Women and alcohol – Are you a mummy juice drinker or an empty nester?
I am one of those mums that share funny wine memes on social media and in a lot of my online photographs I’m holding a glass of vino or sipping a cocktail. There’s nothing wrong with that – ‘everything in moderation’ as they say.
Research has revealed that mothers are at the forefront of the middle-aged drinking epidemic in the UK. Society is more accepting of women who like to drink. A glass of wine or a gin & tonic has become an accessory for the modern woman.
In years gone by, women would have been excited about a new handbag range or designer shoes but now our social media threads reveal female excitement when there is an announcement about a new gin flavour or a gin tasting afternoon. I’m one of them who ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ a post like that, I’m no angel.
Some of us still love to bake but the traditional Victoria sponge or strawberry cheesecake has been overtaken by gin & tonic muffins or Bailey's chocolate cheesecake. The proof is in the pudding– alcohol has become a part of everyday living and you only have to look in our recycle bottle banks for clarification.
There is a tone of humour in my writing but it is quite a serious topic because for some women drink is a problem. They don’t intend it to be but the stress of everyday living like money, relationships, anxiety and depression drive them to drink. I’m not judging anyone, I have been found clutching an empty bottle of Pinot (or two) crying over a man or my dead cat called Tootsie.
I think the first time I said ‘I’m never drinking again’ was back in 1985. I remember my mother-in-law holding my hair back as I threw up every last bit of fluid in my body. I hardly drank alcohol until my late 30s then I went through a stage of trying to save the world economy buying Prosecco by the barrel. Due to the fact that my doctor and dentist have become the alcohol police, I do try to taper my consumption at this stage in my life.
I’m holding on to my 40s by the grit of my teeth and as it happens, I’m quite content at the moment but life is one big ‘hold on to your hat or knickers’ roller coaster! Who knows where my emotions will be this time next year. I fear the menopause may possess me at some point and the temperature of my body will swing from low too high in a matter of seconds. Baggy jumpers and boots will be history and in the winter months I will be wearing flip-flops and a crop top as litres of hormonal water seep through my wrinkled skin!!! (What a great image I’m building). Potentially my daughter will have moved out so not only will I be hormonal mess but will most probably become an empty nester!
Staying on the topic of history, I can say I wasn’t a mummy juice drinker, apparently by definition, a mummy juice drinker is: A mother who consumes a glass of wine when the child comes in from school, another whilst cooking dinner, another with dinner, another when child is tucked up in bed and number 5 when she gets the munchies at around 10pm.
I am yet to be an empty nester who by definition is: A mother whose children have left home and doesn’t feel like she has a purpose in life anymore. She comes home from work to an empty house, sits on the sofa with a bottle of wine looking at old family photos and trying to get hold of the grown-up children who have been ignoring the messages and calls she had made over the last week or two.
For research purposes, I conducted a poll asking women of a similar age to me how much they drank a week. 34% said they drank more than 7 glasses of alcohol a week. When I asked them why they drank alcohol there was a cocktail of responses.
“I’m 47 and I drink socially to relax and just loosen up and be giggly. I like a cold lager in the summer, wine or vodka lime and soda. If I drink wine, I get a really bad hangover. Lager and vodka don’t give me a hangover, if I’ve drunk too much alcohol it takes me the next day to recover.”
“I’m 39 and I drink to feel like I’m on holiday or to feel the relief of tension and giggle with my friends. I never drink alone. Anything and everything gives me a hangover and the bad ones can last 2 days! I love a cocktail bar or just a cocktail! I can’t even smell the alcohol when it’s the wrong time of the month. I only drink on a Friday or Saturday unless I go out on a weeknight. ‘
The interesting fact is over the time period of my research did I talk to someone who doesn’t drink! It’s a clear indication that the articles and statistics that I have been reading are most probably true.
I’m going to step into my serious shoes for a moment. The NHS reported that a huge study of almost 600,000 drinkers showed that people who drank more than 12.5 units (100g) of alcohol a week were likely to die sooner than those who drank no more than this amount. The results applied equally to women and men. There has been a rise of 400% in liver disease since the 1970’s. That is one of many eye-opening facts that I came across and this information is easy to find because it is a hot topic and an area of concern.
If you are concerned about your alcohol consumption you can take a screening test, try this one: https://www.verywellmind.com/could-you-have-an-alcohol-abuse-problem-3894213
New advice say men and women who drink regularly should consume no more than 14 units a week - equivalent to six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine. It also says if people drink, it should be moderately over three or more days and that some days should be alcohol-free (anyone panicking or feeling ashamed yet?).
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the legal alcohol limit for drivers is 80 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of blood in your body. 35 micrograms of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of breath. 107 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of urine.
Here is the eye-opening, scary part where I tell you what happens when you drink alcohol.
Once swallowed, alcohol goes to all parts of the body. Then what happens?
• It goes straight to the blood vessels in the mouth and tongue
• Up to 20% of alcohol passes through your stomach and if your stomach is empty, it passes through the intestines. If you have food in your stomach, enzymes in the stomach can break down some of the alcohol
• The 75%-85% left gets absorbed into the blood
• Alcohol stays in the blood until the liver is able to break it down
• The liver filters blood and breaks down 80%-90% of alcohol with the help of enzymes
• The liver breaks down one standard drink an hour
• A kidney filters blood and balances fluids in the body and removes waste
• Alcohol makes your kidneys work harder
• 10% leaves the body via urine
• Very high levels of alcohol lead to a slowing of the breath, loss of consciousness and potentially death
• It takes 5-10 minutes for alcohol to get to the brain and nervous system. By that time there are mood changes, impaired ability to think and coordinate movement followed by potential blackouts
• Some alcohol is evaporated through the lungs 8% is breathed out and that is what is picked up by a breathalyser
• A small amount of alcohol evaporates from the blood vessels under the skin
• If you are pregnant, the alcohol can go back and forth to the placenta (if you think you could be pregnant, it would be much safer not to drink)
And finally, the dreaded hangover…
A hangover basically is how your body reacts to being poisoned by alcohol toxins. Alcohol by-products called acetaldehyde and impurities called cogeners are to blame for your discomfort. I wish I had a magic instant solution for hangovers but all I can give you are these interesting tips:
• Eat asparagus – the amino acids and minerals help your body metabolize alcohol quicker. According to the Journal of Food Science, based on a 2009 study by Jeju National University in South Korea and the Institute of Medical Science
• Drink soda water or Sprite – it can break down acetaldehyde that causes the feeling of nausea, headaches and vomiting. Chinese scientists at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou found in 2013 that the beverages can break down acetaldehyde, a by-product of metabolized alcohol that can lead to nausea, headache and vomiting
• Drink water – Alcohol is a diuretic, you lose a lot of water when you drink as a result your liver and kidneys can’t process alcohol properly
• DON’T even think about ‘hair of the dog’ you just delay your healing process
• AVOID coffee – caffeine is also a diuretic
• Take an Ibuprofen or Paracetamol
• Vitamin B, especially B6 helps your body metabolize alcohol
• Have sex – sex releases endorphins which reduce hangover symptoms
• Go for a run – exercise increases circulation and helps remove toxins from the body
We will be returning to this topic with more insights and advice but for now I am off to the supermarket where I will buy: a basket full of asparagus, 10 bottles of Sprite, 5 bottles of water, a box of Ibuprofen and some vitamin B.
Be sensible with your alcohol consumption ladies. If you have any concerns do visit the doctor and seek advice.
**Tip of the week** - slice lemons and limes and freeze them, when you put ice in your glass ready for a delicious gin & tonic pop in some of the frozen slices of fruit.
Further reading and references: