We’re drinking more and more in one sitting
Today, young people are drinking more at one time, leading to issues previously only seen with years of habitual alcohol consumption, such as NAFLD and cirrhosis of the liver.
Does drinking alcohol have anything to do with falling fertility and poor liver health?
One of the biggest problems here is that most people likely don’t realize just how few drinks are considered “moderate” or “heavy” drinking. As a result, we’re having more and more drinks in one sitting, which only exaggerates the negative effects of alcohol intake.
For reference, here’s how to look at alcohol intake:
Moderate alcohol consumption – 1 drink per day for women, up to 2 drinks per day for men
Binge drinking – 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men in 2 or fewer hours
Heavy alcohol use – Binge drinking 5 or more days in the last month
If you drink alcohol, it seems the most important thing to do is keep track of how many drinks you’ve had, and be aware of how this—and other lifestyle factors—can affect fertility. And if you’re trying to conceive, avoiding alcohol entirely is good practice.
Other issues associated with too much alcohol
Heavy drinking can negatively impact sperm quality, testosterone production, and menstrual cycle health, but there are also some other considerations worth mentioning if you’re concerned about alcohol intake.
Drinking ramps up production of inflammatory signals. Drinking too much contributes to higher levels of systemic inflammation. Research has shown that people who regularly consume higher amounts of alcohol have higher levels of the inflammatory C-reactive protein (6).
Heavy drinking contributes to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) (7). With prevalence doubling in recent decades, our drinking habits, increased body weight, and other lifestyle factors play a significant role.
Reduces gut function + nutrient absorption. Alcohol can damage your gut lining, and can also make it harder to absorb and produce essential nutrients, including magnesium, B12, and zinc.
Reduces brain size. According to a recent study, as little as one alcoholic drink a day, including a single glass of wine, can shrink the brain, causing it to appear 2 years older than the brains of participants that didn’t consume any alcohol (8).
Related: 10 Simple Actions for Better Health
How to balance alcohol with a healthy lifestyle
Despite the significant negative effects from heavy drinking, let’s put things in perspective. Most large studies conclude that the occasional drink, or social drinking, doesn’t come with any additional health risk for most healthy men and women. The issue is usually that there’s a wide spectrum of interpretation for “moderate” intake. So here’s what to remember:
- Binge drinking is considered more than 4 drinks in a day, or more than 8 in a week.
- Some people can tolerate more alcohol than others. Many people may do much better with little to no alcohol at all.
- Listen to your integrative doctor and work with them to keep an eye on your hormone levels if you’re trying to conceive.
Then, if you’re looking for ways to cut down—or stop drinking alcohol altogether—follow these tips to drink responsibly.
Use non-alcoholic cocktails to moderate your alcohol intake
Explore non-alcoholic wines or cocktails to eliminate alcohol entirely (if only temporarily) The market has exploded lately with tasty, fun non-alcoholic beverages that can still make you feel like you’re part of the party while you enjoy an elegant beverage.
If you’re trying to conceive, it’s a good practice to abstain from alcohol completely, to rule out factors that may negatively affect fertility.
Don’t keep alcohol in the house
The practice of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ may be a great help if you find yourself particularly vulnerable to ease of access. Often, if you want to cut down your alcohol consumption, removing convenience is the first step.
In the last few years, many turn to alcohol to ease anxiety or as a way to unwind from a stressful day. If this is becoming habitual, try another activity that will make you feel better. Exercise helps burn off the stress hormone, cortisol, and can help clear your mind. Physical activity, particularly outside, can be very helpful in reducing anxiety.
Make a plan for cravings.
Having a list of reasons why you want to cut back, activities in place (like going for a walk or journaling), or a friend to call can distract your mind from a craving. Remind yourself that the urge will pass.
Fertility and trying to conceive with integrative medicine
Alcohol intake can be a major contributor to fertility problems in both men and women. However, there are ways to drink responsibly and optimize your lifestyle for better fertility health. By being aware of the risks associated with alcohol consumption and making small changes to your drinking habits, you may improve your chances of conceiving. If you have any questions about how alcohol intake can affect your fertility or would like more information on optimizing your lifestyle for conception, please contact us. We’re here to help!