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Sherehe season: Watch how you drink this Christmas

Healthy Eating
 Taking too much alcohol can expose you to many health problems (Photo: Courtesy)

The merriest season of the year is here with us yet again! This means celebrating with friends, end of year parties, family get togethers and other celebrations, which may include alcohol consumption.

Often, drinkers will indulge more than normal, and occasional drinkers may feel the pressure to conform. Many people will also take alcohol for the first time during the holiday festivities.

There is no safe limit for alcohol consumption. Any amount consumed can raise your risk of many health problems including cancer, heart diseases, diabetes and hypertension.

Consuming more than 14 servings of alcohol for a man and more than seven servings for a woman in a week is considered heavy drinking. One serving of alcohol is equivalent to about 250ml of beer, 100ml of wine and 30ml of spirits.

With this in mind, it is important to adopt healthier drinking habits if one is not able to completely stay away.

Alcohol is absorbed directly into the bloodstream through your mouth, stomach and small intestines. The absorption is faster if consumed on an empty stomach.

About 20 per cent of the alcohol you take is absorbed through the lining of the stomach and the rest, 80 per cent, is absorbed through the small intestines.

In the stomach, food physically obstructs alcohol from coming into contact with the lining of the stomach and delays emptying into the small intestines where it would be absorbed faster. Drinking on an empty stomach can also irritate your digestive system and leave you with uncomfortable symptoms.

Having a healthy meal rich in complex carbohydrates, lean protein and plenty of vegetables before drinking will help you slow down its absorption.

Have some healthy snacks on the table as you enjoy your drink. Biting on healthy snacks like nuts and seeds as you drink helps reduce the amount of alcohol consumed, slows down alcohol absorption and reduces your chances of snacking on less healthy foods.

And drink your water. Alcohol intake interferes with the production of the hormone that regulates urine production in the body, making you urinate more than usual.

This frequent urination causes loss of water and electrolytes from your body, leaving you dehydrated and nursing a hangover. Alternate your alcohol with water. This will not only keep you well hydrated, but will also reduce the amount of alcohol you take.

Using water or fresh fruit juice as your mixer will not only help you avoid dehydration, but will help you regulate the amount of alcohol you consume and avoid that nasty hangover.

Commonly used mixers like artificial juices, lime, sodas and energy drinks are often high in sugar and are just as hard for the body to process as alcohol.

Carbonated and caffeinated mixers can mask the depressive effects of alcohol, and potentially increase the rate at which alcohol is absorbed by irritating the lining of the stomach. This can lead to excessive alcohol consumption without getting drunk, a condition known as ‘wide awake drunk’.

Binge drinking is defined as more than four drinks for women and more than five for men in a day. To reduce your risk of associated health risks, keep your drinks in moderation.

It is estimated that the liver is able to metabolise one standard drink per hour. When you keep your consumption at one drink every hour, you give your body time to process the alcohol, which reduces the burden placed on your liver.

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