Monday, 5 January 2015

Should you have a dry January?

’Tis the season to cut back or stop drinking alcohol – and, if you’re in any doubt about whether you’re having one too many or are unaware of the risks excess alcohol poses, GP Dawn Harper presents the facts

Most of us overindulge during the festive period, and giving your liver a rest in January is a good idea. Recommended alcohol limits are 21 units a week for men and 14 for women and this is probably a lot less than you think.

Forget a glass of wine being a single unit. That was based on 8% wine and a small 125ml glass. Most wines today are over 12% proof and, if you are pouring a glass at home, it is likely to be a large glass and much nearer 3 units.

Work out your units

To calculate your units, simply look at the % alcohol of the drink you are drinking. That is the number of units in a litre of that fluid. So, let’s make the maths easy – say you are drinking 12% wine, then there is ¾ x 12, ie 9 units in a standard 75dcl bottle. If you are pouring yourself a large 250ml glass in the evening you are drinking 3 units in one go, so it is very easy to exceed recommended limits.

Liver disease

Consistently drinking above recommended limits causes liver damage. Firstly the liver develops fatty deposits. If you carry on drinking at this stage, you risk developing alcoholic hepatitis. Both of these are reversible if you give up drinking altogether. In fact, a fatty liver will start to recover after just two weeks of abstinence. Hepatitis takes several months of no alcohol to revert to normal but if you carry on drinking in the presence of hepatitis, you risk developing cirrhosis, which is irreversible and causes liver failure.

So now you know and can make a more informed decision on how much alcohol you should allow yourself.

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