Sometimes, on my social media, I’ll post up a bottle of organic microbrewed beer or a glass of biodynamic wine, or one of my summer faves… a margarita made with fresh lime juice, watermelon, tequila, cointreau, and salt on the rim.
Some folks are shocked to discover that I drink alcohol and I’m also a health coach. They wonder how is that possible?
One gal even wrote on my FaceBook page, “Health Coach advising alcohol? Confused.com.”
I could see where that could be confusing.
There was a time in my life when I abstained from alcohol entirely. Two years to be exact!
When I first began my journey toward health, I was very conscious about the foods I ate and drank.
I wanted to feel the effects of everything and understand what these substances did to my body and mind.
One night during my alcohol-free experience, I went to a bar in the west village with a group of friends.
I bellied up to the bar and ordered a tall club soda with a squeeze of lime. And, an interesting thing happened about 45 minutes into my sober experience. I noticed that the people standing all around me began speaking louder the more they drank.
My friend, perched on the bar stool next to me, was talking about consciousness and the Universe. As she was finishing her third pint of beer, her eyes glazed over and her speech was not as clear as when we first started the conversation. She easily lost her train of thought and couldn’t focus on what she wanted to say. She kept slapping herself in the forehead, pointing to the beer, and apologizing.
It was very funny! It wasn’t necessarily the beer causing the confusion – it was the human being drinking the alcohol in excess.
Watching that transformation from a sober distance was eye-opening.
Yes, alcohol is an extreme food that can have dramatic effects on the body and mind, especially if we overindulge.
But, that doesn’t mean alcohol is bad for us. On the contrary, alcohol can be quite healing.
According to Michael Pollan’s book, Cooked, “Alcohol is a powerful and versatile drug, and for most of human history was the most important drug in the pharmacopeia – a panacea, literally. It reduces stress. It also muffles pain, and for most of history served as humankind’s principal analgesic and anesthetic.”
Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I remember when a baby started teething someone would dip their index finger into a bottle of scotch or whiskey and then give the baby that finger to suck on to help numb the pain. Besides being naturally anesthetic, alcohol also helps kill bacteria, which would reduce the baby’s risk of getting an infection while the teeth are breaking through the skin.
If we look at traditional herbal remedies that have been passed down for centuries many of them contained alcohol at its base. “First, alcohol is the only edible solvent that will extract and preserve many of the naturally occurring herb constituents that are poorly soluble in water, such as essential oils, resins, balsams and many alkaloids. Second, alcohol is an excellent natural preservative, which maximizes the shelf life of extracts. Third, alcohol is a great carrying agent, which facilitates the absorption of the herb’s constituents into the bloodstream.
Alcohol is also one of the oldest fermentations in our history! Grains, fruit, honey and starchy vegetables have all been turned into some kind of alcoholic ferment.
These powerful ferments have had multi purposes throughout history. Ancient people drank a honey-wine called mead. Some of its many attributes was that it enhanced longevity, virility and fertility. It was given to couples on their wedding day with instructions to drink one cup per day for one entire full moon cycle (28 days). Thus the term “honeymoon” found its way into our vernacular.
On a psychological level it seems moderate amounts of alcohol in a group setting promotes bonding, increases the amount of time people spend talking to one another and increases positive emotions. I guess that may be why some guys hug each other tightly exclaiming, “I love you man, I really, really love you man” after they’ve had a couple of brewskies.
The physical body feels the love of alcohol as well. A study from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that, “Moderate drinking seems to be good for the heart and circulatory system, and protects against type 2 diabetes and gallstones.”
Unfortunately, according to many scientific studies the miniscule amount of alcohol I consume (one or two drinks per week) may not benefit me that much. Studies suggested that one drink per day worked best for most folks in staving off a variety of conditions including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, macular degeneration and even the common cold.
Does that make me want to increase my alcohol consumption? Not necessarily.
My daily meditation is a powerful stress reducer and overall relaxer, and my positive emotions are generally very high. Plus, I don’t need alcohol to bond with people – I can easily connect with folks and tell them, “I love you, man.”
As a health coach, there are times that I do recommend alcohol to clients and times when I do NOT. It all depends on their condition.
So, can alcohol be considered “healthy?”
I believe it can be, when used consciously and ingested moderately.