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Got a cold one? How alcohol can impact your health.

Picking up a slab, getting on the sauce, here for the champers, pig’s ear or a simple bevvie. Alcohol is very much a part of the Australian culture. Linked with any form of celebration, from weddings, anniversaries, birthdays to sporting events, Saturday nights and everything in between. But becoming legless and off your face can do some serious harm. So, before you get on the beers, let’s discuss the health impacts of alcohol on your nutrition.

What’s the serving size of an alcoholic drink?

We count alcohol in a unit of Standard Drink. 1 standard drink consists of 10g of alcohol. Different drinks have different concentrations of alcohol. So, 1 standard drink equals different volume of drinks. Here are the examples for 1 standard drink:

  • 375ml Mid strength beer

  • 100ml wine

  • 30ml spirits

How alcohol can impact your health

How much is too much alcohol?

According to the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risk from Drinking Alcohol, adults should drink no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks in a single day.

Woman who are pregnant or breast feeding, or individuals below 18 years old should not drink alcohol because of its harmful effects to the brain.

How does drinking alcohol impact your health?

Short term health impacts

After drinking alcohol, it is absorbed into the blood from our digestive system. Within blood circulation, alcohol then travels to all parts of body, including the brain. It slows down the messages received by your brain, affecting your thinking, feeling and coordination. Alcohol effects in short term vary from person, it can cause nausea, vomiting, impaired balance and judgement, sleepiness, loss of bladder control and loss of consciousness.

Long term health impacts

For those consuming alcohol in excess long term, the risk of harm from alcohol is higher. Alcohol can impact every part of our body. Alcohol increases risk of getting cancer - a major cause of death in Australia.  Alcohol can damage the liver and heart. It can also damage our brain and nerves. It can commonly cause diabetes, obesity and reduce fertility.

Regularly smashed? This will impact your nutrition.

Alcohol is high in energy (kilojoules or calories). Each gram of alcohol has 29kJ. Too much consumption will lead to weight gain or obesity. Excessive alcohol causes damage to our digestive organs too. This impacts the absorption of several nutrients.

Such as:

  • the absorption of Thiamine (B1) – a vitamin that help using energy and maintain healthy cells.

  • Folate and B12 – these vitamins are important for red blood cell formation.

  • Vitamin A – maintains immune system and protects our eye.

  • Calcium – an important mineral for bones.

Dietary Problems

It is a common occurrence that alcohol is often served around food high kilojoules, fat, and sugar. For example, beer is often served with deep fried food, chips, pizzas, and burgers. Spirits usually mix with high sugar soft drinks. As a result, all kilojoules added up, resulting in possible weight gain, poses risk to diabetes, heart disease and liver disease.

For those with other health conditions, such as underlying mental health, alcohol acts like a drug that may impact further on mental health. Alcohol increases risk of suicide and alcohol dependence.

With diabetes and heart disease, alcohol elevates blood sugar level and worsening diabetes. Alcohol increases blood pressure and those extra kilojoules turn into cholesterol that increase the likelihood of heart attack and stroke.

As alcohol impact nutrient absorption, excessive intake may also cause malabsorption and malnutrition too.

How to drink alcohol in moderation

How to drink alcohol in moderation

Reducing alcohol intake can reduce risk of many health consequences. Here are four essential tips for drinking in moderation so you can still enjoy those special events with reduced risk.

  1. First, have two days off from alcohol every week, giving the digestive system a rest.

  2. Second, try to drink a glass of water in between to prevent dehydration.

  3. Third, alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to prevent addiction.

  4. Forth, always remember a standard drink, maintain less than 4 standard drinks in one single day.

Most importantly be cautious when taking medication

Drinking alcohol is a big concern when taking medication. It can be harmful and fatal. Alcohol may slow down or speed up the effect of a medicine. It is advised that medicine is not taken with alcohol. The common medicines that interact with alcohol such as antidepressants, sleeping tablets, cold and flu medicines, antibiotics, blood pressure tablet and psychological drugs.


Go Dry for July – take the challenge!

Simply by taking a month off, it’s a great way to reassess your relationship with the amount of alcohol you consume and to see the health benefits too. A month without any alcohol can improve your mental health, improve hydration, your liver, and see potential weight loss – especially if you’re replacing the alcohol with water or low sugar drinks. You can also raise money to help people with cancer through the Dry July Foundation by taking this challenge. For more information go to dryjuly.com 

More help is available.

Whether you reduce the amount you consume or go completely cold turkey, there’s a team of health professionals who can help you. Dietitians (like us!), Doctors, psychologists, mental health supports, and lifestyle coaches are health professionals that help with excessive alcohol drinking. Other organisation such as Lifeline, Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) and Beyond Blue can provide advice and support.

Our Allied Health team consists of Accredited Practising Dietitians, Speech Pathologists and Physiotherapists, who can provide you support and can link you to related services. We are here to help. Dietitians are nutrition professionals that can help if you consume excess alcohol. They can assist you to choose nutrient-rich and healthy foods that protect your body from alcohol. They can tailor a personal meal plan for your nutrition needs. They can help you to maintain a healthy weight. They can coach you to maintain a healthy lifestyle that prevent diseases.

To reach out to one of our Accredited Practising Dietitians from OSCAR Care Group for personalised support, please call (03) 9560 1844.



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