Wine – Tonic Or Toxic?

wine drinking ladies

Is Wine Really That Fine?

Wine is good for the heart we are all told, but how healthy is wine really? Wine-specific research has reported some special benefits for those who drink moderately, much research has been done in recently in America, as well as Europe, and England. It is quite interesting how more people over time actually believe that wine consumption is beneficial for your health. The problem with alcohol in my opinion lies in – in it’s consumption. Most people simply drink too much for it to be beneficial. A small glass daily of a good (preservative-free) red wine certainly confers benefits. But how many people stick with a small glass when they do drink wine?

Brief Overview Of Some Key Wine Studies

  •  Both red and white wine effectively wipe out bacteria responsible for food poisoning, outperforming even some   pharmaceutical drugs.
  • Non wine drinkers were found to be less resistant to five strains of the common cold than those who drank moderately.
  • A Harvard research team recently reported that wine, among a field of 21 alcoholic beverages, was most strongly associated with a decreased risk for the formation of painful kidney stones.
  • A 1990 analysis of alcohol preferences and medical records of 53,000 people found that wine drinkers on average smoke less, are less likely to be overweight or have a history of drinking problems.
  • Studies have also shown that wine decreased the risk of rheumatoid arthritis for women.
  • Moderate drinkers were found to be less likely to become depressed when under stress compared to abstainers or heavy drinkers.
  • Regular, moderate elderly wine drinkers appear to have stronger bones than nondrinkers, potentially reducing their risk for osteoporosis.
  • Various American and European studies have shown that moderate wine drinking among the elderly stimulates appetite, promotes regular bowel functions as well as improves mood.
  • Findings from numerous studies on moderate drinking have been impressive: a 25 percent reduction in heart attacks for moderate red wine drinkers.

The Down-Side Of Wine

  • Your poor liver! Two glasses of red wine consumed on a toxic and overloaded liver could potentially amount to the same liver stress as virtually a bottle consumed by a person with a healthy and optimal functioning liver.
  • Wine makes you tired, you become more irritable, find it hard to loose weight, your blood pressure and cholesterol rising, and generally wake up with that not-so-good feeling in the morning. Sound familiar?
  • Take a look at your tongue in the mirror, do you see scalloped edges, a thick white or yellow coating, any cracks? Your liver and bowels probably need a detox, forget about the “good effects” on your heart! Did you know that about 80% of all your cholesterol is manufactured inside your own liver?, cholesterol is not caused in as much by all the fatty foods you eat. Whilst it is true that small amounts of wine consumed increase the level of good cholesterol (HDL) If your liver becomes overburdened under a toxic wine load, it will result in an elevated level of the “bad” cholesterol  (LDL) which will only further increase heart disease.
  • Drinking 2 glasses daily may actually increase the risk of heart disease by increasing the concentration of the amino acid homocysteine. And this corresponds with a huge increase in cardiovascular risk compared with those who abstain.

Wine can potentially cause long-term health problems, even at moderate levels

Despite any psychological and physical health benefits, even at moderate levels of just “a drink or two” daily, alcohol can eventually lead to some serious problems:
  • Accidents. Wine affects judgement and slows reflexes, which can lead to falls or to accidents with vehicles or other machinery. Ask the police, they will be quick to tell you!
  • Drug interactions. Many pharmaceutical drugs, like alcohol, are metabolised by your liver. Because the liver has limited processing capacity at any given time, these substances compete with each other. As a result, the effects of some drugs may be blocked while others may well be potentiated. Check with your doctor.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms. Alcohol can cause a wide range of common, uncomfortable but reversible problems, including gastritis (inflammation of the lining of the stomach), pancreatitis and diarrhoea.
  • Heart problems. Sustained heavy wine drinking can cause cardiomyopathy, a form of heart disease in which the heart enlarges, weakens and ultimately loses its ability to function properly.
  • Liver disease. Alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis are the two most common consequences of heavy wine drinking. Alcoholic hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, which ultimately can cause permanent damage if drinking continues. Cirrhosis occurs when damage to the liver is so severe that scarring interferes with blood flow and liver function.
  • Breast cancer. A study has shown that consuming just one drink per day may increase the risk of breast cancer in women. Alcohol reduces the liver’s ability to clear estrogen, as well as increasing the body’s oestrogen generally, which help promote breast cancer.

Grapes and Pesticide Residues  

pesticides on grapesWine country is also toxic spray country. Grapes have been analyzed for the first time in New Zealand for pesticide residues. Grapes had 13 different pesticides detected in the latest quarterly report of the Total Diet Survey. It was found that grapes may contain up to 27 different pesticides, according to an analysis carried out by Soil & Health, the Safe Food Campaign and Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa NZ. What does this mean? It means that those who consume wine regularly, would do well to undergo regular liver detoxification. Consult with your naturopath.
Many people choose to follow a detoxification program, any such program should be supervised by a qualified naturopath, because when toxins are released too quickly they can be extremely uncomfortable and may cause headaches, fatigue, diarrhea, irritability and lightheaded. However, removal of toxins gives many positive health benefits, giving increased energy, clear skin, vitality and a general feeling of well-being.

Is Red Wine Really The Best Choice?

The French have a lower rate of heart disease despite consuming a high-fat diet (the French paradox). The reported reason ? a lot of red wine.  A recent study published in the British Medical Journal examines the full range of research on the subject, reviewing heart benefits touted from all types of alcohol. The conclusion? It’s all essentially all the same, the French would do just as well on beer or gin!

 

If You Drink Wine Regularly, How Can You Test Your Liver’s Function?

Standard LFT’s (liver function tests) studies done by your doctor are most effective for detecting actual damage to your liver. These blood tests are of limited value however in detecting your liver’s actual detoxification potential, because they measure acute liver cell damage directly, rather than functional capability of your liver, i.e., the uptake, metabolism, storage, and excretion of toxic substances like alcohol, drugs, chemical sprays, solvents, etc. Why should you wait until the damage is done? Besides the standard liver function blood test, there is a simple urine test or a liver challenge test available which can identify how your liver, the body’s main detoxifying organ, is handling a wide variety of chemicals, including wine.
 

Can Diet And Supplements Improve My Liver’s Function?

It can be said that an efficient liver detoxification system is vital to health and in order to support this process it is essential that many key nutrients are included in the diet.
  • B vitamins play a major role, acting as co-factors for many enzyme systems including those of liver detoxification, therefore ensuring a plentiful supply of the B complex group of vitamins is of prime importance for optimum liver detoxification. I’ve even noticed Berocca for sale at some liquor outlets.
  • Depletion of vitamin C may also impair the detoxification process; at least 1000mg a day is recommended. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables.
  • Zinc helps with the functioning of an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which is  involved in the conversion of alcohols to aldehydes in detoxification. Anyone who drinks alcohol should ensure they have optimum amounts of zinc in their diet.
  • Take a high-quality multi vitamin & mineral supplement daily. There are many trace elements you may lack in your diet, which are crucial for proper liver functioning: selenium, molybdenum and many more.
  • There are many good herbs available to keep your liver in top shape, ask your herbalist of naturopath. My favourite liver herbs in the clinic?: St Mary’s thistle, Globe artichoke, Dandelion root, Fringe tree, Greater celandine, Burdock and Picrorhiza Kurroa (quite bitter).
  • Vegetables such as carrots, artichokes, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage have all been shown to enhance liver detoxification.
  • Your diet should include plenty of organic, unrefined, unprocessed foods. Fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains and unrefined carbohydrates should make up the majority of the diet.
  • Excess red meat, animal fats, sugars and refined & take away foods should be minimalised, along with caffeine.
  • Drink plenty of pure water or diluted juice, at least two litres per day. Try carrot, celery and apple, all freshly juiced, dilute with about 50% pure water.

Enjoy Wine, But In Moderation

Any health benefits of red wine come from moderate drinking only, and moderate drinking is defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. With any more than a moderate amount and all health benefits are lost, with significant health-risk factors kicking in. Always have something to eat before you drink wine. When tasting or drinking wine, alternate a glass of wine with a glass of water. Try to pace yourself when drinking; aim for the persistent euphoria rather than the rapid oblivion!
Finally, I remember the advice given to me by my father – “moderation in all things”.

References

  • Bland, J (Dr) (1997) The 20 Day Rejuvenation Diet Keats Publishing
  • Waterhouse A, Phenolic Compounds in Wine and Their Beneficial Health Effects, Presentation at National Press Club, Washington, DC, February 1994.
  • Razay G, et al. Alcohol Consumption and its Relation to Cardiovascular Risk Factors in British Women, BMJ, 1992; 304:80-83.
  • Stampfer M, et al., A Prospective Study of Cholesterol, Apolipoproteins, and the Risk of Myocardial Infarction, New England Journal of Medicine, 1991; 325(6).
  • Doll R and Peto R. Consumption of alcohol: 13 years’ observations on male British doctors. BMJ, 1994; 309:911-918.
  • The French Paradox & Drinking for Health, Gene Ford, Wine Appreciation Guild, San Francisco 1993
  • Holbrook T and Barrett-Connor E. A prospective study of alcohol consumption and bone mineral density. BMJ, 1993; 306:1506-1509.
  • Nelson H, et al. Smoking, alcohol and neuromuscular and physical function of older women. JAMA, 1994; 272(23):1825-1831.
  • Lipton R. The effect of moderate alcohol use on the relationship between stress and depression. American Journal of Public Health, 1994; 84(12):1913-1917.

Article Last Update:  12 January 2012

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