New Year’s resolution !!!

After the excesses of the festive holidays, many people’s New Year’s resolution is to reduce their alcohol consumption.  We know that alcohol is one of the biggest risk factors for developing conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.  It even affects the basic way our brain functions. So what makes us drink it?

The reason for alcohol’s feel-good factor is found in some of the brain’s messenger chemicals, known as neurotransmitters. Just as an example, Dopamine – our reward and motivation chemical, is increased threefold by alcohol, giving us a burst of pleasure, but we quickly develop a tolerance to it, so we end up needing more to get the same ‘hit’.  Similarly, our ‘happy’ chemical, Serotonin, is increased in the short term, but becomes less available to us as the body’s processes are broken down by alcohol.

So over time, alcohol can make it more difficult for us to relax and unwind.  If that’s not enough to make us reach for a drink, regular high intakes of alcohol slow down the rate of liver detoxification, and elevate levels of our stress hormones, creating a vicious circle!

Here are some of the key things I consider important when thinking about alcohol reduction:

Eat regularly

Low blood sugars lead to increases in stress hormones. Eat main meals no more than 4.5 hours apart and consume a  fresh fruit or a small, healthy snack between meals, to help keep blood sugar levels steady.

Eat healthy carbohydrates

Choose high fibre, slow releasing carbohydrates, like whole grain rice, bread and pasta, pulses, root vegetables and whole fruits.  Avoid white bread or pasta, and processed foods.

Eat small quantities of protein at each meal

Aim for 15-20g protein per meal, drawn from a mixture of low fat pulses, oily fish, chicken and eggs.  Avoid high protein diets, which create harder work for the liver and kidneys. Remember, we are reducing alcohol to give these organs a break!

Increase vegetables and fruits

Think beyond 5 per day. Half of your plate should ideally be piled high with mainly vegetables and some fruits.

Eat your greens

Cruciferous vegetables in particular, support the detoxification of stress hormones.

Feed your gut

Help regain some healthy bacteria in your gut by adding some additional probiotics to your diet.  Natural sources include plain live yogurt, kefir, or fermented vegetables like sauerkraut.  Additionally, foods such as leeks, garlic, onions, and pulses can help feed the ‘good’ bacteria too.

Keep caffeine intake low

These increase stress hormone levels and also disrupt the normal balance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Herbal teas are a good alternative.

 

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