Inevitably, alcohol is freely-flowing around this time of the year. Whether your celebrating being together or toasting in a new year, it sometimes feels as if alcohol is unavoidable during the holiday season. Vytaliving’s handbook to mindful alcohol drinking, hangovers and recovery is set to be your handy guide to enjoying a festive tipple without overdoing it.
What is alcohol?
Well, it’s wine, it’s gin, it’s sambuca, but what is alcohol in a scientific state? Alcohol is a drink that contains ethanol. The –ol suffix denotes an alcohol in chemistry. This is a type of alcohol produced by the fermentation of another material. This may include fruits, vegetables or grains. Alcohol is an energetic compound, per 1 gram of alcohol, there are 7kcals.
In smaller dosages alcohol can help to reduce anxiety, inhibitions and increase sociability and enjoyment. However, in larger dosages, it can act as a central nervous system depressant and have psychoactive drug-like qualities. This means that when alcohol is consumed it stimulates reward centres in the brain releasing dopamine and endogenous opioid. However, it depresses the mechanisms that release serotonin. Lastly, it increases the release of GABA which increases brain alpha-wave activity associated with calmness and relaxation, which in large doses can lead to sedation-like results.
Here are some statistics related to the festive period and alcohol:
- A 2019 study reveals that 61% of drinkers in the UK over-indulge with alcohol over the festive season.
- On average, each person will consume 26 units per day on the 25th of December.
- A Drinkaware study finds that people are more likely to feel pressured to drink at their festive work party (33%) than any other times of year, including New Year’s Eve (where 29% say they feel more pressured) and Christmas Day (20%)
- As a nation, Britain is collectively expected to drink almost six billion units of alcohol between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.
- In 2019 it was reported that 18% of people state they experience more hangovers during this time.
What is a hangover?
A pounding headache, the shakes and extreme dry mouth. We have all been there, it’s the dreaded hangover. There are a number of reasons that alcohol creates a hangover. Here are some of the examples:
- You’re actually dehydrated. Alcohol is a diuretic that interferes with the hormone vasopressin. Its role is to help the kidneys reabsorb excess fluid to maintain water levels within the body. However, alcohol suppresses this hormone meaning that fluid is not reabsorbed at the kidneys and is instead lost through urine. This can result in excessive thirst and dry mouth as well as a headache.
- You’ve slept poorly. After drinking alcohol, you may feel as if you fall asleep quickly – false. You actually don’t fall asleep, the body is just sedated. This means that you are unable to access high-quality restorative sleep.
- Your body is in a state of inflammation. Alcohol is pro-inflammatory. One of the breakdown by-products of alcohol is acetaldehyde, which is toxic. Short-lived exposure to acetaldehyde can lead to inflammation in many organs including the liver, gastrointestinal tract, brain and pancreas.
- Your gastrointestinal tract is irritated. Alcohol is a GI irritator. This means that when alcohol is consumed excess acid is released. This acid then irritates the mucosal lining of the stomach which can lead to mild pain/irritation as well as nausea.
Typical symptoms of a hangover include:
- Increased blood pressure
- Anxiety and shakes
- Sensitivity to bright lights or sound
- Increased Sweating
- Nausea and sickness
Alcohol Guidelines- UK
The NHS recommends that both men and women do not drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week. These units should be spread over a number of days with rest days between each drinking session. You are highly advised not to consume all 14 of these units in one sitting.
The idea of units are arbitrary and can often be hard to calculate. Here are a few common examples:
- A Small Glass of Wine – 1.5 units
- A Large Glass of Wine – 3 units
- A Pint of lager/beer/cider- 2-3 units
- A Single shot of spirit- 1 unit
Handy tips for pacing yourself...
If you want to be mindful of your health and avoid the atrocious January 1st hangover here are some tips you might like to follow:
- Only stick to one kind of alcohol per night.
- Sip your drinks rather than gulping them.
- Avoid drinking games that may lead you to drinking more than you had hoped to.
- Know your limits and stick to them.
- Stay hydrated throughout the night. Get a glass of water with each drink, and drink a pint before bed.
- Ensure to have something carbohydrate based before bed to maintain health blood glucose levels.
- Make sure that you have had a full meal before drinking.
- Try not to feel pressured into drinking by friends, family or colleagues. Always have a soft drink alternative that you enjoy.
- Offer to be the designated driver.
The Vytaliving Recovery Patch
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