Dry Feb Challenge
Dr. Michelle Salga, BTR (dip.), BSc., ND - Naturopathic Doctor
So, the holidays are behind us and we are faced with the reality that we need to tighten our belts and perhaps get on with those New Year’s resolutions for real. Some of us may call them resolutions. Others look at the new year for a fresh start to get more focused at achieving our goals, a healthier 2023. I like to take the pressure off myself in January, looking at this month as a buffer, segway or baby step into February. Passing thoughts or aspirations written down now need to turn into a reality. Yes, it’s February!
Some of you may have heard of “Dry Feb” or the “Dry Feb Challenge”. This is a charitable cause started by The Canadian Cancer Society to challenge us to improve our health by quitting alcohol for the whole month of February. It’s the shortest month of the year, after all, which makes it a bit easier for goal setting. I love this charitable cause for many reasons but primarily because it’s perfect to hit the rubber to the pavement, so to speak, on stopping alcohol consumption for 28 days. This helps us start making some real changes to our health which in turn can lead to breaking cycles that may not be serving us anymore.
According to Statistics Canada 2020, alcohol consumption had increased during COVID by 20 percent in Canadians. Increased drinking was due to the lack of a regular schedule, boredom and the effects of stress (Nanos 2020). Many have kept these habits as regular indulgences despite the lack of lock down measures.
The impact of alcohol on your health
Increased alcohol consumption can lead to low energy, weight gain, depression, anxiety and irritability. It also enhances the risk for diseases such as cancer. Those that consumed more than one alcoholic beverage a day or 10-15 drinks per week experienced a lifespan reduction of 1-2 years. Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can result in a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, a weakened immune system, mental illness, cancer and liver disease. What is excessive intake? For men, it’s 15 or more drinks per week and for women, 8 or more drinks per week is considered to be excessive.
Some of us may have a lower level of alcohol consumption on a weekly basis. Although this level may not have as high of an impact on disease risk as mentioned above, alcohol consumption can have other negative side effects. This may include poorer food choices the next day, poor blood sugar regulation (after all alcohol is sugar), weight gain, poor sleep, hormone disruption and low energy. All of which cause a poorer quality of life. The chronic use of alcohol also causes memory loss, multiple nutrient deficiencies (such as vitamin A, magnesium and B vitamins) and in some cases liver disease.
The benefits of quitting drinking
Being a Naturopath who has a special interest in hormonal health and weight loss, the impact of regular drinking and even occasional drinking can have a detrimental effect on health. Some are outlined here:
Men looking to increase their athletic capacity and muscle gains. Alcohol has negative impacts on protein building which directly impacts muscle growth and maintenance. In addition, alcohol causes the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, which has negative impacts on muscle building and fat distribution.
Women who suffer with hot flashes during their menopausal years, see improvement in their hot flashes once they quit drinking.
A healthier digestive system and less inflammation and bloating. Alcohol acts as an antiseptic to the microflora in the gut. This kills the good bacteria needed to support the immune system, hormone regulation and overall health of the gut. Direct impact to the mucosal surface of the intestines causes damage.
A healthier liver. The liver is responsible for phase one and two detoxification pathways that help the body get rid of toxins. Alcohol can bombard the liver leading to impaired detoxification of chemicals and excess estrogen. Chronic alcohol consumption can result in a fatty liver.
Improved diet and overall nutrition. Those who are moderate drinkers tend to have poor dietary habits. This could include skipping meals, missing breakfast or having a high sugar breakfast, light eating during the day and heavy eating at night or eating refined carbohydrate snacks. As you can imagine, this leads to poor overall nutrition and weight gain as well as a higher risk of diabetes.
Improved mood. Alcohol can disrupt many neurotransmitters such as dopamine, GABA and serotonin causing depression and anxiety. Withdrawing from alcohol can regulate mood and increase mental well-being.
Reducing alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of breast cancer in women. Studies have shown that a weekly intake of four to seven drinks per week increased the risk of breast cancer and uterine fibroids.
If alcohol isn’t your choice of indulgence, February is still a great time to make some changes in your lifestyle. Seek guidance from a professional to help you make the changes that will result in a happier, healthier and more balanced you in 2023. Whether that be addressing weight gain, low energy, digestive concerns, anxiety and depression, thyroid or hormonal health lifestyle changes, make this the year of action instead of procrastination.
I would be happy to work with you to achieve a greater optimal you!
Reach out and book your 15 minute free discovery call to see how a naturopathic approach to health can benefit you and get you on the right track concerning your health.