Feb 2021
Jacqui Lewis - BHSc Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine

7 Reasons to Avoid Alcohol on Your WLS Journey

As we put our heads down for another year, leaving Christmas and New Year celebrations behind, some of us will reassess how much alcohol is featuring in our lives.

Here’s a quick quiz to assess your current alcohol habits: CLICK HERE

It’s never completely safe: Alcohol affects everyone. How much you drink is your choice, but you should know that drinking is never free of risk.

The less you drink, the lower your risk of harm from alcohol.  

1. Alcohol may lead to weight gain

This one is a no brainer - It's the alcohol itself that is the main source of energy (calories), with each gram of alcohol adding 7 Calories, a standard drink (much smaller than you think ) has 10g alcohol/ 70 cal in the alcohol component alone. This is more than protein or sugars/carbohydrates (4 Calories per gram). Add your alcohol to a sugary mixer and you’re asking for:

Increased caloric intake, a spike in blood glucose which demands more insulin, resulting in an upward curve in your calories as well as a stimulated appetite.

Generally, when we drink alcohol, we eat more food and make poorer choices.  

2. Alcohol interferes with memory and learning

At any age, alcohol has an impact on our brain - that’s why it alters our state in the first place Alcohol affects short-term memory by slowing down how nerves communicate with each other in a part of the brain called the hippocampus.

The hippocampus plays a significant role in helping people form and maintain memories. When normal nerve activity slows down, short-term memory loss can occur.

3. Alcohol increases the chance that you will use other drugs

The controversy and conflicting research can be confusing, but there are some conclusions that can still be made. Here’s a review of the scientific evidence of alcohol as a gateway drug:
Alcohol does increase the likelihood of other drug use, including the other gateway drugs (tobacco and cannabis)

Addiction is a complex disease – prior use of alcohol is simply another risk factor among many, and there is no single explanation for why someone becomes addicted
The interrelationships between the gateway drugs (tobacco, alcohol and cannabis) are complex. 

“Targeting alcohol use in adolescents will likely have an impact on the development of other substance
use disorders later in life.
So it’s not ok to encourage ‘supervised’ drinking at home in your teens thinking it will lead to better outcomes -
it’s proven to be worse.” 

4. Alcohol increases your risk of developing cancer

Alcohol is a significant risk factor for some cancers, particularly those of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, breast, bowel and liver. A percentage of all cancers are attributable to long-term, chronic use of alcohol. 

5. Alcohol can lead to liver disease & other chronic diseases

Drinking a lot of alcohol or drinking regularly damages the liver. When it's damaged, the liver can't break down fat properly.

This can cause fat to build up, which is known as alcoholic fatty liver.

Alcoholic fatty liver disease (ALFD) is the earliest stage of alcohol-related liver disease.

6. Alcohol accelerates the aging process

Alcohol causes your body to release more stress hormones, which speeds up the aging process. It also affects the healthy functioning of your digestive system, making it harder for you to absorb essential nutrients.

This includes vitamins A, B, D, and E; minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc; and even basics like proteins and carbohydrates. Alcohol’s all-around negative effect on nutrition means that heavy drinkers often become malnourished. This limits the body’s ability to maintain itself, resulting in faster aging.

7. Alcohol and depression

Alcohol can exacerbate mood disorders, like depression. “Due to alcohol being a depressant, it gives the illusion of relief – which is only temporary”

Some key nutrients that are interrupted or poorly absorbed when a person is drinking regularly can also exacerbate the problem B group vitamins are “bombed” by alcohol, and protein absorption is reduced by up to 70% - both nutrients are directly related to neurotransmitter production and protect mental health.  

Benefits of reducing or quitting alcohol

Reducing or quitting alcohol can improve your life in many ways.

- Improve your mood and sleep
- Achieve increased energy
- Improve your relationships with your loved ones
- Help you perform better at work
- Lower your risk of long-term health problems such as cancer and heart disease
- Save you money

Keeping these benefits in mind can help you to stay motivated. 

Work out a plan 

Whether you’re aiming to drink less or to quit altogether, it’s a good idea to have a plan.

Some people prefer to quit in one go. Others prefer to slowly reduce their drinking. Everyone is different so work out what works best for you. Remember that your doctor can help you if you’re not sure.

Your plan might be as simple as drinking one less glass each time you go out. If you want to be more detailed, have a think about you:

- Goals — why do you want to reduce or quit alcohol?
- Triggers — why and when do you drink?
- Strategies — how will you reduce or quit alcohol?
- Support — who will you turn to for help? 

If you’re a healthy adult:

- To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.

Check this link for an outline of a “standard drink” they are smaller than you’d think.

The less you choose to drink, the lower your risk of harm from alcohol. For some people, not drinking at all is the safest option

National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline contact

Call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline for free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs.
1800 250 015

Take this quiz

Jacqui Lewis
BHSc Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine

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