Moderation, My Friends
If you’re familiar with us, you know On The Go Wellness is all about whole-person health, moderation, and balance. I rarely subscribe to or recommend restrictive, black and white, or extreme approaches (although Dr. Josh and I have mastered the January reset, it’s not quite that simple for many people-as it wasn’t for us years ago). So before we go any further…let’s agree not to make promises we can’t keep. Do you really think you can handle that uncle and his inappropriate political comments without a glass of wine next Christmas? Kidding (sort of).
The point is, when it comes to alcohol everyone is either saying “DRINK DRINK DRINK” like you’re still in college or that alcohol is the devil. I propose something else; let’s find a happy medium, and make an INFORMED-and realistic- decision that works for YOU. In other words, drink if you want, don’t drink if you don’t. Either way, be informed.
Dry January? More like F’ed February – If You Make It That Far
Alcohol gets a bad rap, and rightfully so (it’s no secret that it’s NOT good for you, but doesn’t have to be BAD if used in moderation). Unfortunately, the holidays tend to come with a little bit of…excess imbibing. Hence, the emergence of Dry January “a month when many people voluntarily stop drinking alcohol after the excesses of December and start the new year on a sober, clearer, more refreshed and healthy note.” The article on Today.com clearly advocates for Dry January and makes a compelling argument. However, I like the part where they mention “Dryish January”.
I’m not arguing that alcohol is good for you or that you shouldn’t stop drinking. I am simply arguing for a more sustainable alternative (if you don’t want to cut out alcohol long term). TL; DR: This is going to be a whole lot of talk about moderation.
While there are undeniable benefits to even a short period of abstaining from alcohol, there is a dark side to Dry Jan. This amazing article on Business Insider makes an argument on how Dry January can actually harm your mental and physical health more than simply practicing more mindful and less restrictive changes. My favorite quote being “Most research on crash diets indicates that diets that focus on a period of restriction instead of long-term changes result in a speedy return to prior habits — plus potential binging — and a loss of any short-term health benefits.” PREAAACH.
This article quotes Dr. Marc Romano, an addiction specialist at Pompano Beach, Florida’s Ocean Breeze Recovery; “It’s been shown that people who engage in intense short-term diets actually end up putting on more weight when it’s all said and done,” Dr. Romano said. “And the same logic applies here, for sure.”
In other words, if you restrict in January-and you were already at the point where you needed to re-examine your relationship with alcohol-then you might be setting yourself up for failure and some binge drinking come February.
Lastly, depending on just how much alcohol you usually indulge in, there may be some physical complications and dangers to going cold turkey. See this post by American Addiction Centers on signs of alcohol withdrawal and what may go wrong from stopping suddenly.
Wine or Spine (Health)?
I won’t preach to you about the million and one negative health effects that alcohol can have on your health, but the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism may. Long story short; alcohol can affect the way your brain works (mental health, coordination, decision making, etc), cause heart disease, liver and pancreas complications, and even cause or increase your risk of various types of cancers.
However, you might be surprised to know that we’ve seen patients with pain that could be solved or at least majorly improved by reducing alcohol intake.
Alcohol can increase things like neck and back pain (as in…THE most common issues we hear about) due to dehydration, see betterhelpalaska.com for the details. Essentially, alcohol blocks the hormone produced by your pituitary gland that controls the amount of water in your body, which causes your body to release more water than it would have otherwise.
The article explains “Between each vertebra in the spine is a disc, which acts as a type of shock absorber, preventing the bones from rubbing against one another and preventing the nerves from becoming pinched in between the vertebrae of the spine. The discs are made up of mostly, you guessed it, water. This loss of water can cause back pain when the discs press on nerves or allow the vertebrae to feel more shock when you move than they normally would.”
In other words, that glass (or 4) of wine may be causing-or at least contributing to- your persistent neck and back pain.
Here’s the good news. Moderate drinking is perfectly possible. There are several resources available to aid in your journey to re-evaluating your relationship with alcohol so you never have to consider Dry January again. Resources like Sunnyside or Reframe help you remake your relationship with alcohol and engage in MINDFUL and intentional drinking. However, if you feel cutting out alcohol is what’s best for you, BY ALL MEANS, do it.
The moral of the story is; whether you’re cutting back/moderating or eliminating alcohol all together, we support you. So long as you’re making an informed decision not based on restrictive fads born from social media.
In the meantime, we’re here to treat that neck and back pain courtesy of the rude uncle and that 4th glass of wine.
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