Brought to you by Good Health magazine
Q&A alcohol & you
What do women need to know about alcohol and its impact on our health? In response to your questions, the experts tell it like it is. By Sarah Marinos
Q. “I’m not sure if I drink too much or not. How can I tell?”
A: “If you drink above the recommended guidelines – more than two standard drinks a day regularly – you’re drinking too much,” advises drug and alcohol awareness educator Sarah Jaggard. “And when drinking affects other areas of your life – you’re living pay to pay because you drink during the weekends, or you’re regularly taking time off work because you’re hung-over, or your partner is worried about your drinking – you need to cut down.” ALAC (Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand) guidelines suggest that up to two standard drinks a day are generally safe for women. Aim to have at least two alcohol-free days a week. A standard drink is 100ml of wine, 60ml of port/sherry, 30ml of spirits or a 330ml can of ordinary beer.
Q. “Men seem to be able to drink more than women. Why is that?”
A: Your husband or partner can drink more simply because he’s bigger. The average man’s body mass is about 12 per cent more than a woman’s body, so alcohol is concentrated in a smaller space in women. Your body also contains more fat and less water, and alcohol is diluted in water, and so the same amount of alcohol will be more highly concentrated in you and will have more impact more quickly. “Your ability to break down alcohol is limited by the size of your liver, too. Women tend to have smaller livers than men,” says Jaggard. “So even at lower levels of drinking, women experience a higher degree of intoxication.” If you’re on a weight-loss diet you will also experience the effects of alcohol faster. When a woman diets she loses more body fluid than usual, so there’s even less water to dilute that alcohol.
Q. “I think my friend might be struggling with an alcohol problem. What are the signs?”
A: Does your friend seem preoccupied with when she is going to be able to have her next drink? If that seems to take up a lot of her thoughts and conversation, she may be drinking too much. If you also notice her becoming anxious or sweating and shaking when she has a drink or is waiting to have a drink, these are also warning signs, and so are vomiting and hallucinations. If your friend experiences these kinds of symptoms, encourage her to see a GP who can help her find support to manage her drinking problem.
For more information pick up the December issue of New Zealand Good Health magazine at magshop.co.nz.