EP #157

Dry January Series: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Alcohol & Your Health

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In Molly Watts’ Dry January series, she dives into strategies for overcoming family alcohol abuse and fostering a serene connection with alcohol, initiating the month with tips and support for an alcohol-free journey. Delving into alcohol’s health ramifications, Watts uncovers sleep disturbances linked to daily drinking and urges listeners to ponder their drinking habits’ impact on health. Advising caution for individuals with pre-existing conditions, especially concerning alcohol-medication interactions and diminished efficacy of antibiotics, Watts highlights alcohol’s adverse effects on skin, teeth, digestion, and liver health, advocating for mindful choices and oral hygiene practices. Concluding with a focus on self-assessment and familial health history’s role in gauging cancer and dementia risks associated with alcohol, Watts underscores the benefits of sober days for overall physical well-being.

Welcome to the alcohol minimalist podcast. I’m your host Molly watts. If you want to change your drinking habits and create a peaceful relationship with alcohol, you’re in the right place. This podcast explores the strategies I use to overcome a lifetime of family alcohol abuse, more than 30 years of anxiety and worry about my own drinking, and what felt like an unbreakable daily drinking habits. Becoming an alcohol minimalist means removing excess alcohol from your life. So it doesn’t remove you from life. It means being able to take alcohol or leave it without feeling deprived. It means to live peacefully, being able to enjoy a glass of wine without feeling guilty and without needing to finish the bottle. With Science on our side will shatter your past patterns and eliminate your excuses. Changing your relationship with alcohol is possible. I’m here to help you do it. Let’s start now. Well, Hello and Happy New Year and welcome or welcome back to the alcohol minimalist podcast. With me your host Molly Watts coming to you from it’s a chilly Oregon today. Chilly, not raining, dry, and a little bit cold if I have to cold colder than usual. Still not cold enough to snow of course, but also not raining. So that is a good thing. If you’re new to the show, then get used to it. I deliver a weather report from Oregon every single week. This is the first episode of 2024. And it’s also the first episode of my dry January Series. How are you doing? How have you got a plan in place for dry you airy, whether that’s dry ish or damp. Some people do one new airy, that’s just one drink on any occasion that they choose to drink. And others many like me will do a full month alcohol free. Whatever you doing, and whatever you’ve chosen, I hope that this month’s podcast episodes support your efforts. And I hope that they will help you stay on track for the month and maybe even get inspired to become an alcohol minimalist for life. And PS by the way, it’s not too late to sign up for dry you weary through moderation management where you can get some group coaching, some daily email support and a private Facebook group. That’s via dry you weary extra dry version, just go to www dot dry you weary.org You it’s $35 for the whole month, which is really worth it. And it supports a very worthy nonprofit. So if you haven’t already, it’s not too late. Go ahead and sign up. I’m also really excited to start this year and announce that on Monday, January 15. I’ll be doing a week long series within a series, a mini series I guess. And it’s called, it’s still dry, you’re weary, and I will be dropping short, easy to consume episodes every day that week to help you battle some of the most common challenges that come up for people as they’re navigating this month. The five day series will start on Monday, January 15. And end on Friday the 19th It’s specifically geared to help you get over the mid month hump and to finish strong. So if you’re not already subscribed to the podcast, this would be a really good time to go ahead and hit subscribe so you do not miss it. And I will see you there on January 15. I really am excited about this mini series this week to kick off dry you weary right? This is the first Monday in January 2024. And I want to make sure that your mindset is strong about doing as many alcohol free days as possible during dry you airy. And one of the absolute best things about multiple alcohol free days are the benefits to your physical health. And I’ll talk about those at the end. But what you might not realize is how much you really are doing to your health by drinking alcohol on a regular basis. For me, I was mostly a habit drinker, a daily habit drinker. And because of that I did not associate my drinking with negative physical health consequences and I am sure that is the case for many of you. I wasn’t worried about cirrhosis of the liver because in my mind, I didn’t have severe alcohol use disorder. And that was pretty much the only thing I believed that alcohol misuse caused. Like the only people who had to worry about their physical health when it came to alcohol was people who were physically dependent like my mother. Heck, I absolutely bought into the headlines that alcohol was as good for my heart. And since I was far more concerned with developing heart disease, my dad had a heart attack at age 50. I really didn’t equate my daily drinking habit with negative physical health consequences. If anything, I probably believed that I was doing things beneficial for my health by drinking. It turned out, of course, that I was just uneducated, on the truths around alcohol. But until I actually cut back significantly on my drinking and incorporated multiple alcohol free days into my life, then I could actually see and feel the difference. And definitely my first fully dry January back in 2021, was when I really learned firsthand firsthand how, how much sleep disruptions were a result of my drinking habits, because my sleep scores on my bed that month went up so dramatically over the course of the month. So it was data right there that I could see. And I could feel it, too. Now, here’s what I want you to do this week, I want you to think about how your drinking might be affecting your health, I want you to consider these questions about your drinking that you might not think about regularly. But because you are doing dry January, or damp January, or dry ish, or when you worry whatever, in in an attempt to lessen the amount of alcohol that you’re including in your life. I want you to think about how your drinking might be impacting your health on a regular basis. I know I never did anything like this. And if you’re anything like me, maybe you go in for an annual exam of physical, and you write down a somewhat true number of your weekly drinks to your on your doctor’s health questionnaire. And, like most doctors, probably your doctor just skims right by it because it’s 90% of the time they do even if you were really truthful and wrote down if I had been truthful and wrote down my number, I’d be curious to know what my doctor would have said, I don’t I don’t know that she would have said anything. Most of the time, we don’t do that. And we write down a number. And most of the time we call it good when our doctor just passes that number by and doesn’t ask us about it. But these are questions that we really should be asking ourselves when it comes to our physical health and things that you might not be considering right now with regards to your drinking habits. So I have five questions that I want you to think about this week and really focus on because of all the benefits that you’re getting from prioritizing alcohol free days during dry January or dry you weary or damp January or whatever you want to call it. Number one, do you have any pre existing conditions that are exacerbated by drinking this might include diabetes, hypertension, epilepsy, and any known liver disease and I think that might be fairly obvious. So if you’re diabetic, the biggest concern is becoming hypoglycemic or experiencing hyperglycemia, which is low blood glucose. And when you’re drinking alcohol, that is combined with medications that are most often used to treat diabetes, particularly insulin and sulfonylureas. Low blood glucose can result. So while a glass of wine with dinner probably isn’t a big deal, a mojito on an empty stomach at happy hour definitely is you can blame it on your liver because the liver is what stabilizes glucose levels by storing carbohydrates and releasing them into the bloodstream between meals and overnight. And it’s also our liver is also the detoxification center of the body. It’s where we break down toxins like alcohol so the kidneys can easily flush them away. And the trouble is that the liver is not great at multitasking. So your liver will choose to metabolize the alcohol over maintaining your blood glucose, which can then lead to hyperglycemia. Now for those of you with hypertension, so that’s for the diabetics first with hypertension. A new study found that as little as one alcoholic drink a day increased systolic blood pressure, the top number in the blood pressure reading, even in men and women who were with no existing hypertension. All right, so even no existing hypertension shot or rise in systolic blood pressure. This the negative impact of alcohol on systolic blood pressure continued to rise over the years. This study found this was a multi year study, even in men and women who drank very little each day. Both systolic and diastolic readings contribute to cardiovascular risk and go hand in hand but of the two systolic blood pressure is definitely the most important risk factor in adults according to the study. his co author Dr. Paul Welton, who is the chair of Global Public Health at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and he is also the president of the World hypertension League. It’s also particularly dangerous to mix alcohol with blood pressure medications, like beta blockers and ACE inhibitors, because alcohol can excessively lower your blood pressure, which leads to dizziness and a rapid heartbeat, and it raises your risk of falls or passing out. Really, if you have high blood pressure. If you are treating it and you’re drinking alcohol, you really need to pay attention, you really need to minimize what you’re doing. If you have any form of epilepsy, alcohol is a common trigger for seizures. It also disrupts sleep patterns, and which can also exacerbate seizures for people with epilepsy. And it can make Biloxi medication less effective, or the side effects of the medication worse. So if you are being treated for any form of epilepsy with medication, you really want to consider whether or not you should be drinking alcohol. So those are the first round of questions. That’s the first things about pre existing conditions. The second question that I want to ask you to ask yourself about alcohol and your physical health. Are you taking any medications that are less effective because of your alcohol consumption, or that pose dangerous side effects when mixed with alcohol. This can include as just previously mentioned, blood pressure medications, and insulin. But it also can include antibiotics and various psychiatric medications. If you are on an antidepressant, and you are drinking alcohol, drinking definitely counteracts the benefits of your antidepressant medication making your symptoms more difficult to treat. I know many of us who many people who are taking antidepressants are are drinking regularly as well. And we really need to think about that. Alcohol may seem to improve your mood in the short term, but its overall effect increases your symptoms of depression and anxiety. And despite the fact that there are warnings not to consume alcohol on the majority of antibiotic packaging, it is a common misconception that drinking while on medications or antibiotics is a relatively safe practice. In fact, one of the most frequently asked questions that doctors get regarding prescription antibiotics is Is it safe to drink on these? And the short answer is no alcohol directly inhibits the effectiveness of antibiotics and can additionally cause a very wide range of negative side effects. When the body breaks down alcohol, it produces acid tell to hide and also to aldehyde causes nausea causes other things in the body. But many people taking antibiotics already experienced stomach or digestive side effects and drinking alcohol while on these medications can increase those feelings. In addition to gastrointestinal issues, both alcohol and antibiotics can hinder cognitive function, concentration and coordination. Another thing to consider with alcohol and antibiotics is the fact that drinking interferes with the essential processes of the body like sleep and hydration. And these are critical components of recovering from a bacterial illness. So these reasons are why it’s really best to stay away from alcohol for the duration of antibiotic treatment and why it is really not safe to drink when taking antibiotics. Third question to ask yourself about your physical health and alcohol. How does alcohol interfere with your ability to take care of your physical health? For example, is it affecting your skin, your teeth, your digestion, your diet? Hey everyone, just a quick break to talk with you about sunny side. Now you’ve heard me mentioned Sunny Side many times before you’ve heard me talk with Nick and E and the founders of sunny side. And I just want to share with you why I am so passionate about this company. They are way more than just a drink tracking app. They are really about helping people create a mindful relationship with alcohol and they stand for a life that is about having more, not less. Right. There are more rested mornings more days when you’re feeling your absolute best when you have more energy and positivity. Sunnyside is now out there to tell you to never go out to never drink, but they are there to help you enjoy your life and to wake up and be ready to be your shining best. It is not an all or nothing approach. It is friendly, it is approachable, and it is absolutely judgment free. They want to be a solution that fits into your unique lifestyle. And I think that’s exactly what they’ve created. You can register for a free 15 day trial. Go to www.sunnyside.co/minimalist to get started. That’s www.sunnyside.co/minimalist to try Sunnyside today. When you drink the dehydrating or diuretic effect of alcohol means that your skin loses fluid and nutrients that are vital for healthy looking skin. This can make your skin look more wrinkled goal and gray or bloated and puffy. And dehydrated skin may also be more prone to some types of eczema. Definitely, the more you drink, the worst your skin is going to look your teeth I never considered. Well, I take that back when I was in a pattern of drinking red wine, which was, I don’t know somewhere in the 2014 to 2017 range, I went through a red wine phase. And I was definitely concerned about my teeth because I could see that it was staining my teeth, right I actually bought those little wipes that I could like wipe off my teeth after drinking red wine but they didn’t it didn’t really help. But number one so there’s these are three things that you want to consider in yourself with regards to alcohol in your teeth. Number one is sugar content. bacteria in your mouth feeds on sugar, so sipping on sugary drinks like alcohol helps bacteria thrive. This bacteria creates acids that eat away at your teeth, weaken the enamel and cause tooth decay. If you do decide to have a drink, it’s always better to choose alcohol with less sugar such as bright wines, in terms of at least sugar with regards to your teeth. Number two, another thing that impacts your mouth, dehydration and dry mouth, alcohol dries out the mouth and when saliva flow is reduced, the risk for tooth decay and gum disease increases. This is because saliva plays an important role in oral health helping wash away bacteria. When you have dry mouth or are dehydrated, bacteria clings to the enamel and increases your risk of tooth decay. Furthermore, dry mouth can cause embarrassingly bad breath. If you have a few drinks make sure to pair each drink with a glass of water to replenish yourself saliva and also chewing on the sugar free gum can help increase saliva flow. Lastly, I just kind of touched on this but the last one with regards to your teeth is teeth staining. Alcoholic beverages with deep hues like sangria and red wine can turn your teeth red and cause long lasting discoloration. You can keep any discoloration under control by munching on food while you drink and chewing sugar free gum after drinking to bring your saliva levels back to normal. These are again things to consider and surround yourself with regards to your drinking habits and your overall health are your teeth which I never thought about except during that what red wine period but see there’s still lots of sugar in any type of alcohol that impacts your enamel. So don’t think that anything except the red wine is bad, you know is is red wines. The only thing that’s bad for your teeth, it’s not true with regards to your digestive system. So first of all, your mouth and your throat there are a part of your digestive system too. And alcohol quickly penetrates your mouth saliva, which and then it’s converted to acetyl acetate aldehyde as I said before, which can damage the tissues in your mouth. And a British study found that approximately 1/3 of mouth and throat cancers were caused by drinking alcohol. Not only that, but when combined with smoking alcohol may increase the risk of mouth cancer. Now of course those are observational studies. We don’t know if it was the alcohol or the smoking but regardless, it’s a known toxin. It’s a known carcinogen alcohol is so you got to be careful and it’s you’re you’re bringing it into your mouth which is a part of your digestive system, your esophagus and other part of your digestive system. Once you swallow alcohol, it can damage the cells of your esophagus that’s the long tube running from your mouth to your stomach and can increase your risk of cancer of the esophagus. Also it can cause acid reflux, which can also damage cells and increase your cancer risk your stomach and other part of your digestive tract right. This is where alcohol lingo lingers for a while and it’s it’s there that it is absorbed both into your bloodstream and your small intestine. Whether you drink occasionally or regularly alcohol can interfere with stomach function. For one thing, it can affect acid production diminishing your stomach’s ability to destroy harmful bacteria that enters the stomach, allowing it to enter your upper small intestine. This can also damage the mucous cells meant to protect your stomach wall from being damaged by acid and digestive enzymes, thus inducing inflammation and lesions. In addition, beverages with more than 15% Alcohol volume can delay stomach emptying, emptying, which can cause bacterial degradation of food and abdominal discomfort. Another main part of the digestive system is your liver, and the main role of the liver is to remove toxins from the body. However, the liver breaks down alcohol in several different ways, all of which lead to the conversion of alcohol into acetaldehyde, which poison cells and causes inflammatory changes in the liver. This can lead to fatty liver disease, which is an increase in fat production in the liver. It can also lead to cell and tissue damage from the toxic byproducts produced when alcohol is metabolized. Lastly, the last part of your digestive track is your intestines. And whatever food that is undigested passes from the small intestine to the large intestine, and is then expelled from the body through the anus and the rectum. Alcohol reaches the large intestine by way of your bloodstream where it can increase the risk of bowel cancer. Before I get to the fourth set of questions, I do want to note that the toxicity of alcohol is dose dependent. So what that means is that any of these questions that you’ve been looking at anything that we’ve been considering with regards to your physical health, it matters how much you are drinking, the more you’re drinking, the more these consequences, the more of these things are going to be applicable to you. The less you drink, the better. As you’re considering these questions, I want you to keep that top of mind. The fourth set of questions What is your cancer, Alzheimer’s and stroke risk? Have you or anyone else in your family been diagnosed with these type of conditions, which makes drinking more likely to negatively impact you? We just talked a little bit about cancer with regards to the digestive tract. Alcohol is classified as a group one human carcinogen. It is causally linked to seven types of cancer. Besides female breast cancer it is it increases the risk of developing oral cavity. We just talked about the mouth, the pharynx the throat, the esophagus, the gullet the liver, the larynx, which is the voice box and the colorectal, the large intestine and rectal cancers. These are direct causally linked, okay, this is not a observational link. This is a causal link. So this is important to understand, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, and the risk of breast cancer increases with each unit of alcohol consumed every day. If you have a family history of cancer, these risks could be even higher. If you have a family history of dementia, there is enough evidence to show that excessive alcohol consumption increases a person’s risk of developing dementia. Drinking alcohol in moderation, on the other hand, has not been conclusively linked to an increased risk of dementia. Because there’s been some talk that that’s beneficial or preventative for dementia. That is not true. But if you already drink alcohol within the recommended guidelines, like the low risk limits, you don’t need to stop drinking for to reduce your grounds, you know for reducing the risk of dementia. But again, despite claims drinking alcohol in moderation has not been shown to offer significant protection against developing dementia. So if you currently do not drink alcohol, you should not start in any way to prevent dementia risk. stroke risk is associated with hypertension, which can also be hereditary and which we’ve already covered is impacted by alcohol use. So again, these are things to consider if you’ve got a family history, even if you personally don’t haven’t shown or exhibited any of these symptoms yet or you know you haven’t been diagnosed with something yourself. If you have a family history of it, it could mean that drinking could be more impactful to you. The fifth set of questions and this is the last set is how is alcohol affecting your sleep? Do you find that you are waking frequently at night? Are you chronically tired in the morning? This is a well covered topic here on the podcast because disrupting your sleep cycles is absolutely happening for everyone who is drinking alcohol on a regular basis and chronic sleep deprived Question is linked to several chronic disease states, as well as many mental health disorders. If you are someone who believes that you need to drink to help you sleep, or that your sleep isn’t disrupted because you sleep so soundly through the night, I’ll simply say that being in deep sleep for many hours per night is actually not a healthy sleep cycle. And I will link previous episodes on alcohol in sleep in the show notes. And I hope that improving your overall sleep hygiene is on the shortlist of health priorities for you in 2024. These questions are things that we should really be asking ourselves on a regular basis, but they’ll also help us illuminate some of the benefits that you’ll be giving your body when you prioritize alcohol free days. Definitely, if you’re taking the whole month off alcohol, your physical health will benefit, your blood pressure will go down, your liver will repair and regenerate itself, you will likely lose some weight now that’s if you do not substitute sugary treats for alcohol. And I know some people do that. So let’s be paying attention there. Your sleep quality will improve and you will definitely boost your immune system which during January is really good thing right. Number six your mental health will improve your digestion may improve, you’ll have more energy, probably as a byproduct of better sleep, and your skin will be more hydrated. When you need to read invigorate your motivation for doing dry January or damp January or driest January. Whatever you’re calling it, remind yourself of all the physical health benefits you’re enjoying. And it’s a great way to help you stay on track. Next week, we’re going to dive into something else that you may not think about too often when it comes to alcohol. I call them your AC B’s. What can it mean, right? You’ll have to tune in next week to find out. But I hope this talk about questions that you can ask yourself about your physical health. And alcohol is something that helps you stay motivated to stay dry for a whole 31 days if that’s what you’re doing. That’s what I’m doing. And I hope it helps you just prioritize alcohol free days in your life because there are such enormous benefits that you gain from including alcohol free days in your life. You’ll have to tune in next week to find out about those ACBS make it a great week, my friends, and until next time, choose peace. Hey, thanks for listening to the alcohol minimalist podcast. Take something you learned from this week’s episode and put it into action. Changing your drinking habits and creating a peaceful relationship with alcohol is 100% possible. You can stop worrying Stop feeling guilty about over drinking and become someone who desires alcohol less. I work with people in three ways. You can learn about them over at www dot Molly watts.com/work with me, or better yet, reach out to me directly. It’s Molly at Molly watts.com. We’ll jump on a call and discuss what’s best for you. This podcast is really just the beginning of our conversation. Let’s keep it going