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Why Is Alcohol Toxic?

Today I would like to talk about alcohol and why it may be killing you.

It could be actually killing you physiologically, but it can also kill muscle gains and it can kill fat loss. It’s a killer, we have to be careful with it.  Alcohol is an American staple, but it really shouldn’t be. Am I saying never take a drink the rest of your life ever? No. I will tell you that it is extremely toxic and studies that find any benefits from alcohol are really not from the alcohol but from the plant chemicals in the alcohol. It’s not the alcohol that has an effect on blood pressure. It’s actually the phytochemicals in dark beer like Guinness. 

Wine has resveratrol and other amazing plant compounds. Again, you don’t need the alcohol, but those plant compounds have a huge anti inflammatory, anti cancer, anti hypertensive property in them. 

It’s those other plant chemicals that we’re naturally fermenting, kind of like kombucha, which has some benefits. I wouldn’t say it’s a healthy elixir and that it’s amazing, but there are benefits there. Why? Because it’s cultured. Sauerkraut and kimchi are also cultured. That’s why we get so many benefits from them.  Culturing creates what’s called post biotics, you probably heard of prebiotic, which is a fiber that microbes consume. The actual probiotic is the microorganisms themselves and a postbiotic is what they make after they ferment that food.

Most wine or spirits are fermented, so you get post biotics in there, all these other phytochemicals that are good for us, just not the alcohol. 

What does alcohol actually do to us then?

That buzz feeling that feels great, I’m not gonna lie that can feel good, and I’ve been there myself. But do you know what that is though? It is actually sugar being restricted from your brain. Your alcohol is going to your liver being processed there. The alcohol is shutting off the glucose processing of your meals or gluconeogenesis, the way your liver makes energy because that’s your major metabolic organ. That’s how we make energy. 

It’s going to be shutting down the glucose production, and that’s why your brain gets all whacked out and you start getting all loopy. That’s your brain drunk but not necessarily from the alcohol chemical, it is from the lack of glucose, your brain is struggling to focus and that’s why cognition gets really difficult, thinking, recall, motor skills, we get to that buzz stage.

Eventually, alcohol does become a major CNS or central nervous system depressant. That’s where the poisoning comes in. We can get to lethal levels, but I’m just talking about if we’re doing three to five drinks every so often, be careful with that. 

Care for your brain and body

On occasion,  just like eating a bunch of cake or ice cream, let’s eat those on occasion. Let’s drink on occasion, let’s say a birthday party, Superbowl party, Christmas, stuff like that. Let’s save that for a great occasion. We don’t need to be doing that weekly and certainly not nightly. Drinking is just this huge thing that it seems to be so accepted in our society. Whereas for example, I’m not saying it’s great either, but cannabis has been vilified forever. They are starting to back up a little bit with that but still, people that drink sometimes three, four times a night, people don’t even bat an eyelid but if they find out you smoke a joint  you’re a criminal. 

I’m like, “Wait a minute. Alcohol is way more toxic than cannabis”.  I don’t think cannabis is like, you know, go knock yourself out. But alcohol is way more toxic. Way more deaths and crashes and diseases and abuse happens at the hands of alcohol than any other substance on the planet. Probably combined, compared to street drugs, heroin, crack, everything. 

So let’s be careful about the alcohol. Let’s just rethink that a little bit. And there are a lot of other things you can do to relax. There are what are called nootropics, there’s adaptogens, there’s all kinds of stuff, kava has a kind of a cool effect on the brain, try kava,  just really experiment with some other substances and again, if I had to pick one yes, I rather you do some cannabis honestly, I rather you take cannabis if you need some kind of, actual substance to chill you down. I like to talk about that more and how to do that without a substance, that’d be ideal.  

Drinking does raise your risk of cancer. And some early studies showed that it may help with cancer but again, after better designed studies were completed they found it wasn’t the alcohol that reduced the cancer. It was the phytochemicals. Now they’re saying even a drink a week raises risk of cancer and you know what the number one cancer that’s associated with alcohol consumption is? Breast cancer.  We have epidemic levels of breast cancer. It’s one of the most preventable cancers out there. So let’s give that some more thought. Hopefully this was helpful. 

Be Well. 

Dr. Jason

Naturopathic doctor in Lansing, MI

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