How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?


You've heard in reports that drinking in moderation can actually be good for you, right? It did seem too good to be true. It seems more recent evaluation of those studies are, in fact, disproving those claims and actually showing that alcohol consumption can lead to more problems and exacerbate our current health conditions.


When looking at alcohol (ethanol) in general, there are actually many reports of the toxic effects it can have on our bodies. A recent review posted in Lancet evaluating the past research has determined that 0mg of ethanol per week is the recommended dosage. That's right. None.


This Lancet study brings up the point that the reported possible decrease in association with heart disease risk is offset by the association with cancer and other accidental injuries and complications of chronic use of the substance (1). According to the American Cancer Society, alcohol consumption has been linked with cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, liver, colon and rectum, and the breast tissue. There may also be associations with cancer of the stomach and the pancreas (2).


Few articles have researched and shown consumption of alcohol whether in small or large doses, may change the microbiome (gut bacteria balance), but this is not fully investigated yet. Changes in gut bacteria can alter your immune response and lead to other more systemic issues (3, 4). This definitely needs more research in the future.


Outside of gut inflammation, studies are beginning to link alcohol consumption with neuroinflammation (inflammation of the central nervous system - the brain and the spinal cord). (3) Alcohol, especially when used more frequently becomes PRO-inflammatory which can affect many different systems. The more habitual and chronic this becomes, it is more likely to cause increased anxiety when not consumed within 24 hour periods (5). A study on rats showed that even intermittent alcohol use in the adolescent group lead to anxiety like behaviors and cognitive issues (6). Alcohol use for only 6 days in a row can start to alter the inflammatory processes in the body and brain (7).


But what about all of the good things in red wine???


Yes, red wine is different because of its levels of phenolic compounds and flavonoids. There have been plenty of studies done, but unfortunately the studies have not done a good job in sorting out all of the variables: the ages of the subjects, differences between the subjects, metabolism, microbiota, the differences in wine chemistry, and the different reactions that can happen in the individual depending on their genetic composition or current state of health (8). There are many things that are still overlooked in how the body uses these "good" things when taken in with the rest of the chemistry of the wine itself.


Another problem for quite a large number of our personal clients, and those that are just more sensitive to it, is the reaction to sulfa or histamines in alcohol. This causes inflammatory responses in itself and can lead to a number of systems reacting to even small amounts of ingested alcohol.


Bottom line: do you really need it, how much are you consuming, how will your body respond, and why are you drinking it?


Everyone is so very different and you need to look at the bigger picture. If you are dealing with any other health conditions, you should probably avoid all types of alcohol and find other outlets for stress or celebration. If you want a glass or two because you are healthy and want to prevent cardiovascular disease, be sure you don't have any other inflammatory reactions that may offset the purported health benefits you are trying to gain.


1. https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140-6736%2818%2931571-X

2. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/diet-physical-activity/alcohol-use-and-cancer.html

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6203993/

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590618/

5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S002839081400389X

6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28223925

7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4976017/

8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6155685/