How does drinking alcohol affect Dynamic Ageing?
Don’t worry, I am not going to suggest that you never touch an alcoholic drink again! But I do think that it is valuable to know how alcohol consumption can affect your health as you grow older, because there is a lot of confusing information floating around. It is well worth knowing the hard facts as drinking too much, and particularly what you drink, can most certainly cause you to age not only faster but more dangerously because it can hugely increase your risk of associated and chronic disease.
Alcohol is not only a toxin but also a powerful drug with virtually no nutrient value and the trend over the last few years towards binge drinking is truly alarming. Liver disorders which used to be common only among those over the age of 50 are now appearing in people as young as 20! And the figures are climbing year on year. Furthermore, alcohol consumption has increased very considerably since the first Lockdown – not surprising perhaps but disturbing nevertheless.
So let’s just look at what happens in the body when you consume alcohol and how your body deals with it. We are all aware of the liver’s involvement, but from a Dynamic Ageing point of view, think also about your skin and your brain.
A few general effects of over-indulging in alcohol
· Drinking alcohol reduces the ability of the liver to detoxify
· It is a diuretic and leads to severe dehydration, thereby concentrating the body’s alcohol content even more
· It disrupts sleep
· It produces hormonal imbalances
· It upsets blood sugar levels
· It interferes with adrenal function
· It irritates the digestive system
· It causes the excretion of vital minerals and vitamins, particularly the B vitamins which are so essential to the nervous system and hormone production
· It increases the risk of hormonal cancers, particularly breast cancer
· And let’s face it, the more you drink, the more it affects your behaviour!
How about its effect on the skin?
· Along with gluten, dairy and sugar, alcohol is a major skin ager
· It is definitely a case of what you drink today, you wear on your face tomorrow! Think of your facial skin as a magic mirror.....
· Its high sugar content causes the skin to sag – as in droopy eyelids
· The dehydration deepens lines because it sucks all the moisture out of your skin
· Dark circles under the eyes can mean that the kidneys are struggling to process the alcohol
· Irritation of the gut lining results in inflammation which is one of beautiful skin’s greatest enemies
· It adds to the liver’s detoxification burden and a toxic body ALWAYS shows up on the skin, and very quickly
· It enlarges the skin's blood vessels, leading to redness and spider veins
· It makes pores more visible, causes puffiness and makes skin look slack and dull – and if you have rosacea, just watch for the flare-up!
And what about the brain?
· Alcohol is NEUROTOXIC!
· It directly damages brain cells
· By disrupting sleep, alcohol affects all the brain benefits of sleep including immunity, mood, focus and attention, learning, coordination, decision making
· The excretion of vital vitamins and minerals like thiamine obviously impacts brain health - thiamine/Vitamin B1 deficiency is common in even moderate drinkers
· It blocks chemical signals between brain cells
· It stimulates neurons to over-react and over-respond to neurotransmitters, eventually causing them to burn out
· It makes the brain shrink, and brain shrinkage is a hallmark of dementia
All of the above are just a very small taste of what alcohol consumption can mean so am I saying that we need to give up alcohol completely? No, of course not! I myself am more than partial to a glass of celebratory champagne, and Saturday nights would not be the same without some first-rate wine. But any more than that and be aware that it is affecting your chances of ageing dynamically and making you look older.