Alcohol is a very ancient drink that has been consumed for thousands of years by almost all civilizations. Alcoholic beverages are an important part of many social events. A lot of us resort to a glass of wine at home after a hard day. So how do you know when an innocent drink turns into a dangerous addiction? Can alcohol actually be good for you? What is a safe dose of alcohol? We set out on a quest to find out the answers to all these questions and more.
So can alcohol actually be used as a medicine? The answer is only in rare cases. If we are dealing with a heart attack, liver or kidney colic and there are no medications available, then we can use alcohol. One tablespoon of vodka or cognac will help eliminate the vessel and muscular spasms thus improving the patient’s condition until the ambulance arrives. However the relaxation effect caused by alcohol is very short and is followed by the phase of prolonged vessel and muscular spasms.
What effects do alcoholic beverages have on blood pressure? They raise it. This is exactly the reason why alcohol actually helps those who have hypotonia, one or two tablespoons of cognac can resuscitate a person with low blood pressure. However, the World Health Organization does not recommend for doctors to advise their patients to take any alcoholic beverages as their medicine. Longstanding research shows that the cause of 20% of all cases of hypertension is alcohol, especially beer and vodka. Thus, if a man consumes more than 5 oz of wine or 2 oz of vodka a day, the risk of developing hypertension increases to 40%; in the same case for women the risk increases to 90%! So it is much safer to increase blood pressure not with alcohol but with coffee, tea, dark chocolate, or ginseng tincture.
It’s a known fact that natural dry wines are beneficial for us. What is this effect due to? The skin and seeds of red type of grape contain a substance that has a huge antioxidant effect. When we eat that type of grapes or drink wine made out of it, this substance prevents the development of cardio-vascular and oncological diseases, it slows down the age changes in the brain and in the motor function thus extending the life span and delaying the body’s aging. Besides that, alcoholic beverages improve digestion and prevent building up of cholesterol on the vascular walls. But all of this is true only when alcohol is consumed in moderate amounts. Consumption of alcohol in large amounts leads to heart pathologies and hypertension. So it’s much safer to lower cholesterol with the help of physical activities and rational diet, which are just as effective as alcohol.
How is it that the French eat a lot of fatty foods, drink beer and at the same time live long lives and suffer from cardio-vascular diseases 40% less than the Americans? The secret of the “French paradox” is not only in consuming wine regularly, but also in their lifestyle and peculiarities of their diet. Besides wine and cheese the French consume a large amount of vegetables, fruit, verdure, olive oil and seafood. This diet supplies the body with lipoproteins of high density, unsaturated fats, vitamins and microelements, which cause a powerful antioxidant effect, protecting the body’s cells from damages by free radicals. Furthermore, the residents of South France actively consume seaweed, which contains substances that improve the biological properties of blood (decrease the formation of clots and stimulate disintegration of fats).
What amount of alcohol is considered a safe dose? In France, Italy, and Hungary this number would traditionally be higher than that in Sweden or Norway, for example. But talking about the common dose, the World Health Organization recommends for men to consume not more than 30 ml of pure alcohol, which is about 1.5 bottles of beer or 2 shots of vodka a day, and for women – 20 ml of pure alcohol per day, which is 1 bottle of beer or 1 shot of vodka. The doctors also recommend refraining from drinking alcoholic beverages at least two days a week.
So why is the safe dose for women lower than the one for men? This is explained by the fact that women have less water in their body than men do. Besides, the element responsible for the disintegration of alcohol located in the stomach is less active in women. Therefore the processing of alcoholic beverages is slower in female bodies making the ladies more receptive to alcohol.
Why is it that some people get a headache after a glass of red wine, but feel fine after drinking white wine? This reaction could be caused by individual intolerance of sulfur dioxide – the substance that is added to red dry wines for longer storage. This preservative can cause immediate redness of the face and strong migraines. This does not happen when consuming white wines because there is no sulfur dioxide added to them according to their preparation technology.
How safe are the low-alcohol sparkling drinks so popular among the younger people? Easy math allows us to see that this category of drinks is not so harmless. Most of them contain 8% alcohol. If you multiply this number by 0.33, which is the contents of one bottle, then we get about 27 ml of pure alcohol. For women it is already over their daily limit, and usually few stop at just one bottle a day. Besides these drinks usually contain carbon dioxide, which contributes to faster absorption of alcohol into blood due to which intoxication happens almost after the first sip.
What are the consequences of immoderate consumption of beer? Beer, just as any other alcoholic beverage, first of all affects the liver, causing toxic hepatitis and alcohol cirrhosis. Namely these two diseases have the leading positions in beer countries such as Germany, where beer is consumed often and in big amounts, up to 3 liters per night.
Former smokers complain that after having a drink they get the desire to smoke again. Why does it happen? Usually this happens to those who managed to say no to the harmful habit but haven’t coped with the psychological smoking addiction. Once the former smoker goes to the party where a lot of people smoke, he or she can experience what a former drug addict would feel if he appeared in a surrounding where they used to do drugs. Just one glance at the familiar surroundings is enough to be overtaken with the associative habit. Under the influence of alcohol, the memory draws the pictures of the past that are so vivid that the former smoker can actually feel the taste and smell of tobacco. Besides being in the state of euphoria (after having a couple of drinks) a person already can not critically assess his or her actions and breaks their own promises without thinking twice. Typically we smoke more cigarettes than usual in this condition. As a result the toxic effect of alcohol is intensified by several times, hence a more severe hangover.
What medicines could be combined with alcohol? Alcohol is not compatible with any medications, especially cardio-stimulants, tranquilizers, antidepressants, and beta-blockers. Losing conciseness is the least of the potential consequences. Sometimes alcohol can intensify the effects of the medications by so much that it can lead to coma or even sudden death. Alcoholic beverages are also not compatible with diuretic medications. Combined with wine or beer diuretics remove such a big amount of microelements out of your body that it can lead to heart malfunctions. Even the commonplace aspirin should not be chased with alcoholic drinks – such experiments can lead to stomach ulcer. A vast amount of complications can be caused by combining alcohol with antibiotics. Not all medications enter our body in active form. A lot of them start acting only after they pass the stage of disintegration in the liver. Alcohol requires disintegration too, and thus once both medications and alcohol enter our body at the same time, both of these substances start to compete. As a result the active ingredient of the medication gets to our body under-oxidized, which most often leads to allergic reactions.
Why is it that some people become placid and talkative after having a drink, and others become withdrawn and aggressive? In spite of the person’s character, age and mood, the alcohol slows down the function of the nervous system. Two minutes after having a drink, the alcohol reaches the frontal lobe of the brain leading to the disruption of the most of neuro-chemical bonds. You become absent-minded, the thoughts become chaotic, and the mood becomes elevated and cheerful. Although this state of euphoria is short-term, soon the phase of inhibition comes, during which the intoxicated person looses restraint and common sense and their conversations and actions become inappropriate. Usually alcohol affects healthy people as an emotional equalizer: a closed-off person brightens up after a glass of wine, a talkative one quiets down, an aggressive one calms down. Although sometimes unexpected reactions happen, which are usually predetermined by peculiarities of the person’s nervous system. One fact remains though, if after having a drink you become aggressive, you should stay away from drinking.
A lot of people consider alcohol the best cure of stress, is that true? Alcohol is the most simple and accessible tranquilizer. However it does not relieve stress, otherwise everyone would be drinking their problems away. Fortunately, this does not happen since for most people alcohol is just a mediator, something of a relaxing element, which allows them to talk frankly, to pour their heart out to the closest friend, neighbor, fellow traveler. However the doctors consider jogging just as effective due to the increased production of energy in our body when under stress. That is why when we start stressing out we can not stay in one place: we pace the room, pull at our hair, talk emotionally. Therefore it would be quite logical to get rid of the excess energy at the gym rather than at the bar.
Are there any rules one should follow when drinking? The first rule is never drink on an empty stomach. If you don’t eat anything prior, alcohol is absorbed freely by the stomach and quickly gets into blood causing immediate and very strong intoxication. This is why dietitians recommend eating something greasy beforehand. The second rule is to start the party up with aperitif, a small drink before you eat to stimulate the appetite. If you have a little bit of wine, vodka or martini first, not only will you stimulate the appetite, but you will also make the fermentative system work more actively. The third rule is if you have to change a drink make sure to drink higher proof drinks each time. Processing high-proof drinks requires a lot of the ferment responsible for breaking up alcohol hence if you chase cognac with champagne you will cause the deficit of this ferment. Because of that, the low-proof drink gets into our body unbroken without obstruction causing strong intoxication.
What kind of food should you have with strong drinks? Dry wines should be followed by fruit, cheese, salads, non-greasy types of meat, and fish. Drinks with 80 proof and higher go best with greasier and heavier foods – pork, lamb, red caviar, potatoes, salads with high-calories sauces. This will help slow down the absorption of alcohol and improve the digestion of food since alcohol helps break up fats. It is desirable to have fresh lemons available during a long get-together. The acid contained by them is an excellent decomposer of alcohol therefore you can chase your drinks with cut up pieces of this sour fruit or have a glass of water mixed with lemon juice. You might want to get rid of sparkling sweet drinks since sugar and carbon dioxide contained by them increase the absorption speed of alcohol. This is the same reason why you should not chase sparkling wines with chocolate.
What is alcohol poisoning? What are its symptoms and what precautions should be taken to save the person who got alcohol poisoning? Alcohol poisoning happens after consumption of more than 500 ml of vodka. Most people’s body natural reaction to such an amount of toxic substances is vomiting, but more than 30% of alcohol drinkers are missing this reflex, therefore if the body is exposed to a large amount of ethanol, it undergoes the strongest alcohol intoxication: alcohol paralyzes the nervous system which leads to comatose condition and if left unattended can lead to death in several hours. This is why if you find someone unconscious with a distinct alcohol smell, pale, perspirating, having hurried breathing, not reacting to any outside stimuli, having weak pulse and uneven heartbeat, call the ambulance immediately.
Now that you know all these facts about alcohol, go out and have fun, but be responsible and safe!