I had to share some new research that I think is absolutely vital to any regular drinker. As you know, I take at least two non-drinking days a week and I go on a total alcohol cleanse twice a year - for a month at a time. This is how I've been able to maintain my health - and my control over the addictive nature of alcohol.
But a ground-breaking new study conducted by Copenhagen University Hospital has just found that regular breaks from alcohol could be better for your liver, too. Researchers analyzed the data of 56,000 participants and found that drinking every day may be more likely to cause liver disease than any other factor. In fact, researchers speculate that 'daily alcohol exposure worsens liver damage or inhibits liver regeneration' more quickly in daily drinkers than in those people who drink 'five or six days a week.' The findings were stronger in male subjects, simply because of the proportion of men studied, though they found the same general trends in women.
Now I don't want to criticize anyone for their 'healthy-glass-of-red-wine-a-day' thing. (Though, something tells me if you're just drinking one glass of wine a day, you certainly don't have to be reading this blog! ;) But I absolutely swear by the practice of not drinking every day. And this is how my layperson's mind has worked it out.
Firstly, having to make conscious decisions about when you drink helps keep you from falling into a pattern of unconscious, dangerous drinking - which escalates the chances of addiction. Charles Duhigg talked about breaking this 'habit loop' in his book The Power of Habit - though he applied it to many areas of life. I've also talked about the importance of keeping dopamine production in check as a way to ward off the imbalances associated with the addicted brain.
But something I haven't talked about as much is liver function. However, this new research out of Denmark has prompted me to say more. As you probably know, your liver has a lot of jobs to do - about 500 to be precise! Not the least of which is cleaning the toxins out of everything you ingest. Alcohol puts real stress on the liver - especially if you drink more than 10 grams of alcohol - or one drink - per hour.
btw I'm not saying I have a drink every hour! God no! And I'm not encouraging anyone else to! (You're not on holiday in Vegas 24/7, f'pete'sake!) But keeping this idea in mind - that there is a limit to how much alcohol the liver can process and that time plays a factor - really helps me visualize how regular breaks from alcohol can keep my liver healthy.
I picture it this way: that the liver is like a sponge. Any normal sponge can soak up liquid, soak up liquid, soak up liquid. But then it reaches a tipping point and there's just no more absorbent qualities left to it, so the sponge stops working and starts to 'leak.' If you squeeze the sponge out and put it on the counter to dry, before you know it, it's ready to go again. It's totally sponge-worthy!
But if you soak the sponge again and again, before it has a chance to dry out, then it quickly becomes more useless than a sheet of discount paper towel. Sure, you can buy another sponge for less than a buck at the corner store. Unfortunately, it's not quite so easy to get another liver. ;)
So I picture my alcohol cleanses (2 days a week/2 months a year) as a time that I 'squeeze' the alcohol out of my liver. Much the way I'd squeeze water from a sponge. You have to give your liver a chance to recover from alcohol exposure. Physically at least, that's part of the reason why I think alcohol cleansing works so well for me. And why my liver (usually) feels like this! (Wow! You can actually find pictures of 'happy livers' on the web! Amaze-balls!)
Here's more information from that Danish study at Medical News Today. So ... um ... have a happy liver! Um ... be a lover to your liver ... Happy Sponge Day ...?!! Wow. Not so easy to come up with catch phrases about liver health. Just take a day off every now and again! Your liver will thank you for it. Not literally of course - because your liver works hard, but it has yet to master language skills. ;)
Speaking of which ... here's the original sponge-worthy classic!