Alcohol Is Not A Health Food

January 28, 2023

Whether you participated in Dry January or not (refraining from drinking during January as a reset after the holidays), we are covering the difficult topic of alcohol and how it affects your health. Maybe you’ve heard that there are health benefits in wine, but today we’re going to debunk that myth. In this show, we’ll discuss why alcohol can lead to certain health problems, give you several tips on how you can go about avoiding or decreasing your consumption if that fits with your personal health goals, and share the nutrients you need for nourishing your body as you make habit changes.  

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MELANIE: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. I'm Melanie Beasley. I'm a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, and today I'm in studio with Teresa Wagner, who's also a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. Hi Teresa.

TERESA: Hi, Mel.

MELANIE: Because of all the news stories, you may be aware that during the pandemic alcohol usage became a problem for so many people.

TERESA: Oh, right. And we're just coming off the holidays too, which is actually the time of the year where more people in vibe than normal anyway. Right?

MELANIE: Yes. That’s the truth. And so I think we're, we're going to be so popular with this.

TERESA: Yes. I think this information is going to be very well received.

MELANIE: I think it will be.

TERESA: And maybe it will be, because a lot of people do dry January, right?

MELANIE: Oh, that's great. Yes. Yeah, absolutely. Well, some people started drinking more because of stress, obviously.


Research on alcohol: how does it impact our health?


MELANIE: Or they were lonely or bored or all of it, you know, during the pandemic, for sure; bored and lonely and stressed. So in fact, overall drinking increased by 15%, but for women, for women, there was a 41% increase in heavy drinking since the start of the pandemic. That's pretty alarming, don't you think, Teresa?

TERESA: It is. That's a lot more drinking. 41%. That's a, that's a big number.

MELANIE: Something's going on there. Well, today, Teresa and I would like to address some of the health problems that can result from drinking and some ideas to help change drinking habits if this is where you're feeling you need a change.

TERESA: You know, Melanie, I was, I was listening to some research by Dr. Daniel Amen. He's written…

MELANIE: He's a brain expert.

TERESA: He's a brain expert. Yeah. I was trying to think. He's a psychiatrist I believe. And he studies the brain, and he's actually a psychiatrist that actually does a lot of imaging of the brain versus a lot of, you know, more of the talk therapy, that kind of thing. So he actually looks at the physical structure of the brain and what happens to it based on various lifestyle habits and things along that line.

MELANIE: He's written some great books.

TERESA: Yes. Change your Brain, Change Your Life is one that we've quoted a few times. And he was mentioning this study that came from Johns Hopkins that said, people who drink one to seven drinks per week have smaller brains.

MELANIE: One to seven.


MELANIE: That’s kind of a broad spectrum.

TERESA: Right. And I think that what it's, what it's trying to say is that this is this sort of moderate consumption, this maybe a glass of wine per day or a beer after work, that type of thing. So generally, those people would say, you know, drinking's not an issue for me. I just have one.

MELANIE: Of course.

TERESA: But, and I, and I guess I wouldn't say necessarily that that is an issue. It's just is that a lifestyle behavior that might be more serious than maybe what we think? Because if you think of that one drink per day, or it could also be seven at one time. This study both looked at both of those angles; showing that those people had smaller brains. So having a smaller brain, well, that means less ability to remember just less cognitive function overall. It can lead to dementia and other brain issues, diseases, neurological conditions.


TERESA: Yeah. Everything. Everything associated with a brain. So I thought that that was really interesting because of that moderate amount of alcohol. In our counseling sessions, I encourage clients to give up wine and switch to other options, especially if it's a more regular occurrence. I mean, we don't necessarily think that everybody needs to be completely sober, but maybe less than more. Right?

MELANIE: Less than more. And really, I love, and I know you do too, listen to what is the client's goal and is this something that is impeding their overall goal? Or perhaps they have a genetic tendency towards breast cancer or genetic tendency towards Alzheimer's. And so this is information that a lot of people just don't know.

TERESA: Right. Yep. And so, yeah, I like that how you said that. It's, what is your goal? What are you, what are you looking to achieve by this counseling session? And sometimes alcohol is one of those things that can be a hindrance on those goals.

MELANIE: So listeners, as you're grabbing maybe your cup of coffee or your cup of tea in the morning, this might be information for you for the rest of the day or weekend.

TERESA: Maybe.

MELANIE: You know, Teresa, another study that I want to talk about that was published in the Journal of Gerontology, found that heavy drinkers have 57% higher risk of developing dementia than non-drinker or light drinkers. So it, it circles back to that smaller brain, the effect of alcohol on the brain that we were talking about. Currently, one in 10 older Americans have dementia, while 22% have mild cognitive impairment.

Heavy drinkers have a lower or reduced blood flow to the brain, which then affects their memory. So if you're a caregiver to someone who's experiencing cognitive decline or memory problems, I like with what the dietitian, Amy Berger wrote in her book, The Alzheimer's Antidote. She said, “For brain support, alcohol is not permitted at least at first. In time, you might be able to add a small amount of wine or light beer back into your life.” So she's saying that alcohol's just really not good for the brain overall.

Alcohol is not a health food


TERESA: Right. It's just, and we know that it's just a fact that alcohol is not good for the brain. I don't think that really anybody thinks that it is a health food. I don't know, though, sometimes in the media…


TERESA: It is. A lot of clients will say, well, what about wine? Because I heard it's good for the heart. And that's fair. I mean, that's a fair question.

TERESA: Right, it is.

MELANIE: It's been out there.

TERESA: Well, okay, so that we're here to dispel that myth, right?  


TERESA: Really, alcohol is not a health food. The amount of wine it would take to have those benefits that they talk about with the polyphenols, the amount of alcohol would completely override any health benefits that you would get from that, from those polyphenols. So if you are interested in extra resveratrol, you can supplement with that, if that's something that you want. And then you can get it in that concentrated form.

MELANIE: That's a lot easier than the 18 to 23 glasses of wine you need to get what's in that capsule.

TERESA: That's a lot of wine. Yeah.


TERESA: And in the past, we were led to believe that alcohol was a health drink. In fact, it actually kind of reminds me of the tobacco industry, doesn't it? Where they would have the billboards that would say, or at least that I saw in, in history. Right? Nine out of 10 doctors prefer, you know, fill in the blank cigarettes.

MELANIE: Cigarettes. Yeah, I remember those.

TERESA: And we know that it's not healthy. Right? And so I kind of feel like it's almost reminiscent of that when they do that advertising that alcohol is healthy.

MELANIE: Well, we have to remember that advertising is designed to make money for the person who's paying for the advertisement. And then it's not really watching out for your health. And so that's what we want to bring to the table today, is just having our listeners backs, giving you the information so that you can make an educated decision for your personal life.

Reasons for increase in alcohol consumption


TERESA: That's right. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that alcohol related deaths jumped 25% between 2019 and 2020. The sales of alcohol during the pandemic increased almost 3%, the largest annual increase in over 50 years.

MELANIE: That's, it's crazy. And I think people were looking for relief from stress. That's what I hear in my clients, that relief from stress. And they're not really making that connection, which is, when we have alcohol, it suppresses our body's ability to make its own neurotransmitters, those brain chemicals that make us feel calm and relaxed. So we get that temporary fix of relaxation, but then you have two to three days of suppression of the brain chemicals that help us. So then what do we do? They go back and, and have more wine. It becomes cyclical, really.

TERESA: Right. And I did just hear something, or I read something where a psychologist said that actually, if you drink because of anxiety, typically your anxiety after alcohol is worse three days later. And so that would make sense with that sort of cyclical drinking of it. I also found that during Covid, that people would use alcohol as a way to bring some structure into their day, because we were at home. And so it was like, oh, okay, it's four o'clock. Now it's cocktail hour.


TERESA: And that's kind of fun. And once we were released from our homes, we still kind of liked that idea of, hey, it's four o'clock, it's, or five o'clock. It's cocktail hour.

More possible health detriments of drinking alcohol: increased cancer risk


MELANIE: Yeah. Yeah. I think, I think that's accurate. Well, you know, Teresa, let's look at the increased risk of cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, there is scientific consensus that alcohol drinking can cause several types of cancer. And this report went on to say that the evidence indicates that the more alcohol a person drinks regularly over time, the higher his or her risk for developing alcohol associated cancer. You know, it affects even those who have no more than one drink per day.

So that little glass of wine at night to sip on and relax just might not be, you know, the best option for people that are really afraid of cancer. Maybe it runs in your family. Let's talk a little bit more about that after break. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. Today we're discussing the reasons why alcohol is not a healthy choice. Even drinking just one alcoholic drink a day can lead to some health problems. Stay tuned to learn some more, and we'll be right back.


TERESA: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. It is now the end of January, and perhaps you are still struggling with wanting the Christmas cookies hidden in your freezer. If sugar got a hold on you over the holidays, we understand. Sugar, alcohol, processed carbs are all very addictive. We can help. Let me suggest making several nutrition appointments to get you back to healthy eating. Most of us need support and encouragement to do our best. Give us a call at (651) 699-3438, and let's set up an appointment. Or you can just do it online at

Schedule Nutrition Counseling

MELANIE: When we went to break, we were talking about how does alcohol affect the risk of cancer. Researchers have connected multiple ways that alcohol can increase the risk of cancer, including alcohol can impair the body's ability to break down and absorb a variety of nutrients that may be associated with that cancer risk, including vitamin A, the nutrients that are in vitamin B complex such as folate, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E.

Stay tuned, and we're going to talk some more about these. But it can also increase blood levels of estrogen. It just, which is a sex hormone linked to hormone cancers such as breast, ovarian. And then alcoholic beverages can also contain a variety of carcinogenic contaminants that are introduced during the production of alcohol, that those are also harmful to the body and the brain. There's just a plethora of research on the connection of alcohol, especially in excess and cancer. So we really want our listeners to know some of the science so they can make that educated decision on how they want to use alcohol in their personal lives and based on their family history or the things they're trying to avoid.

TERESA: Right. And many studies have found that there is an increased risk of certain cancers with alcohol usage. So Mel, you had talked about some of those estrogen related cancers. Other cancers could include head and neck cancer, oral cavity cancers, phenix and larynx cancers, esophageal cancer. So if we think about those types of cancers, that is where the alcohol is actually coming into direct contact.

MELANIE: Exactly.

TERESA: …with our body. So you think the, the mouth, the throat, the esophagus. And then we can also have liver cancer. That makes sense. That's our detoxifier. So all alcohol goes to the liver to be detoxified. Breast cancer, like you had mentioned. Colorectal cancer, and a weakened immune system. So when we have that weakened immune system, of course we're susceptible to any disease, cancer being one of them. Research has also found that chronic drinkers are more likely to get pneumonia or tuberculosis.

Even drinking a lot in just one day can slow down your body's ability to ward off infections on that day. So I always give the example of, hey, say, you know, you go out to a restaurant and you have a bunch of alcohol and somebody sneezes on you on the way out. Well, because of that alcohol in your system and that dampened immune system, you are more likely to catch whatever that person may have sneezed on you. And then you may end up with whether it is, you know, the common cold or Covid or whatever it is. So just keeping our immune system strong by, by drinking in moderation or maybe refraining from drinking at all.

MELANIE: You know, it's something to think about if you have an event coming up, right?


MELANIE: Have an event coming up. I'm going to a wedding or a graduation or something that's really important to me. It's information that our listeners can use to make that educated decision. Well, let's talk about in addition to cancer, of course, alcohol can affect the heart, the liver, the pancreas, and the brain.

TERESA: Sounds like the whole body.

Heavy drinking and how it affects fertility


MELANIE: The whole body. All good news right here. But let's look at fertility. Regular heavy drinking reduces men's testosterone levels, their sperm count and fertility. So for women, drinking too much can affect their menstrual cycle and their periods. So think hot flashes, disrupted periods, really painful periods. So even drinking one to two drinks per day increases your risk of those cancers, the stomach and the bowel cancer. I read a meta-analysis of 81 epidemiological studies that concluded that this was very dose dependent and it showed a clear trend that a higher dose intake of alcohol is really associated with the higher risk of stomach cancer. I think that's logical.

Other potential reasons alcohol consumption has increased


TERESA: Looking at all these damaging effects of alcohol and knowing the harm of alcohol, why do you think alcohol became such a problem, especially during the pandemic? And we talked about that already. Really, I mean, stress, loneliness, finding structure to our day.

MELANIE: And you, you can't know what you don't know.

TERESA: That's right. Yep. But it could also be that there are other factors involved. Could it be that the alcohol industry spends almost 7 billion to convince us that alcohol, in a sense, is a health food? From our experience in teaching nutrition classes, very few people change their behavior from reading and understanding research. Right? Like Melanie, I think that it's great that you read that metal analysis, but…

MELANIE: I am kind of a nerd.

TERESA: I don’t know how many people are like, hmm, let's dive into 81 studies.

MELANIE: But that's what we do for our clients. Right?

TERESA: That's right.

MELANIE: That's our job.

TERESA: That's right. Very few people change their behavior from reading and understanding research. And it's the one thing about knowing. You might know something is not great for you, but you still might do it. Our clients know that Cheerios is a processed breakfast cereal. It's not a breakfast of champions. But many think that it is a healthy breakfast from constant advertisings. Right? Like there's even billboards. Hey, this is a low cholesterol food. Or it is low in fat.

MELANIE: I think there's even a heart on the label of some of the cereals.

TERESA: I think some of those Cheerios are now hearts.

MELANIE: Oh goodness. Yeah.

TERESA: Well, in the same idea, the liquor industry is spending $7 billion trying to convince people that drinking alcohol is the thing to do. And I think that that is one of those things where, I can't remember the term for it, but it is the more you say something or show something or advertise something, even if it's not true, the more people see it, the more they'll be convinced that this is actually true.

MELANIE: And if it's something that you're really loving in your life, it's confirmation.

TERESA: Yeah. Confirmation bias. Absolutely.

MELANIE: That's what it is. They're not, they're not dumb: these advertisers.

TERESA: Right.

MELANIE: They're brilliant.

TERESA: And when you look at those advertisements, I mean, the people look glamorous. They look so happy. They look like everybody like that, the guy that every guy wants to be, and the girl that every girl wants to be. Right?


TERESA: And of course it's because they're drinking alcohol. Right? I wonder how many people who are, who I should say maybe are homeless or have had very trying times related to drinking alcohol, how they view those ads, if they view them in the same way, or…

MELANIE: That's something to think about.

TERESA: Yeah. If they see that more as, oh yeah, this is just trickery, right?

MELANIE: Mm-hmm.

TERESA: The ads encourage people of all ages to drink alcohol. Young people want to be a part of the in crowd. We talked about anxiety. It might be that, that thing, that liquid courage.

MELANIE: Yeah. A little social anxiety. And they find that alcohol helps. It also has that chemical reaction that releases happiness.

TERESA: Yeah. And maybe that's why people like it so much. It could be the taste. You know, some of them are very sweet. We were talking about that before. Some things taste really good, or alcohols are preferred because they're sweet. Some people like more bitter. It just kind of depends on your personal preference.

MELANIE: There's something for everyone.

TERESA: That's, and there is, yes. Of course, there's the way it makes you feel too. I mean, many people are very drawn to how that feels. And actually for some people it just makes them feel normal.

Why is alcohol habit forming?


MELANIE: Mm-hmm. If you've, if you've been drinking a while, you're, you're seeking out the feeling. And that can be a struggle. And that can also be a dangerous, a dangerous place. Well, we know alcohol's habit forming. So let's look at the reasons why it is so habit forming. One, sometimes it's all about blood sugar and we talk about blood sugar on this show. But when you skip a meal or a snack and your blood sugar goes low and the sugar in the alcohol does the reverse. It raises your blood sugar level and you start feeling better, less anxiety, and have more energy. It's, it's really simply a blood sugar issue.

Another one, number two: sometimes because of poor nutrition, skipping meals or eating too many processed carbs, maybe a lack of protein, there's not enough of those brain chemicals, neurotransmitters produced. And a low level of serotonin and dopamine occur. When a person drinks alcohol, like we were talking about, Teresa, their blood sugar level increases, then their serotonin is released and people feel good.

But let's talk some more about that when we come back from break. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. As you're listening to this show, you may be wondering, how can I control my cravings for sugar and alcohol? Let me suggest eating four meals a day. Make sure there's plenty of meat and vegetables and good fat. Plus you can do two capsules of bifidobacteria and two capsules of L-glutamine daily before meals. And this is kind of a magic combo. The bifido and the L-glutamine help to balance your microbiome to reduce those cravings. If you have questions, give us a call at (651) 699-3438. You can also email us at


TERESA: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. Many times as a dietitian, I am asked, should I take a multivitamin? My answer for most people is yes, but only a good quality multivitamin. If you are not a pill person, let me suggest the Nutrikey Liquid Multivitamin. It's easy to take. Or if you want a simple and affordable multivitamin, a good choice is our Twice Per Day from Nutrikey. These are both on sale for the month of January. Save 15% through the end of the month.

Brain chemicals: the addiction connection to alcohol


MELANIE: Well, when we went to break, we were talking about neurotransmitters, which are really just the brain chemicals that help us feel calm, relaxed, happy, capable, good self-esteem.

TERESA: Right. They get us to do things. Dopamine is that desire.

MELANIE: Motivation.

TERESA: Motivation. Yep.

MELANIE: Gets us out the door. Even the neurotransmitters that we produce can be suppressed when we're drinking alcohol. And that chemistry is when our blood sugar rises from the alcohol, that that's where we start developing problems creating those brain chemicals. So what we want to do is make sure that we are creating them naturally. Because what happens is we don't make the neurotransmitters that we're supposed to be making.

And so we feel anxious, we feel depressed and we feel unmotivated. So that's something that we turn around and then you think, oh, I'll have another glass of wine because that helped me feel relaxed. And it's a slippery slope. I call it chasing the dragon. So what happens is you get that happy feeling from drinking alcohol. And then especially with our teens, they get that feeling, they feel competent in a social situation. So they continue to chase that. And when you start drinking alcohol regularly to get that feeling, it becomes addictive and dangerous. And then anxiety, like you said, is really a problem down the road.

TERESA: Yeah. And I like what you said with that chasing the dragon. Because I think a lot of times with people, they're looking for that feeling they remember, but they're not actually getting it anymore.

MELANIE: Certainly not when there's a high level of abuse. And then at some point you're just looking for a sense of that sense of wellbeing. You just want to get back to feeling like yourself again. It's a very addictive chemical process. And you know, Teresa, we were talking beforehand, you've got some great ideas that you use for your clients who really want to scale back on the amount of alcohol they're drinking or even some that want to completely stop. Let's tell our listeners about some of those ideas.

TERESA: Yes. You know I love to work on habits, right Mel?

MELANIE: You do. You've read books. I know you have.

What is your “why” to scale back on alcohol?


TERESA: Well, one thing that we talk about, and there's lots of different strategies you can use. So you don't have to do all of these. You could pick one and see how it works for you. But one thing you could do is just put it in writing. Make a list of your why's. Why do you think it's a good idea for you to scale back on alcohol? Is it for general health? Is it prevention of cancer? Is it you want to sleep better? Maybe you just want to be more productive in the morning. Maybe you're finding that you're just foggy in the morning and you're not getting to the things that you need to get done.

MELANIE: Or those hot flashes too. That is a real problem with clients with alcohol?

Tips and tricks for scaling back on alcohol


TERESA: Yes. Mm-hmm. And then another thing that you can do is just track when you're drinking and how much you're drinking. So if you have a, either a little notebook, maybe you have a calendar, some people are kind of techy. Make a little mark on the days that you are drinking to see of seven days of the week, how many of these days am I drinking? What am I doing at that time? Where am I? Why is it happening? Because once we know the reasons behind why we're doing it, it brings that awareness and it's helpful for strategizing how to eliminate some of those things.

MELANIE: It's really taking the unconscious to the conscious because we don't realize is what we think about, we bring about. And so if you're able to really tap into what are you thinking about? And that's what I love the journaling idea. I think that's fantastic.

TERESA: Yes. I mean any of those things, like you said, just bring the unconscious to the conscious. To stop or reduce any habit, one thing is to make it difficult to do.

MELANIE: Mm-hmm. That's good.

TERESA: We want to remove those triggers that we have in our, in our presence. So if you have, like say you keep your beer at eye level in your refrigerator, perhaps move it to the, you know…

MELANIE: Garage.

TERESA: Yeah. If you live in Minnesota, put it in the garage. It'll stay cold out there. Maybe you have a basement refrigerator.

MELANIE: Or maybe let it get warm.

TERESA: Or let it get warm. Cause that adds another step, right? It adds another layer of difficulty to drinking it. Move things out of eyesight. If your liquor cabinet is front and center in your, in your, you know, in your kitchen or wherever, maybe move some of those things around. Or if you're really trying to avoid it, maybe you remove the alcohol from your house completely.

MELANIE: I love that. And it's not just about removing, but replacing. So swap this for that.


MELANIE: And one of my clients, I love her, just she'll open a LaCroix or a bubbly or something and pour it in her wine glass.


MELANIE: Because it's routine for her, it was just the routine. You know, this is what I do when I get home. It's just part of my routine. Just like making a cup of coffee in the morning. So it's swapping this for that can be really, really helpful. You know, I, I love pastries or cookies and so I would never have those around the house because it's, I'm going to know where they are and I, I don't care if they're in the freezer. I know how to use the microwave to defrost a cookie.

So I just, I know me. I'm not going to have that kind of stuff around. I had a client and one of her triggers was every time she heard her husband pop a beer can open, that sound was a trigger for her. It sounded like a refreshing routine. So she asked her husband if he's going to have a beer to open the can in the garage and then come back in and pour it. So sometimes it's the small things that you can do that really make a difference.

TERESA: Well, yeah. And even on that note is that getting support from your spouse or whoever you live with can be very helpful. So for her that support was just, just, she wasn't asking him not to drink. Just open it in a place where I can't hear it. What, however your spouse or the people in your circle can support you in that can be very effective in changing, changing those habits.

MELANIE: And you know, circling back to what you were saying, it's, it's important to be aware of what is your trigger and taking the time because you have to decide, hey, do I matter enough to take the time to write this down? And of course our listeners matter enough to write it down and figure it out. It takes focus to change a habit.

TERESA: Yeah. Another thing you can do too is just designate alcohol free days. You know, if it's just regular Tuesday, Wednesday, you know, everybody's schedules are a little bit different. So maybe what's regular for me is not regular for somebody else. But if it's just a regular day where there's nothing special happening, perhaps those are the days that we leave as alcohol free days. It doesn't have to be a hard and fast rule. So if New Year's falls on a Wednesday, you know, we can break that rule but just having some sort of guidelines on, well I just have alcohol on Fridays when I'm out with my friends. Or on, you know, whenever it's special and it matters versus just that habit of, hey, I'm coming home from work, I'm really stressed. I'm making dinner, pouring a glass of wine just out of that habit of it. But just really thinking about when it's most important for you to have it if you are going to have it.

The blood sugar connection to alcohol cravings


MELANIE: Yeah. And that's where we step in, you know, with our clients. And that's why we're, we're here for people that that need systems and need help. And to avoid a craving for alcohol, we're going to suggest you don't skip a meal or a snack. You're going to eat on a schedule to keep your blood sugar up in a normal range. And when you skip meals, your blood sugar takes that tick down. And when it takes that tick down, that's where we have cravings. That's where we need a quick fix. And alcohol’s an easy grab. So eat your snack, have the protein, avoid the low blood sugar to avoid triggering that craving.

TERESA: And that's probably how a, a part of the reason happy hour got started. Right? It's that, you know, it's four to five hours after lunch and our blood sugars are dipping.

MELANIE: I never thought of that.

TERESA: And you’re looking to relax and it'll, you know, alcohol's great for popping our blood sugar back up and feeling pretty good. So…

MELANIE: If you're hungry, you know, reach for a beef stick, some hard boiled eggs, handful of sugar snap peas, maybe some walnuts and, and then reevaluate.

TERESA: Right. And I have, I've used that strategy with clients too where it's, if they have that strong alcohol craving after work when they get home, it's on your way home from work, have your snack and then see how you feel once you get home. Eat first and then assess that craving. Cause that craving for alcohol might actually just go away.

MELANIE: I love having them make a protein smoothie that they keep in the fridge at work and drink it on the way home.

TERESA: Yeah. Easy peasy.

MELANIE: Something with a straw. You know, there's a few other tips or suggestions that we have, but let's go to break and then when we come back, Teresa, you had some great ones that I want to talk about. So you are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. I just want you to know that if you have a question about a supplement, a class or counseling session, you can just call us. We have a staff of friendly people ready to answer your questions. If an email is better for you, just email your question at We are never too busy to take the time to answer your questions.


TERESA: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. There is so much more to your health than just your weight. Big Pharma just developed a new obesity drug. It's not the first and it won't be the last. Our answer at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is real food for real health. Weight is just one factor of your health. We believe other more important factors of health are your energy, your positive mood, your reduced pain level, and your sense of wellbeing. We offer many support classes. We offer individual nutrition counseling and of course this radio show and podcast and a website full of blogs and articles plus recipes. Real food improves health in all aspects.

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And today we've been talking about alcohol and its role in our life and how it can be detrimental to our health if in the over consumption and even sometimes in the moderate consumption as we said earlier.

MELANIE: It depends on the individual right?

TERESA: Yeah. And so we're just giving some tips and strategies in order to maybe reduce or eliminate alcohol in your life. And one way to stop craving alcohol, cause that's step one right, is to get rid of that craving so it's easy to say no.

MELANIE: Absolutely.

Other ways to prevent alcohol cravings


TERESA: Is to avoid getting too stressed or too tired. Again, alcohol can be that quick fix for both of those things. Right? But it's not a good fix because it doesn't help either thing.

MELANIE: No it doesn't.

TERESA: It makes us more tired cause we don't sleep well and it actually makes us more stressed because we are less effective in our lives.

MELANIE: Yeah. I love the acronym: HALT. Are you hungry, angry, lonely, tired? And sometimes taking a breath, taking a moment when you have a craving and thinking about that. Are you hungry, angry, lonely or tired? And then find alternative solutions to those things. Alcohol shouldn't always be our solution.

TERESA: Right. Find the appropriate coping mechanism for those different things that we need. If you're lonely, call a friend, right?

MELANIE: Yes. Absolutely.

The importance of sleep to avoid low energy


TERESA: For you to have more energy. So if you were, if drinking is coming because you are stressed and tired, for more energy, actually maybe we should think about getting more sleep.

MELANIE: Excellent.

TERESA: You know, seven and a half to nine hours most nights. If you have trouble sleeping, we have all kinds of suggestions for that. I mean, like I said earlier, when we came back from break, we have blogs. We have podcasts. We have all kinds of resources on how you can get better sleep. And certainly you can meet with anyone of the nutritionists to help you come up with techniques that are more personal for you.

MELANIE: You know, and it's a great point that alcohol is a sleep disruptor.

TERESA: Yes. Yes. Absolutely. It's the most powerful sleep disruptor that we know of actually. And so you're just that surface sleeping. You're not getting that regenerative sleep that we need.

MELANIE: And then exhaustion triggers those sugar cravings.

TERESA: Right. Maybe that's a part of why our, our brain is shrinking because we're not sleeping well when we're drinking.

MELANIE: I think it's all it, it's a whole package.

TERESA: Yeah. I think that there's all kinds of contributors. Sometimes when we're having trouble sleeping, we're not necessarily thinking it's the alcohol. We might be thinking it's just something wrong with us. So we go to our doctors and maybe we get a prescription for a sleep med. And we know that those sleep meds don't necessarily provide you with the most restful sleep. They don't allow your brain to detox properly so you don't get that restful sleep, which then can affect your memory.

Nutritional deficiencies potentially associated with repeated alcohol use


MELANIE: All of it. So just to recap a little bit, repeated alcohol can, can result in some gaps, for lack of better word in your nutritional sufficiency. Specifically, thiamine. Thiamine is a molecule that's important. It's very important for our DNA and our brain chemicals.

TERESA: It's a B vitamin, correct?

MELANIE: It's a B vitamin, yes. And that lack of thiamine, the B vitamin is actually associated with alcohol-induced brain damage. So it's always a good idea when, when we are working with clients is to be aware of how to replenish all B vitamins. But thiamine is really important to offset the damage to our little delicate brains. Good sources of thiamine are going to be beef and pork and nuts. Fruits and vegetables that contain thiamine would be cauliflower, oranges, potatoes, asparagus, and kale. We're back to that real food message.

And then certain foods that are heavy in animal protein is really key can support the brain. So gosh, think of quality animal protein like grass fed beef, bison, free range eggs, chicken, just to name a few. And then I like to add some key vitamins initially if I see some deficiencies with my clients. And Teresa, I know you do too. And some of those that I like for vitamins, especially for someone who's new to sobriety is going to be vitamin C, B12, folate, L-glutamine, which we talked about. And then vitamin A from maybe a little cod liver oil.

TERESA: And you know, I was just thinking, we talked about multivitamins when we went to break before. A good multivitamin is a great idea when we, for anybody who drinks alcohol actually, because it, you know, there is that sort of loss of those B vitamins when we are, when we are drinking. Mel, you had mentioned vitamin A. Well, if I have a recovering alcoholic, they may be facing those vitamin A deficiencies, but we have to be cautious with taking too much vitamin A.


TERESA: That's because this vitamin can be difficult on the liver. So it's important to work with their doctor when taking this vitamin for alcoholism recovery. It really does take a team, right? We like to, we like to work with all of the medical providers. Vitamins can help replenish certain deficiencies caused by regular use of alcohol. But vitamins alone cannot help a person get healthy. It is important to focus on eating real meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy fats like butter, like we talk about all the time, right?

MELANIE: Yeah, yeah. Helps the body heal.

TERESA: We also have to remove damaging foods such as processed flour products and sugar-ladened foods that cause further damage. Excessive alcohol can severely damage the body and brain. So it takes focus, commitment, and a plan to regain health. That is what we as nutritionists focus on: total body and brain health. So if you have concerns, please make an appointment with one of our nutritionists at Nutritional Weight and Wellness. You can get ahold of us at 651-699-3438 or schedule on our website at

Schedule Nutrition Counseling

MELANIE: You know, Teresa, when you were talking, what comes to mind, especially when you're talking about the vitamin A is I had a client and she, she struggled with alcohol. It was something that she was really addicted to. It was, she was working with a counselor and she was working with a treatment outpatient treatment. And so she came to me because she knew nutrition was a big part of it, which I'm glad she did because she was a just a wonderful, lovely lady. And one of the things that we really worked on was not only was she drinking a lot of alcohol, but she was replacing food with alcohol. So there was sufficient amount of nutritional deficiencies. And she was really struggling with gut pain. She was struggling with anxiety, depression. She had cravings for sugar, which is really, really common. And then she was really craving carbohydrates and processed foods to replace that sugar bump that she was getting from alcohol.

So we had to do a lot of correcting. Oh my gosh. The restless legs and the leg cramps and on the struggle bus. And she just wanted to feel normal. And so one of the first things that we did was just start eating the real food; simple recipes that she could make. What was she going to do when she had the sugar cravings? Because you, we can't just white knuckle it through. We have to come up with solutions and ideas. And as you and I both know, and I think a lot of our longtime listeners know is we really need that protein. So I had her eating six ounces of protein at a meal. And so some of you listeners are looking at your two eggs in the morning and thinking, gosh, Melanie, that's a lot. But we had to focus on her being able to break down that protein to make the brain chemicals.

TERESA: So when you say two eggs, how much protein is two eggs?

MELANIE: Two eggs is about two ounces of protein.

TERESA: About two ounces.

MELANIE: So you're getting about 10, you know, 10. Not that we are counting grams, but about 10 grams of protein.


MELANIE: And I wanted her to get an excess of 30 grams at each meal. So what does that translate to? It translates to at least four ounces. Definitely I wanted her at six ounces and a couple tablespoons of healthy fat for her brain. And when she started focusing on what she was bringing in her body, we made that her goal. Focus on what you're consuming, not on what you are not consuming.

TERESA: Right. Yeah. And when I think about that, cause most people aren't interested in eating six eggs to get to that point. So I'm like, well how else can we get some protein in that breakfast? And it might be, you know, making more of a frittata where you add some like crumbled chorizo or something along that line. Maybe we put collagen in your coffee. We're adding protein in other ways so it isn't just this huge pile of eggs.


TERESA: Because that's very difficult. And I think it's very difficult when people aren't working with a dietitian or a nutritionist to try to figure that out. How are we going to get all that protein in in a way that is…

MELANIE: Doable.

TERESA: Doable.

MELANIE: We, we have to work on something that's doable for each individual because our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food. It's as simple yet a powerful message. Eating real food is life changing. Thanks for joining us today on a difficult topic.

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