Alcohol and festive parties

The next few weeks are set to be a non-stop merry-go-round of festive parties. Alcohol can help you unwind after a stressful day at work, but drinking too much can make you feel anxious and stressed and make existing health problems worse. If you are wondering why you want to drink more as the temperature drops, a new scientific study carried out by the Pittsburgh Liver Research Centre, in the US, published in the Hepatology Journal, this month, reveals a direct link between cold temperatures and increased alcohol consumption. As you put on your best frock and head for the party here are 10 tips to help you reduce how much you drink during the festive season.

Snack before you go out
Try to avoid drinking on an empty stomach. Eating a sandwich, or bowl of soup before you go out helps slow down the speed alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream, although it won’t stop it. It’s best for healthy adults to have no more than one, or two small glasses of wine, or cocktails at any party, especially if you have to go to work next day. Your body can only process one unit of alcohol an hour, and less in some people. Dr Sarah Jarvis warns, ‘It’s important to remember that regularly drinking over these guidelines can contribute to serious health and mental problems. Over the long term, drinking alcohol increases your risk of illnesses such as mouth, throat and breast cancer.’

‘Tis the Season to be Merry
If you are wondering why you want to drink more when it’s cold outside and the nights draw in earlier, a new scientific study carried out by the Pittsburgh Liver Research Centre in the US, and published in the Hepatology Journal, this month, analysing data from 193 countries has revealed a direct link between dropping temperatures and hours of sunlight with increased alcohol consumption. ‘Its something that everyone assumed for decades, but no one has scientifically demonstrated it,’ explained Dr Ramon Bataller, Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. When you feel warmer after a glass of two of alcohol in colder weather this is the alcohol acting as a vasodilator, relaxing your blood vessels and increasing the flow of warm blood to your skin. Another reason you may be craving more drink is that shorter days and longer nights and cold are also linked to depression, which has long been known to increase drinking.

Avoid Topping Up
It’s easy to lose track of how many drinks you have had if you keep topping up your glass before its empty. If, like me, you find it easy to forget how much you are drinking when you’re having fun in the party season, stopping topping up can help you drink less and feel better next day.

Don’t mix drinks
The best advice is to avoid mixing drinks which is likely to give you a splitting headache next morning.
Drink lots of water
Try to drink plenty of water while partying, as alcohol dehydrates. Drink a glass of water after every glass of alcohol, and sip rather than gulp your Christmas tipple.
Switch to Non-alcohol cocktails
Try to alternate a drink with a glass of water, juice, or non alcoholic cocktail which can be equally delicious
Avoid too many salty snacks
Delicious salty foods, like crisps, peanuts or pretzels can make you want to drink more and actually absorb alcohol more quickly.
Turn down drinks
Don’t feel pressured to drink alcohol if you don’t want to. Many millennial don’t drink, so you won’t be alone.
Alcohol-free nights

Plan two, or three alcohol-free nights a week during the winter months. Stick to water, juice or alcohol-free cocktails without alcohol on the nights you stay home. Sip green tea, packed with nutrients and anti-oxidants to help nourish your gut so it can recover. In addition to tasting delicious, and helping to protect your gut lining, green tea is packed with health-giving compounds, including polyphenols, flavonoids, chlorophyll, vitamins, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Next morning
If you are driving to work the next morning remember that there may still be alcohol in your bloodstream.
If you find reducing your drinking a problem, maybe now is the time to seek help. Christmas is a time for indulgence, but it can also highlight a possible drink problem.

What counts as a unit of alcohol?

125ml glass of wine
Half a pint (250ml) of average strength beer.
One standard pub measure of spirits (25ml).
25ml of fortified wine, such as sherry or port.

Rebecca Wallersteiner

Rebecca Wallersteiner is a health and arts journalist, who writes for The Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, NetDoctor, Telegraph, The Times, Traveller and
The Oldie magazines. She also works for the NHS and is the Hippocratic Post's roving reporter.
Rebecca Wallersteiner

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