Should you drink alcohol?

Should you drink alcohol?

Do you enjoy a drink? Do you drink every day? Do you drink only on weekends? Maybe alcohol is social for you going hand in hand with good food and family, partner or friend time. Or perhaps you drink too much, or binge, or use it to relax, or depend on it to get through the day, or turn to it when you feel bad.

Whatever your reasons for drinking alcohol, it’s becoming increasingly clear that alcohol harms your body and you might need to adjust your habits.

Influential research on alcohol

The Lancet, a conservative medical journal, says that ‘alcohol is a colossal global health issue and small reductions in health-related harms at low levels of alcohol intake are outweighed by the increased risk of other health-related harms, including cancer’ and as a result of a 2018 meta-study that ‘moderate alcohol consumption (>100g) is not longer associated with positive health benefits and that, in fact, moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a 6-months to 4-year shorter life span’.

Addiction, another journal, states that there is ‘strong evidence’ that alcohol causes seven cancers, and other evidence indicates that it ‘probably’ causes more.

The World Health Organisation states that worldwide, ‘3.3 million deaths every year result from harmful use of alcohol, this represents 5.9 % of all deaths’ and that ‘the harmful use of alcohol is a causal factor in more than 200 disease and injury conditions’.

No benefits from alcohol

What this means is that no one can claim anymore that there are benefits to drinking even small amounts of alcohol.

For me this hit home when I realised that my chronically low B12 levels (probably partially caused and exacerbated by alcohol consumption) combined with my body’s genetic predisposition to detoxification issues (methylation) have caused 15 years of nightly pain, numbness and tingling in my hands and feet, significantly disturbing my sleep. This hit me hard and wasn’t easy to admit to myself. 

How alcohol is bad for you

I hear your cries: But what’s wrong with a little tipple? We’re all human, aren’t we? How boring to be perfect? My thoughts too. But here are just some of the ways that alcohol is toxic for the human body to reaffirm the above (yes, that's your and my bodies!)

  • Alcohol is sugar, and sugar is a nutrient-free source of energy that converts directly into fat. It will put weight on around your organs and belly, which is harmful to your health

  • Any sugar increases blood sugar levels leading to a blood sugar crash, which causes the body to seek out more sugar in a cycle that eventually leads to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. These are linked withheart disease, cancer and other chronic health problems

  • Sugar leads to inflammation. Most disease is related to inflammation, including cancer, which feeds off sugar

  • Alcohol is a toxin and your body reacts to it by putting all its efforts into expelling it, interrupting other important bodily processes

  • Alcohol causes intestinal permeability or leaky gut, creating gaps between the gut’s cells which allow endotoxins or proteins directly into the blood stream. This leads to systemic inflammation, poor nutrient absorption, allergies and possibly autoimmune disease. If you’re trying to heal your gut, it needs to be avoided

  • Alcohol causes liver, kidney, pancreas and heart problems

  • It also interferes with hormones (the body’s messengers or signallers), possibly upping oestrogen and decreasing testosterone

  • Alcohol causes nervous system disorders such as nerve inflammation, early senility and brain degeneration

  • It impedes the absorption of many important nutrients including B vitamins such as folate, B12 and iron; vital fat-soluble vitamins including A, E, D and K; and key minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium

Any amount of alcohol is addictive

Be aware that even a small amounts of alcohol triggers your brain’s dopamine or reward system. Put more simply, any amount of alcohol you drink is addictive. If you’re debating with yourself that you couldn’t possibly give up alcohol, remember that. Who’s really talking here?


Right now I don’t want to give up alcohol. It’s my only real indulgence as I hardly eat sugar or carbohydrates, especially refined ones. I’ve decided that instead I’m going to drink only two drinks twice a week, and not on consecutive days. Also, I’ll remain vigilant about the rest of my diet to help my body dealt with the negative impacts. I can feel the difference and so far this is working for me. Balance!

What will you do in your journey towards better health?

In order to change we must be sick and tired of being sick and tired


Elson M Haas, MD, Staying Healthy With Nutrition