Women Bear Brunt Of Alcohol’s Adverse Health Effects

Women consume more alcohol than ever and the adverse health effects can be substantial, both mentally and physically. The American Addiction Center says that alcohol adversely affects brain function, sleep cycles, the digestive system, the central nervous system, cardiovascular health and reproductive health for women.

BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER— It is easy for women to find an alcoholic beverage suited just for them.

There’s low-carb, low-calorie, fruit-flavored, sophisticated lady drinks and pretty pink varieties – targeting female consumers in order to maintain an active female consumer base.

The marketing is working for the alcohol industry, where recent data reported that across the globe, 117 billion gallons of beer, wine and sprits are consumed annually. Anheuser-Busch, the largest beer producer, generated $54 billion in revenue sales, and Barefoot wine generated nearly $669 million, leading the wine industry sales.

Alcohol is both served and celebrated at birthday parties, weddings, backyard barbeques, baby showers, baptisms, funerals and Mother’s Day brunches. You can sign up for a beer yoga class and purchase a raffle ticket for a chance to win a gift basket filled with fruity alcohol at just about any fundraising event. Plenty of merchandise pushes alcohol to women – especially new mothers – with “mommy’s sippy cup” wine tumblers, onesies that declare, “My Mommy Likes to Wine” and “The Reason I Drink” mother/child shirt sets. 

Women can also connect with other women on the “Moms Who Need Wine” Facebook group, which has 1.2 million followers.

The reasons to drink seem universal – alcohol is the accepted norm, is thought to relieve stress and increase confidence and is usually associated with having a good time – but there is a downside to consuming even one drink, especially for women.

In her book, “Quit Like a Woman,” author Holly Whitaker argues that even one glass of wine is disruptive to the body, which is constantly seeking homeostasis or balance. 

“So, the moment you ingest any drug, your body begins a counter-productive process,” she writes.

Whitaker is describing alcohol’s initial effect – feeling relaxed – and the counter-productive reaction it creates, which is craving and withdrawal.

“Alcohol is a depressant, so if we’re using it to relax, we are actually netting out with more anxiety because of this process. One drink leaves us more stressed, tensed, anxious and depressed. The effect isn’t reserved for heavy drinkers; withdrawal and craving are things we experience anytime we consume a drug. One glass is one dose,” she argues. 

There is little evidence to suggest that alcohol is healthy. The American Addiction Center says that alcohol adversely affects brain function, sleep cycles, the digestive system, the central nervous system, cardiovascular health and reproductive health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol use is linked to several types of cancer, including mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast.

It is clear alcohol impacts the body both physically and mentally, but for women especially, that force is greater.

According to the CDC, the biological differences in body structure and chemistry lead most women to absorb more alcohol and take longer to metabolize it. After drinking the same amount of alcohol as men, women tend to have higher blood-alcohol levels and the immediate effects of alcohol usually occur more quickly and last longer in women than in men. These differences make women more susceptible to the long-term negative health effects of alcohol compared with men.

There is a movement pushing back against the alcohol industry promotion of the “Yes Way, Rose All Day” binge drinking behavior. 

Abstaining from alcohol for 30 days during alcohol-free challenges, such as Dry January, is gaining in popularity among women, who are realizing the health benefits, such as clarity, better skin and improved sleep, after ditching the booze for one month. 

Podcasts such as This Naked Mind, by bestselling author Annie Grace, promote a 30-day alcohol-free challenge while discussing the role of alcohol in our culture and lives.

Other podcasts such as the Sober Club, A Sober Girls Guide, Sober as a Mother and Recovery Rocks are among many promoting an alcohol-free lifestyle.

Non-alcoholic bars are also beginning to open, and traditional bars are offering high-end non-alcohol choices, as more alcoholic-free beverages and spirits hit the market.

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