In modern society, with 24/7 lives and juggling various duties to run our lives, we are all becoming frazzled and over-stimulated. It has become apparent that we are living increasingly insular lives, even though our environment is more over-populated with people and information than ever before.
Despite the fact that society is generally more health-aware than it probably ever has been, as individuals we have far more assaults to our well-being in these modern times, which means it is much harder to keep afloat in these tumultuous times of political and economic unrest.
Since as far back as the Greeks in 2000BC when it is reported alcohol was discovered, humans have delighted in the consumption of alcohol, often for many practical medicinal and sanitary reasons, as well as a social tool for bonding and ritualistic behaviour. Wine is even used as the blood of Christ in our very deep-rooted Christian culture; showing how entrenched this acceptance of alcohol consumption is within society.
The religious link here is interesting as churches are increasingly falling into the shadows of shopping malls and new housing developments. According to the Church of England, less than 2% of the population attend a Sunday service, which has never been lower.
Put this into the social context of the shutting down of social meeting places such as pubs and clubs, people are more likely to turn on the TV and crack open a bottle of wine rather than socialising with friends locally. This is exemplified in the revelation that total alcohol sales in the UK has decreased from 47% in 2000 to 34% in 2012 in on-trade premises such as licenced pubs and bars,1 and that there has been a shift to purchases in shops and supermarkets for home consumption.2
Whatever your trigger; whether it be a difficult working environment,3 long and stressful commutes, raising children without the support of ‘the village’,4 strained marital and familial relationships or low self-esteem,5 it is likely that you may reach for a glass of wine in order to ease away the stresses of the day and process your thoughts.
From a nutritional perspective there are a number of reasons why it would be important for mental and physical health to break the cycle and find a new way to unwind.
Do any of the below resonate with you?
Restless night’s sleep after drinking
You find yourself thinking about alcohol during the day, on a regular basis
Feelings of remorse or regret that affect mood
Feelings of nausea, fatigue and headaches on waking and persisting throughout the day
Sensitivities to environmental chemicals such as perfumes and household cleaners
Change to stools after drinking – such as loose, darker and stronger smelling
Dehydration – skin doesn’t ‘snap’ back quickly after pulling it, strong smelling and coloured urine, constipation
If these are applicable to you, here are some nutritional interventions you can easily implement to help you make the habitual changes:
Stress management is key to try and break the cycle and feel in a stronger position to make better life and health decisions:
Combinations of B vitamins (e.g. folate as methylfolate, vitamin B12 as methylcobalamin), vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and zinc have been shown to improve fatigue6 and psychological stress.7
Extra vitamin C is a good idea, as it is rapidly used up in periods of stress for the production of cortisol and related stress hormones. It can reduce blood pressure, cortisol, and response to acute psychological stress.8,9
Phosphatidylserine can help to modulate excess cortisol10,11 (the key stress hormone) and can help to stabilise circadian rhythm which may help regulate healthy sleep patterns.
Support healthy sleep cycles with healthy serotonin production – think probiotics,12 lemon balm,13,14 theanine15,16 and tryptophan.17
Help to regulate healthy blood sugar levels throughout the day, to reduce the likelihood of the physical cravings for the sugar as alcohol. Key blood sugar nutrients are chromium,18,19 manganese,20 vitamin C and B vitamins such as B3.21
Ensure you are taking in good quality protein at lunch time so that by the time dinner comes you are not ravenous and more likely to make unhealthy choices.
Keep healthy snacks in the car for the return journey from work / school run / gym. These could be chopped and sliced raw fruit and vegetables to curb hunger pang
Support healthy a liver with foods such as broccoli22 and their sprouts, turmeric,23 artichoke,24 watercress, coriander,25 rocket, radish, avocado, apples, pomegranate.
Keep well hydrated with the essential minerals (known as electrolytes) such as magnesium, sodium, potassium and calcium.
Furthermore, here are some lifestyle tips to help you make these changes:
Make the commitment and exercise with friends such as dance, yoga or aerobic classes.
Change your habits. Dust off the books you bought last summer and never found the time to read, sort through your cupboards for a car boot sale, have a relaxing lavender bath, start writing that book that is inside you…
Spend time in green spaces.26 Go for a walk around the block or even better in the park or wooded area, preferably with friends.
The overall advice, is not only to drink in moderation according to Governmental guidelines, it is to listen to your body and the signs it is giving you, but also to replace this possibly very unhealthy habit detrimental to mental health and replace with a habit that will have much more far-reaching benefits within your health and family.
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Or head to our advice page where you can find Healthnotes.
2 Sheen, D. (ed.) (2013) Statistical Handbook: a compilation of drinks industry statistics. London: Brewing Publications Limited, p 32.
3 Bromet et al, Epidemiology of depression and alcohol abuse/dependence in a managerial and professional work force. Journal of Occupational Medicine: 01 Oct 1990, 32(10):989-995
4 Depression in Parents, Parenting, and Children: Opportunities to Improve Identification, Treatment, and Prevention. National Research Council (US) and Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Depression, Parenting Practices, and the Healthy Development of Children; England MJ, Sim LJ, editors. Washington National Academies Press (US); 2009.
5 Dixit & Crum; Prospective Study of Depression and the Risk of Heavy Alcohol Use in Women. American Journal of Psychiatry, Published online May 01 2000.
6 Selishchev GS et al. An open non-comparative study on the efficacy of an oral multivitamin combination containing calcium and magnesium on persons permanently exposed to occupational stress-predisposing factors. J Clin Res. 1998; 1:303–15.
7 Schlebusch L et al. A double-blind, placebo controlled, double-centre study of the effects of an oral multi-vitamin and mineral combination on stress. S Afr Med J. 2000; 90 (12): 1216–23.
8 Padayatty SJ et al. Human adrenal glands secrete vitamin C in response to adrenocorticotrophic hormone. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007. 86(1):145-9.
9 Brody S et al. A randomized controlled trial of high dose ascorbic acid for reduction of blood pressure, cortisol, and subjective responses to psychological stress. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2002; 159(3): 319-24.
10 Monteleone P et al. Blunting by chronic phosphatidylserine administration of the stress-induced activation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis in healthy men. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 1992; 42 (4): 385-8.
11 Hellhammer J et al Effects of soy lecithin phosphatatidic and phosphatidylserine complex (PAS) on the endocrine and psychological responses to mental stress. Stress. 2004; 7(2):119-26.
12 Bravo JA et al. Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behaviour and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve. Proc Nat Acad Sci. 2011; 108 (38): 16050-55.
13 Awad R et al. Bioassay-guided fractionation of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L) using an in vitro measure of GABA transaminase activity. Phytother Res 2009; 23(8): 1075–81.
14 Gromball J et al. Hyperactivity, concentration difficulties and impulsiveness improve during seven weeks’ treatment with valerian root and lemon balm extracts in primary school children. Phytomedicine. 2014; 21(8-9):1098-103.
15 Kimura K et al. L-theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biol Pscyhol 2007; 74(1): 39- 45.
16 Lu K et al. The acute effects of L-theanine in comparison with alprazolam on anticipatory anxiety in humans. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2004; 19 (7): 457-65.
17 Pöldinger W et al. A functional-dimensional approach to depression: serotonin deficiency and target syndrome in a comparison of 5-hydroxytryptophan and fluvoxamine. Psychopathology. 1991; 24 (2): 53-81.
18 Anderson RA et al. Effects of supplemental chromium on patients with symptoms of reactive hypoglycaemia. Metabolism. 1987; 36 (4): 351-5.
19 Cheng N et al. Follow-up survey of people in China with type 2 diabetes mellitus consuming supplemental chromium. The Journal of Trace Elements in Experimental Medicine, 1999; 12 (2): 55-60.
20 Gaby AR, Wright JV. Nutritional regulation of blood glucose. J Advancement Med 1991;4:57–71.
21 Shansky. Vitamin B3 in the alleviation of hypoglycemia. Drug Cosm Ind 1981; 129(4): 68–69,104–16.
22 Walters DG et al. Cruciferus vegetable consumption alters the metabolism of the dietary carcinogen 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo [4,5-b]pyridine (PhIP) in humans. Carcinogenesis. 2004; 25 (9): 1659-69
23 Menghini L et al. Antiproliferative, protective and antioxidant effects of artichoke, dandelion, turmeric and rosemary extracts and their formulation. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2010; 23 (2): 601-10
24 Kraft K. Artichoke leaf extract—recent findings reflecting effects on lipid metabolism, liver and gastrointestinal tracts. Phytomedicine. 1997;4:369-378.
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