As the end of the year approaches, our social calendars become packed with parties, dinners, BBQs, work functions and ‘catch-ups’; many of which will involve alcohol. According to a 2009 survey by alcohol and drug charity FebFast, our weekly alcohol consumption triples during the festive season.
The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that women (and men) consume no more than two standard alcoholic drinks per day. This is considered low-risk drinking and is not associated with long-term health risks.
High-risk drinking (more than four alcoholic drinks per day) even a couple of times a week is associated with long-term health risks such as depression, weight gain, permanent liver damage, dementia, low vitamin B, zinc and magnesium (especially when combined with irregular eating) and increased risk of some cancers, particularly breast cancer. There are also short term effects to consider, such as difficulty sleeping, mood changes, dehydration, headaches, irritation to the stomach causing nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea, and increased risk of violence or accidents/injuries.
Dr Catherine Lombard, dietitian and Director of Healthy Lifestyles at the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women’s Health, acknowledges that for many women, drinking alcohol has become a social habit. “Many women might like to cut down on their alcohol intake, but they feel pressured from their friends or family to “get into the spirit” of things.
The more functions you attend where alcohol is served, the greater the temptation, so this time of year can be particularly tricky.”
To assist women in managing their alcohol intake during the holiday season, Dr Lombard offers these tips:
- Set a limit on the number of alcoholic drinks and tell your friends to help keep you honest!
- Alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks such as water, fresh juice, mineral water or soft drink.
- Drink non-alcoholic drinks out of a nice wine glass so you don’t feel like you’re missing out.
- Choose drinks with lower alcohol content such as light beer or drink champagne mixed with fruit juice.
- Have something to eat before you start drinking but avoid salty food as it will make you thirsty (and therefore drink more).
- Avoid home mixed drinks such as punch as it is difficult to know the alcohol content.
- Be wary of friends or waiters topping up your drink as this can make it harder to keep track.
- If you are hosting an event, make sure that non-alcoholic drinks are readily available. This is especially important in hot weather.
For more information on alcohol, visit
Alcoholics Anonymous: www.aa.org.au
Al-anon: www.al-anon.org/australia (for families and friends of problem drinkers/alcoholics)
Australian Alcohol Guidelines: www.alcoholguidelines.gov.au
Published with the permission of the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women’s Health.