Alcohol is one of those pleasures in life which if used sensibly can remain pleasurable as well as being part of a healthy lifestyle.
Simply put, it means not drinking alcohol to excess
Excessive alcohol use means the liver becomes overloaded and cannot deal with the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream quickly enough to stop it affecting the rest of the body.
Alcohol can make us feel happy, light-headed and talkative, but at the same time it is also damaging our bodies, particularly the liver.
There is no completely safe lower limit when it comes to alcohol. Drinking any alcohol will always carry some risk to health.
However, if we drink sensibly, the risks to health are very low and there could even be some benefits like a reduction in the chances of developing heart disease.
How much is too much?
Men should not drink more than four (4) units a day and women should drink no more than three (3).
However this should not be every day! We should ensure we have at least two alcohol free days every week to allow our bodies to recover.
What is the importance of alcohol-free days?
Alcohol causes damage to our liver. The liver is a fantastic, as well as essential, organ and when healthy, normally repairs any short-term damage quickly.
By drinking every day our liver does not get a chance to repair itself properly and so keep itself and you healthy.
Therefore, we should ensure we have at least two days without alcohol every week. Also if we do drink over the sensible limit on any occasion, we should try and avoid alcohol for at least two days or 48 hours afterward.
Over time, if we continue to drink alcohol at risky levels, the damage caused becomes constant, increases, then builds up and can eventually result in liver disease or liver cancer.
What is a unit?
An unit is equal to 10ml in volume or 8 grams in weight of pure alcohol called ethanol. This amount is decided by the way our bodies deal with alcohol.
On average, healthy adult bodies can break down 10ml of alcohol in one hour. This means if you drink 10ml of alcohol, or one unit, then an hour, i.e. 60 minutes, later there will be no alcohol left in your bloodstream.
Find out more about units here What about binge drinking?
Binge drinking means different things to different people so what does binge drinking mean to you?
For most of us it creates an image of serious drunkenness, fighting, aggression, throwing up and generally behaving badly in public.
This is the image of binge drinkers portrayed in the media and a lot of us conclude "that is definitely not me."
However binge drinking is classed as drinking double the sensible limits in any one sitting.
This means if a man drinks eight units or more or a woman drinks six units or more then it is actually classified as binge drinking.
A unit is equal to a single 25ml whisky, a half pint of lager, or 3 units is a 250ml glass of wine.
Always remember that regular drinking at binge levels will ultimately damage your health and well-being.
Regular binge drinking is when we drink at the same binge level every week. Therefore a young man who drinks five pints of normal strength lager every Friday night, even if he never drank any other night, would be classed as a binge drinker.
What about Pregnancy?
During pregnancy it is recommended that women should not drink any alcohol. Any alcohol the woman uses will travel directly to the placenta and then to the unborn baby. this can ultimately put the development of the unborn baby at risk.
If you are trying to have a baby then it is also recommended that you do not drink.
Alcohol not only hinders your chances of conceiving but if you continue to drink you may not know you are pregnant right away which again affects the development of the pregnancy.
This advice also applies to men as risky or hazardous alcohol use, especially regular bingeing, can result in a low sperm count and even temporary impotence.