Health Habits Holiday Spirits
The holiday season is here, so let the festivities begin! This is the time of year that loved ones travel across the states to visit and celebrate the holidays. Many holiday traditions revolve around special meals with recipes passed down through generations. Spiked eggnog, hot apple toddy, ales, mulled wine, glogg or Christmas punch may precede or accompany the holiday meal. What better way to reconnect with family and friends we haven’t seen all year?
Holiday celebrations are plentiful between the months of late November through January. Festivities usually begin with Thanksgiving, leading to Christmas and end with a ball drop, signaling the beginning of the new year. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, hundreds of drivers are lost due to holiday drinking and driving. Such accidents are avoidable and preventable. To further the understanding of alcohol and its effects on the body, let’s explore some information.
Alcohol, also known as ethanol, is a nonnutrient that provides energy in the form of carbohydrates but is also poisonous to the cells. Although it is classified as a food, alcohol is a mind-altering depressant drug. It is classified as such because it slows down the body’s vital functions, which result in slurred speech, unsteady movement, and delayed reactions of the nervous system. The different types of alcohol have varied effects on people. Fermented alcoholic drinks such as beer and wine may contain anywhere from 2 to 20% alcohol. Distilled drinks such as Rum, Brandy, Gin and Whiskey may contain 40%-50% alcohol. The greater the concentration of alcohol, the smaller the amount we should consume.
Alcohol does not require digestion and readily passes into the bloodstream through the tissues lining the inside of the mouth, esophagus, stomach and small intestine. Absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream through the stomach is delayed when consumed with food. To reduce its effects, enjoy a few bites of hors d’oeuvres with your alcoholic beverage. The toxic chemical, also known as alcohol circulates in the bloodstream until the liver can detoxify it. It passes into the watery fluids in and surrounding the cells, with the lungs eliminating some of it as well. This explains why you’re able to smell alcohol on the breath of those who have been drinking. Blood alcohol concentration tests analyze the expired air to estimate the percentage of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream.
Understanding alcohol’s effects will help put the following interventions in place to keep our loved ones safe during the holidays. We already know that eating some food with your alcoholic beverage will slow down the absorption of the alcohol into your bloodstream. Another trick is to provide a glass or bottle of water per alcoholic beverage that your loved ones drink. Lastly, provide guests with a place to stay if they’re exhibiting signs of excessive alcohol intake or give them a ride home. Also, check out ride apps or call for taxis.
This week’s health habit: Enjoy festivities, drink responsibly and keep your cherished guests safe from preventable alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents.