Do you know September is National Recovery Month?
This was established by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, whose mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on communities across the country.
That’s a mouthful, but their mission is near & dear to my heart.
And chances are it’s likely relevant to you too. Because most of us know someone who has dealt with mental health or substance abuse before. It’s a broad topic, but today I’m choosing to focus on alcohol, because quite honestly, it’s the substance I see my patients struggle with the most.
Now… I know alcohol can be a touchy subject!
But, I’m not here to tell you how to live your life! My goal is simply to make sure you have the information you need to make the choice that’s best for *you*.
So with that, let’s dive into the facts!
Are You Drinking Too Much?
In my opinion, no amount of alcohol is “healthy”.
There are, however, some studies that suggest an occasional glass of organic red wine can be beneficial, but more often than not, I see this taken out of context and used to justify regular consumption, rather than occasional.
What we know, without a shadow of a doubt, is that heavier alcohol consumption causes serious damage.
So… how do you know if you’re drinking too much?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines low-risk drinking as four or fewer standard drinks on any single day, and fewer than fourteen drinks during any given week— for men. For women, it’s three or fewer standard drinks a day, and no more than seven drinks per week.
For perspective, the NIAAA defines a standard drink as follows:
- 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of beer (about 5% alcohol)
- 8 to 9 ounces (237 to 266 milliliters) of malt liquor (about 7% alcohol)
- 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine (about 12% alcohol)
- 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) of 80-proof hard liquor (about 40% alcohol)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines heavy drinking as:
- Women consuming 8+ drinks per week
- Men consuming 15+ drinks per week
Depending on your lifestyle, it can be easy to reach these levels if, for example, you have wine at home a few nights each week, and meet up for “Happy Hour” on the weekends. Especially when you take into account the heavier than normal pours that are so commonplace.
But, here’s the deeper question I want you to ask yourself:
“Is alcohol really serving me & helping me live the life I want to live?”
Because the truth is while it’s tempting to latch onto a clinical recommendation and/or threshold for “risky drinking”, most of us know the answer to this question.
Admittedly, that’s a big question, so let’s continue the discussion with some signs & symptoms to be mindful of.
Signs & Symptoms to Watch For.
There are some common signs & symptoms that tend to pop-up when a person is drinking too much. For example, getting sick more often (due to a lowered immune system) and experiencing digestive problems are both common for people who are drinking heavily.
Other signs & symptoms are more serious…
Significant symptoms of drinking too much alcohol include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Liver Disease
If you find yourself having cravings for alcohol, being secretive about your drinking, and/or notice that family & friends are beginning to comment on your drinking, it’s probably time to talk with your doctor and/or someone who specializes in alcohol misuse.
Just know that the sooner you reach out, the easier it is to address!
The Effects of Excess Alcohol on the Body
Now that you know some of the symptoms & signs of drinking too much, let’s look at how alcohol actually affects the body.
Drinking large amounts of alcohol can negatively affect your…
When all of these organs & foundations of health are being disrupted, that’s when serious illness (^ like the ones listed above) occurs.
Cutting out alcohol completely is definitely your safest choice, but for a lot of people, that feels too drastic. If that’s the case for you, focus on how you can consistently cut back on the amount you’re consuming week-over-week.
Tips for Drinking Less Alcohol.
The big question is…
How can you drink less while living in an alcohol-obsessed world?
The key is making an intentional decision to limit your alcohol consumption, and then putting some specific & realistic measures in place to support that decision.
Here are 5 helpful tips to cut back on drinking:
1. Set Goals.
It’s hard to make real changes without having goals in place.
What kind of goals do I mean?
- What is the maximum number of drinks you’ll have in one sitting?
- What is the maximum number of drinks you’ll have each week?
- How many nights per week do you want to be alcohol-free?
Type your goals directly into the notes section of your phone so they’re easy to find.
2. Track Progress & Patterns.
In addition, you may find it helpful to track your progress & patterns in that same notes section.
- What night did you drink?
- How many drinks did you have?
- Where were you, or what was the occasion?
If you’re having trouble sticking to your goals, think about what you can change to set yourself up for success.
3. Drink Slowly.
Have you ever stared at an empty glass and wondered where the heck it went?
Or maybe you see your bill at a restaurant and wonder how you managed to slurp down 3 drinks in less than 2 hours?
This can happen just from having the habit of drinking fast! To drink less, focus on drinking slowly.
Having a glass of water before sipping your alcoholic beverage may help with this, so you’re not trying to quench your thirst.
4. Keep Busy.
Have you ever taken out a bottle of wine because you’re watching TV and… why not?
This is totally common.
To avoid this, try staying busy.
Here are a few ideas:
- Schedule a workout or meditation class in the evenings
- Plan to go for a walk with a friend
- Pick up a new hobby
You might be surprised at how little time you have for drinking when you’re busy doing other things!
5. Get Support.
If you’re having trouble cutting back on drinking, seek support. Tell friends, family, or a professional what you’re doing and let them know you need support.
Reaching your goals is so much easier when you have a community cheering you on.
How to Protect Your Liver.
Besides drinking less, what else can you do to support your body if you choose to drink alcohol?
Turn to Mother Nature! 🌱
The seeds found in milk thistle have liver-protective properties and have been used for more than 2,000 years to promote liver cell regeneration & reduce inflammation. My go-to supplement for this is Milk Thistle Forte by Standard Process, which has worked wonders for many of my patients!
You’re Not Alone!
The truth is, we live in an alcohol-obsessed world, and conforming to this culture can be detrimental to your health.
But, you can choose to live with intention 🙌
If you feel like you might need support, I encourage you to reach out to me!