Many of us enjoy the occasional tipple—a mid-week beer or Friday G&T, a Pinot with the girls, or Burgundy with Sunday roast. But just when does that measure for our pleasure become too much? Should we even be drinking alcohol at all?
It’s a subject I rarely hear taught about in Church, whose occasional warnings tend to focus on ‘drunkenness’ or alcoholism. In fact, I would go so far to suggest that it is fast becoming a taboo subject, owing to too many opinions, experiences, and misunderstandings.
Two thousand years ago, Paul advised Timothy to drink a little wine to minimise his troubling stomach upsets. Perhaps the water was contaminated… we don’t know. Even today, some (not all) nutritionists commend the health benefits of moderate wine consumption, and continue to debate whether a pint of stout can raise iron levels. (That said, some also espouse the positives of eating chocolate!) But let’s not make a ‘health benefit’ an excuse to knock back a bottle every night (or a family-size milky bar for that matter).
Health risks involved with excessive drinking are often raised in the news—and rightly so. My brother was an alcoholic. I am tragically acquainted with the dark side of ‘drink’ and respect anyone who chooses abstinence for any reason.
Those of us who enjoy alcohol, however, may still feel confused by the ‘How much is too much?’ debate. Google the question, ‘How much is moderate drinking?’ and three and a half million suggested answers will vie for your screen; enough to send you straight back to your corkscrew.
Keeping track of our alcohol intake doesn’t have to be complicated, and it certainly can be highly beneficial for our physical and spiritual health; especially if we’re someone who is inclined to say, “Oh, alright then, just one more.”
A Simple Calculation
Many of us have counted the number of calories in food when we’ve wanted to lose weight, but for moderate drinking we,
1. Count units of alcohol,
2. Remain within a maximum number per day or week:
1. Take the % abv (alcohol by volume) figure found on the bottle label, multiply that by your measure of alcoholic drink, in ml, and then divide your sum by 1000.
A wine labelled 13% abv.
A 175ml glass.
Total units = 13 x 175 / 1000 = 2.28.
A 25ml measure of 37.5% abv gin, doused down with tonic water.
Total units = 37.5 x 25 / 1000 = 0.94… regardless of how much tonic you add.
2. Tot up your number of daily units and ensure you don’t exceed these guidelines:
Men 3-4 units per day, or 21 per week*
Women 2-3 per day, or 14 per week*
Everything in moderation – what does moderation look like?
(a) Consume alcohol within levels advising minimum risk to health, as above.
It takes little effort to maintain a running total if you are serious about your health, wellbeing, and honouring God with your body.
(b) Ensure at least one (preferably more) alcohol-free day(s) a week.
This gives your liver the rest it deserves, just as I’m sure you appreciate having at least one day off work each week.
(c) Know and accept your personal health limits.
Consider your health issues, medications, or addictive tendencies, and act on advice from your GP over and above the recommendations mentioned here. This may suggest a lower level of weekly units, or possibly nothing at all.
(d) Accept that alcohol produces harmful effects when drunk in excess, and can be addictive.
Take some positive practical steps to avoid that, and if you already recognize a problem, seek help immediately. I have admired the work of Alcoholics Anonymous, for the support they gave my brother as well as my family, but other groups are available too.
Finally, there is no such thing as a moderate drink-driver. Alcohol slows reaction times and impairs the senses. By law in the UK, we can drive with a maximum of 0.8mg of alcohol per 1ml of blood, but this is where our unique capacity as men and women, our health, and even our size and amount of body-fat, can affect the rate and efficiency that we metabolize alcohol. And there is no easy calculation to help us work that out. The best formula is, when you’re in the driving seat stay in the driving seat, and just stick to fruit juice.
* Figures represent UK Department of Health and alcohol awareness organisations. These may differ in other countries.
Anne writes books, articles, and bible-study notes, impassioned to encourage women to fulfil their potential in God. Personal tragedy, however, also motivated her to study and qualify with the Wines and Spirits Education Trust.
Likes: hill-walking, music, growing veg, films, books, meals with close friends.
Hates: offal, soggy dishcloths.
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