 or more times a week.

How long does alcohol stay in your body:

On average, it takes about one hour for your body to break down one unit of alcohol. However, this can vary, depending on: 

  • Your weight
  • Whether you’re male or female
  • Your age 
  • How quickly or slowly your body turns food into energy (your metabolism) 
  • How much food you have eaten 

What are the consequences of drinking too much alcohol:

  • Low mood/mood swings
  • Liver problems
  • Heart problems
  • Cancers (mouth, tongue, throat, oesophagus)
  • Weight gain
  • Poor sleep
  • Blood pressure instability 

What are the benefits to cutting down on alcohol?

Short-term benefits:

  • waking up in a better mood
  • being less tired and more energetic throughout the day
  • healthier looking skin
  • saving some money

Long-term benefits:

  • lower your blood pressure
  • lower the risk of diseases including cancer, stroke, hypertension and liver disease
  • lower your cholesterol levels
  • your memory will improve
  • better quality of sleep
  • help with weight management*

* Did you know? Alcoholic drinks are high in calories, so cutting back on the amount you drink can really help to reduce your calorie intake.

According to our GP & Occupation Health Physician, Dr Claire Braham;

“When you drink alcohol, you lose around 4 times as much fluid as you drink.

It is therefore easy to understand why dehydrated often occurs. Dehydration symptoms are much like your classic hangover symptoms and will include headache, nausea and fatigue. These symptoms will become present when you are about 2-percent dehydrated, which is about when you start to feel thirst.

Avoiding alcohol means better hydration and sleep which will reduce hangovers and headaches, reduce tiredness, reduce sickness, increase your concentration and improve your overall control over emotions and behaviour. This leads to more productivity, better decision making and overall less accidents, regrets and more enjoyment.

It is not advised to drink more than 14 units a week, which is the equivalent of 6 pints of beer. That converts to 1,092 calories in total and would need 109 minutes of running to burn off those additional consumed calories. Abstinence is an easy way to avoid festivity weight gain.

Nowadays it is very easy to cut down or cut out alcohol. There is a wide variety of alcohol-free beer, wine, prosecco, gin, vodka, whisky and other spirits available on the market. These include some which are vegan and gluten-free as well as often free from sugar and artificial sweeteners. So you can still enjoy a ‘drink’, without the alcohol and high-sugar but with health benefits.”

For further detail of how alcohol can have a negative impact on your health, head to drinkaware.co.uk for more information and advice on drinking.

If you have concerns about the amount of alcohol you are drinking or about your health you should speak to a GP. You can book an appointment online.

More information on our GP service can be found here.

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Dry January

01.01.2019 Category: Dietitian Author: Ruth Kander

Dry January grows in popularity year on year.

The campaign by Alcohol Change UK, encourages participants to give up alcohol for the entire month of January.

The dry January one-month booze-free challenge can have a significantly positive impact on your health.

Alcohol has proven to increase the risk of developing a range of health problems (including cancers of the mouth, throat and breast) and that risk increases the more you drink on a regular basis.

Ruth Kander, our dietitian, looks at what is considered a safe amount of alcohol consumption.

The UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMOs) guideline for keeping health risks from alcohol to a low level for both men and women states that:

  • It is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.
  • Regularly drinking as much as 14 units per week, it’s best to spread your drinking evenly over three or more days. 
         – If you have one or two heavy drinking episodes a week, you increase your risk of death from long-term illness and injuries.
  • Cutting down the amount you drink, a smart way to help achieve this is to have several drink-free days a week.

A useful website for more information about alcohol is www.drinkaware.co.uk

What is a unit of alcohol?

1 Unit of Alcohol as recommended by Drinkaware - Fleet Street Clinic, London

How long does alcohol stay in your body?

On average, it takes about one hour for your body to break down one unit of alcohol, however, this can vary, depending on:

  • Your weight
  • Whether you’re male or female
  • Your age
  • Your metabolism – how quickly or slowly your body turns food into energy
  • How much food you have eaten
  • The type and strength of the alcohol you have consumed
  • Whether you’re taking medication and, if so, what type
  • It can also take longer if your liver isn’t functioning normally

If I am on medicines can I drink alcohol?

People taking sedative drugs (like diazepam/valium) or antidepressants (like fluoxetine/Prozac) should avoid alcohol altogether.

There are some antibiotics; metronidazole and tinidazole which just do not mix with alcohol – drinking with these will make you sick. But for most commonly prescribed antibiotics, drinking is unlikely to cause problems so long as it is within the low-risk alcohol unit guidelines.

People taking long-term medications should be careful about drinking, as alcohol can make some drugs less effective and long-term conditions could get worse. Examples of long-term medications include drugs for epilepsy, diabetes, or drugs like warfarin to thin the blood.

(From www.drinkaware.co.uk)

What are the consequences of drinking too much alcohol?

  • Low mood/mood swings
  • Liver problems
  • Heart problems
  • Cancers (mouth, tongue, throat, oesophagus)
  • Weight gain
  • Poor sleep
  • Blood pressure instability

By Ruth Kander BSc(Hons)RD | Dietitian

If you wish to discuss ways to maintain a healthy diet and reduce your alcohol consumption, Ruth holds a virtual clinic every Friday from 9am-2pm. Please call our reception team on 020 7353 5678 if you would like to request a face-to-face appointment

Book Your Dietitian Appointment with Ruth

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