This post was inspired by a glass of wine on Saturday night – only my second alcoholic drink in nearly two years.
Why I Don’t Drink Alcohol
Since I got CFS/ME in January 2012 I have avoided alcohol almost entirely.
For the first few months of illness I felt dizzy and ill most of the time, and I had no desire to add to that with a hangover. Once I got my dizziness under control and was pacing better I decided to try a small amount of wine. So one evening in August 2012 when my kids were staying with my sister I experimented and had one half glass.
From that experiment I discovered I was alcohol intolerant! The next day I had the worst hangover ever, as if I’d drunk 2 bottles of wine instead of half a glass. I felt like I’d been poisoned.
That experience was enough to stop my trying alcohol again until now.
How the Body Processes Alcohol
I have picked out some highlights (relevent to CFS/ME) of what happens during alcohol metabolism from this article.
- Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream through the small intestine.
- It travels to the liver where it is converted to energy. Whilst the liver is metabolising the alcohol it is unable to carry out other functions.
- The liver can process 1/2 oz alcohol per hour. Excess alcohol flows to other parts of the body.
- Alcohol in the heart causes you to pump less blood and the blood vessels relax, causing a lowering of blood pressure.
- Alcohol is a sedative. When it reaches your brain it slows the transmission of impulses between nerve cells that control your ability to think and move.
- Alcohol reduces your brain’s production of anti-diuretic hormones, which keep you from making too much urine. You may lose lots of liquid, vitamins and minerals.
What Does This Mean For Me?
- Tests I did with my nutrtionist indicated my liver is not getting rid of toxins as it should, but is recirculating them around my body: this is probably why a small amount of alcohol had such a massive impact on me.
- I am already eating extra salt to counteract low blood pressure, thus alcohol lowering my blood pressure is not something I want.
- I already have brain fog, therefore I don’t want the sedative effect of alcohol dulling me further.
- I take vitamin and mineral supplements and I don’t want to waste them by peeing them out at a faster rate than normal.
It’s clear that the effects of alcohol are not going to help me feel better.
What happened after my drink on Saturday?
I’m pleased to report that I felt OK after my wine on Saturday night. I think this could be because my sauna is helping me to detox, and hence my liver is better able to process the alcohol than it was.
What will my attitude to alcohol be going forward?
It’s on my list of foods to eat less of and I intend to avoid it almost entirely, because it’s not going to help me recover and it may hinder recovery. However, on very special occasions, if I want a drink I won’t be scared of how I’ll feel the next day, I’ll be able to imbibe if I want to.
What’s your experience of drinking alcohol and CFS/ME?