Friday, February 18, 2011

To Drink or Not to Drink

In his book Natural Health, Natural Medicine Andrew Weil, M.D. addresses alcohol use: “Heavy alcohol use puts us at risk of developing cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and stomach, probably because alcohol irritates these tissues directly.” Weil also states that heavy drinkers are more likely to get liver cancer and that this danger is compounded if you also smoke tobacco. He recommends drinking moderately or minimally or not at all.

Besides the physiological dangers of alcohol use, there are psychological dangers as well. Many women report that after drinking, they feel out of control, are more likely to throw out their plans to eat sensibly and to binge. Alcohol weakens their resolve to restrict “forbidden” foods and drinking often precipitates weeks or months of “out of control” behavior. This behavior is accompanied by feelings of remorse, guilt and self-disgust which can lead the drinker to drink or eat even more in an attempt to “medicate” these negative feelings (classic emotional eating).

Harvey and Marilyn Diamond report in their work that alcohol impairs calcium absorption by affecting the liver’s ability to activate vitamin D which is important in the metabolism of calcium. Christiane Northrup, M.D. associates excess alcohol consumption with increased risk of breast cancer, menstrual irregularities, osteoporosis and birth defects. She also explains that “two drinks of alcohol per night effectively wipe out rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is the type of sleep associated with dreaming.” She wisely points out that dreaming is part of our internal guidance system and wonders why anyone would choose to suppress that guidance with alcohol. Consensus of opinion appears to be that water is best and that alcohol offers no beneficial effects. You decide.

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