By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
November 23, 2017
- It’s extremely easy to overindulge in alcoholic beverages during the holidays
- Is there any such thing as “healthy” liquor?
- 3 tips to avoid getting drunk during winter festivities
Now that Thanksgiving has passed, it’s official. The holiday season is here.
Over the next five or six weeks, you’ll be invited to any number of gatherings. And chances are good that alcohol will be flowing pretty freely.
Even if you don’t normally indulge, you’ll probably find yourself with a drink in your hand on more than one occasion. Champagne or egg nog anyone?
The fact is, more people overindulge in alcoholic beverages during the winter holidays than at any other time of the year. And it’s not hard to find yourself more than a little “tipsy” before you realize you’ve had one drink too many.
That’s because, depending on weight and liver health/size, your body can only metabolize so much alcohol each hour. But when it catches up with you, it can hit like a sledgehammer.
The next morning is even worse. The pounding head, sensitivity to light, upset stomach and other lingering effects make you wish you’d avoided the festivities altogether.
Well, there’s no need for that. The holidays are truly a time to celebrate. So let’s talk about some safe alcohol practices that can keep you out of harms way during this festive time of year.
Is there any such thing as “Healthy” Liquor?
My patients often ask me which type of alcohol is the “healthiest”. And they’re always disappointed in my answer.
There is no “healthy” alcohol. It’s both a tonic and a poison as well as a pure central nervous system depressant. A drink a day might offer a few health benefits. But more than that can quickly unravel your well-being.
However, some types of alcohol may be slightly “healthier” than others.
Wine though a fermented liquefied sugar, is widely recognized for its heart-healthy benefits. This is attributed to a potent antioxidant called resveratrol that is found in the skins of grapes making red wine. In addition to safeguarding your heart, this super-nutrient protects your mitochondria, reduces inflammation and boosts metabolism. The wines grown in cooler regions like Bordeaux appear to have the most resveratrol and white wines the least since the antioxidant rich skins are removed in their making. So on balance healthier than other alcohols.
Clear liquors are likely a healthier alternative than those that are dark. This is because darker alcohols like brandy, bourbon, whiskey and even beer contain high concentrations of something called congeners.
These are toxic byproducts (methanol, histamines, acetone, etc.) produced during the fermentation process. When you drink liquor with a high congener content, you’re more likely to experience severe hangover symptoms.
Clear spirits such as gin, rum and vodka can cause also cause a hangover if you drink too much of them. But it will probably be less brutal.
In many cases, the mixers are just as bad for you as the alcohol itself. They’re loaded with syrupy sugars, artificial flavors, color additives and other decidedly unhealthy ingredients. Look to avoid syrupy green and blue drinks.
At the same time, it’s so easy to over consume alcoholic drinks that are mixed with sweet-tasting soft drinks, juices and pre-made mixes. After all, if it tastes like Kool-Aid, you might slurp it down like Kool-Aid.
Your best bet?
When consumed in moderation, red wine is a relatively safe choice. Light beers can also be pretty harmless since they have such a low alcohol content. They even have gluten free ones, if that’s significant for you.
However, wine and beer are both acquired tastes. Not everyone likes them.
If that’s the case, stick with a clear alcohol. But don’t do shots. And don’t blend them with sugary mixers. Instead, mix a shot with a tall glass of sparkling water. Then add a slice of lime, orange, kiwi or watermelon for flavor.
3 Tips to Avoid getting Drunk during the Holidays
In addition to choosing a drink that’s not horribly bad for you, it’s very likely you don’t want to accidentally find yourself in a drunken state. And there are measures you can take to avoid this.
Never drink on an empty stomach. Filling your stomach with healthy proteins, fats/oils and plant-based carbohydrates slows down the absorption process. This helps to buffer the rapid effect of alcohol on your system. So always try to eat a meal prior to heading out to a holiday party.
Stay hydrated. Excess alcohol consumption dehydrates the body. This makes it a good idea to follow each alcoholic drink with at least 8 ounces of water. Sixteen ounces is even better. It will give you more time to metabolize the liquor you’ve already ingested and help move it out of your system.
Pace yourself. Tasty beverages with cute holiday names like Rudolph’s Tipsy Spritzer and Santa Shot Cocktails are easy to slug down as quickly as a bottle of Gatorade. The difference? These seasonal drinks aren’t just loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients. They also have exceptionally high alcohol content. Slow down, make smart drink decisions and enjoy the holiday festivities better and longer.
Alcohol Alert: Alcohol Metabolism. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. No. 35, PH 371.
Smoliga JM, et al. Resveratrol and health–a comprehensive review of human clinical trials. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2011 Aug;55(8):1129-41.
Verster JC, et al. The Alcohol Hangover Research Group Consensus Statement on Best Practice in Alcohol Hangover Research. Curr Drug Abuse Rev. 2010 Jun; 3(2): 116–126.