Are you curious what healthy and unhealthy drinking looks like and some natural ways to provide your body with harm reduction?
Alcohol is a serious issue: it is the third leading preventable cause of death in the US, contributing to ~30% of all motor vehicle accidents.1 While most folks drink responsibly, there seems to be a fine line between being in and out of control of your alcohol use.
For example, the number of Alcohol Use Disorders (AUDs)—when drinking causes distress or harm—in the US is quite staggering, with almost 17 million adult and 855,000 youth (ages 12–17) cases reported in 2012.
What might surprise you is how easy it is to be diagnosed with an AUD. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), if you answer yes to two out of the 11 following questions, you would be diagnosed with an Alcohol Use Disorder.1
“Am I Drinking Too Much?” Quiz
In the past year, have you:
- Had times when you ended up drinking more or longer than you intended?
- More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
- Experienced craving—a strong need, or urge—to drink?
- Found that drinking or being sick from drinking often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
- More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
- Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
- Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
- Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?
Alcohol Use Disorders
Of course, the first step in addressing a problem is becoming aware that you have one. If you did answer yes to any two of these questions in the past year, visiting a health professional who can perform a more formal assessment may help ward off an addiction in the making.
From the Ayurvedic perspective, you may have a drinking problem when you find yourself thinking about alcohol, craving it, or looking forward to drinking it. In this definition, it has control over your thoughts and it is time to take back the control.
Pros and Cons to Alcohol & Your Health
Drinking is hard on the liver and, over time, can take its toll. However, you have probably heard studies suggesting the benefits of alcohol. Here are some pros and cons for your consideration:
- In 2013, there were 71,713 total liver disease deaths among individuals aged 12+, and 46.4% involved alcohol. Among all cirrhosis deaths in 2011, 48% percent were alcohol-related. The percentage of cirrhosis deaths that were alcohol-related was the highest for those aged of 25–34, at 72%.1
- In 2009, alcohol-related liver disease was the primary reason behind almost 1 in every 3 liver transplants in the US.1
- Drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, liver, and breast.1
Moderate alcohol consumption—one drink for adult women and two drinks for adult men per day—may have beneficial effects on health. These include:
- decreased risk of heart disease and mortality due to heart disease
- decreased risk of ischemic stroke (in which the arteries to the brain become narrowed or blocked, resulting in reduced blood flow)
- decreased risk of diabetes.1
Protect Your Liver from Alcohol
Even thousands of years ago, Ayurvedic experts suggested herbs to protect the liver from toxins, poisons, stress, and the environment. Today, these herbs are needed more than ever to ward off higher levels of stress, pollutants, and toxins.
The herbs that help detoxify and protect the liver from the damage of alcohol are bitter in nature, and many folks tend to avoid that taste in their diet.
We RecommendKutki: Reviving Ayurveda’s #1 Liver Loving Herb
There are 5 Ayurvedic herbs used for thousands of years in Ayurveda to protect the liver, and new research has confirmed this ancient wisdom. They are: bhumyamalaki, barberry, turmeric, guduchi and amalaki, which make up the LifeSpa Liver Repair formula.
Taking these herbs before drinking alcohol has been shown to protect the liver from alcohol-related toxicity.
5 Herbs for Your Liver
- Bhumyamalaki (Phyllanthus amarus) is Ayurveda’s most revered liver-protective herb. In one study, it supported the healthy function of liver cells when exposed to mild-to-moderate alcohol stress.2 In another study, bhumyamalaki enhanced liver cell recovery from mild to moderate alcohol-induced liver cell injury. It did so by restoring liver enzymes to normal levels after injury.3
- Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) are extremely bitter, vitamin C-rich berries used for centuries to protect the liver, increase bile flow, and support healthy liver cell function4 and healthy blood sugar levels already within a normal range. Studies suggest that barberry is rich in an alkaloid called berberine and is a potent antioxidant and liver protectant.4
- Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a bitter rhizome that has thousands of studies suggesting benefits for the skin, digestion, brain, and liver.7 For the liver, turmeric has been shown to boost the body’s natural antioxidants and liver- and brain-protectant properties when exposed to alcohol-induced oxidative stress.5, 6, 7
- Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) has been shown to exhibit antioxidant effects protecting both the liver and kidneys when exposed to a wide array of toxins including heavy metals, environmental toxins, and pollutants. Guduchi supports production of powerful liver-protective enzymes, such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione peroxidase, which are all depleted when exposed to alcohol.8
- Amalaki (Phyllanthus emblica), or Indian Gooseberry, is a small fruit rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, and nitric oxide-producing compounds.9 It has been shown in studies to support healthy liver cells by increasing superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione.9 In another study, one of the tannoids in amalaki demonstrated protection against mild to moderate alcohol-induced brain mitochondrial dysfunction.9, 10
These are the five herbs in my Liver Repair formula.
So Can I Drink?
It is clear that alcohol can damage the liver and compromise its function while exposing the body to a host of other health issues.1 While many studies suggest a small amount of alcohol is good for the heart, there are other studies suggesting that there are more health risks than benefits, and that we should avoid it all together.
My suggestion is to use moderation and re-introduce the bitter taste back into your diet. In a toxic world lacking in bitter foods, roots, berries, spices, and herbs that protect the liver, supplementing with these protective whole herbs makes sense.
And for a quick boost to liver health: pop a Liver Repair capsule before drinking.
Disclaimer: No herbal supplements can prevent intoxication, and they are not intended to treat or prevent the consequence of excessive alcohol consumption.