Cutting back on alcohol has become a year-round pursuit for some, no longer constrained by “Dry January” or “Sober October,” and health experts consider that a big win.
“Alcoholism is on the rise in more women and in younger populations,” says Ashwini Mehta, DO, transplant hepatologist on the medical staff at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. “Now, post-pandemic, people are becoming more mindful about what they’re putting into their bodies.”
Excess drinking can cause long-term damage to the brain, liver, heart, pancreas, stomach, and kidneys, so it’s no wonder that nonalcoholic beer and mocktails are in demand post-pandemic.
For those drinkers hoping to cut back, mocktails can serve as a suitable alternative without the health concerns. Even a 30-day break, a so-called “dry month,” can be beneficial in the moment and in the long run.
Dr. Mehta talks about the benefits, from weight loss to lower blood pressure.
Liver disease was once a middle-aged disease, but now doctors are seeing younger patients in need of transplants.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
For moderate to heavy drinkers, abstaining from alcohol, even for a month, improves mood, energy levels and sleep quality, and can even help with weight loss.
“Giving your body that 30-day break can be really beneficial for you in the long run,” Dr. Mehta says. “Research shows that drinkers who abstained from alcohol for a month had reduced blood pressure issues, reduced cardiovascular issues, and memory impairment was less common.”
Patients young and old can reap the rewards because sobriety also reduces liver fat, blood sugar, and cancer-related proteins in the blood.
“We’re seeing younger and younger people coming in with alcohol-related liver injury,” Dr. Mehta says. “Nationwide several transplant programs are seeing a much younger generation with alcohol-related liver failure.”
Also, women have been drinking more, both during and after the pandemic, using alcohol as a stress reliever. Unfortunately, women have less water weight to dilute alcohol’s toxic effects and less alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme in the liver that helps break down alcohol.
“One alcoholic beverage in a woman is probably twice as much as it would be for a man, as far as the toxicity is concerned.” Dr. Mehta says.
Adding nutrients to your nonalcoholic beverage can make it even healthier, what’s called a “functional mocktail.”
INGREDIENTS AND RECIPES
A mocktail is a nonalcoholic mixed beverage that contains flavorful ingredients meant to replace the alcohol in cocktails.
Creating mocktails at home offers the opportunity to enhance a social event or gathering without feeling the need to consume.
Mocktails can be tricky for anyone suffering from alcoholism because they could trigger their addiction.
MOCKTAILS ARE NOT FOR EVERYONE
For those struggling with alcoholism, mocktails won’t solve the underlying problems that lead to binge drinking.
“As a liver doctor, I treat alcoholism like it’s high blood pressure or diabetes or cancer,” Dr. Mehta says. “Treating it often involves digging deeper into the root cause of a person’s drinking.”
Anyone who suffers from alcoholism may want to seek counseling and steer clear of nonalcoholic beverages that resemble cocktails.
“At the Liver Institute, we help promote a happier and healthier physical and mental well being,” she says. “Counseling can do amazing things for people who drink because of underlying anxiety or depression.”
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