And when to say no to alcohol…
Let’s say you fall over and fracture a bone or ‘pull’ a muscle. Your body is sore and tender and you don’t want to put any weight on it – an indication of the area being inflamed. The experience sucked (no doubt) so you go home, pop a couple of pills and wash it down with a glass of wine. Because hey, you need to wind down right? Wrong! Alcohol is NOT your friend right now. In fact, drinking alcohol when you have an injury is going to slow down your healing process more than any other choice you’ll make.
But before we get to how alcohol plays a role, lets understand inflammation:
Websters Medical Dictionary – Inflammation [in″flah-ma´shun]
A localised protective response elicited by injury or destruction of tissues, which serves to destroy, dilute, or wall off both the injurious agent and the injured tissue. adj., adj inflam´matory.
The classic signs of inflammation are heat, redness, swelling, pain, and loss of function. These are manifestations of the physiologic changes that occur during the inflammatory process. The three major components of this process are (1) changes in the caliber of blood vessels and the rate of blood flow through them (hemodynamic changes); (2) increased capillary permeability; and (3) leukocytic exudation.
Ok so lets sift through all the big words that the medical dictionary loves to use and recount that inflammation is the body’s response to an injury and is step one of the healing process. And if inflammation is the first stage of healing then we want our body to move from that stage to the actual repair stage as quick as possible right? So here is where alcohol can not only slow down your healing but it can make you take back steps and for some people those backward steps can lead to chronic (long term), systemic (all over body) inflammation.
6 ways alcohol consumption slows down healing and increases inflammation:
- Drinking alcohol can impact the immune system – your immune system is responsible for regrowing skin, bones and healthy tissue. Studies now confirm what we knew all along – all healing comes from your gut. So, healthy gut = healthy immune system = faster recovery. Alcohol disrupts the gut biome, increases bad bacteria in the gut (think beer belly) and disrupts the immune response.
- Drinking alcohol prevents blood coagulation which is part of the healing process – the more you drink the slower it will take your blood to be able to heal the wounded area. Booze thins out the blood which means the good guys can’t stick together and make new tissue (aka body parts).
- Drinking alcohol might give you a false sense of safety – yes, alcohol makes you do dumb things like dance on a broken foot. You’re also more likely to relax a little too much and forget to support the injured area.
- Drinking booze disrupts your circadian rhythm – if you thought that a few glasses of wine will help you sleep, think again. While initially you might ‘pass out’, once the alcohol wears off your body actually goes into a heightened state of awareness which prevents you from getting adequate rest. And since the body heals best whilst in a rested state, you end up getting up in the morning tired, frazzled and sore – not a good way to start another day while nursing an injury.
- Alcohol increases inflammation – have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror after a night on the booze and realised that your face is puffy? The mirror is not lying. Puffy face is a tell tale sign of excessive drinking and indicates systemic inflammation. This means that the gut has been damaged so much that the body is constantly fighting to keep up with just dealing with toxic overload and can’t even start to do something beneficial like healing an injury. This inflammation overload can lead to long term health issues including auto immune diseases, liver failure and stroke.
- Alcohol consumption disrupts magnesium homeostasis – magnesium deficiency has long been accepted as a contributor to poor tissue health and is commonly advised for its ability to relieve tired, aching muscles and prevent cramp. But did you know that magnesium in its many forms is responsible for over 700 processes in our body and that alcohol consumption actually strips our body of an already deficient mineral?
So, with all this bad news about booze, what can we do to help our body heal?
- Stay off the alcohol. Obviously. For some that’s easy but realistically it can be really tough for many. The minimum you need to do is to have 4 days alcohol free every week – and that doesn’t mean you binge drink for 3 days. A couple of glasses of wine or a couple of beers 3 times a week is plenty for now.
- Make alcohol alternatives. Not drinking alcohol can be fun I promise! How about making some mocktails? My fav is soda, fresh lime, ginger and mint. It’s refreshing and yummy – and ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory! Win – win.
- Encourage your household to join you – have a booze free month.. or 2. Give your body the break it deserves. If you are a regular drinker, taking a month off a few times a year will give your body an opportunity to recover and detox. You will look and feel so much better and I promise you that your nearest and dearest will notice the difference too.
- Find an alternative activity – changing habits can mean opening the door to new opportunities. For many people, having a couple of wines every night is associated with relaxing so if you’re getting rid of a habit you may find it easier if you replace it with something else. Obviously we want to see you in the studio more often so you could add on an extra Pilates class – or read a book – paint – journal – cook – meditate – have a cup of chamomile tea. Find something else that fills the void so that you don’t feel put out.
- Increase your magnesium intake. Since I mentioned that alcohol strips your body of magnesium I am including it here. If you are suffering from inflammation I seriously recommend a magnesium supplement. Over 80% of the population are deficient in this mineral which has been stripped from our soil by big Agricultural companies who care nothing about your health and everything about their pockets. So we all should be taking a good quality supplement AND enjoying Epsom salt baths. Be sure to always buy supplements from a recognised health care provider and avoid the cheap crap in the supermarket isles.
A quick recap.
- Booze is an inflamer (it increases inflammation)
- The good news – you get to choose.
- The bad news – there is no magic pill. Healing takes time and it takes commitment from you.
- Synthetic Anti-inflammatories are a short term option (no longer than 6 weeks) and have long term damaging effects on the rest of your health so if you are mixing medication with booze you are not doing yourself any favours
- Look after your body, its the only one you’ve got.
- Good health is a choice, so if you’re not prepared to do the right thing by your body you’ve got no right to complain about it
Want to understand more about your body, how it works and how movement can play a positive role in your healing? We work specifically with people with inflammation, chronic pain and injury and although our roots are Pilates and movement, my personal passion is alternative health and holistic wellness. So, if you have something going on in your body that you are struggling to get on top of, sing out. I can see you in person in studio or over Zoom and help you on your way to freedom!