6 Ways Alcohol Impacts Your Health

I broke up with my Cabernet! It may be a temporary breakup, but the incredible things that happened have turned my nightly wine date into more of an occasional hangout.

After my husband and I decided to take a break from alcohol for a couple of months, I immediately started sleeping better. I lost my little bit of belly bloat. My fasting blood glucose level dropped in the morning. I have more energy.

If you’ve been thinking about trying dry January, sober October, or just taking a break from alcohol, let’s unpack all of it. The good, the bad, the ugly. So you can make the best decision for you, in terms of your weight loss, your sleep, your energy, and your overall health.

In this episode, we’ll answer questions like:

  • Are there health benefits of alcohol?
  • How does alcohol impact fat loss?
  • What is it about alcohol that makes it toxic?
  • What is the correlation between alcohol and cancer?
  • How does alcohol affect mental health?
  • What impact does alcohol have on gut health?
  • What is the effect of alcohol on sleep quality?

There may be some potential benefits to alcohol, and we’ll also talk about how often and what forms of alcohol to drink to enjoy the pleasure of that glass of wine without all of the negative side effects.


00:00:40 – Growing up in wine country and wine’s role in my life
00:01:35 – What improved when I cut out alcohol
00:02:58 – How your body processes alcohol and why it’s toxic
00:04:30 – The chronic risks of drinking alcohol regularly
00:05:10 – The effect of alcohol on estrogen
00:05:50 – How alcohol damages the gut
00:06:30 – Is alcohol good or bad for sleep?
00:07:47 – Alcohol metabolism and fat burning
00:09:14 – The benefits of moderate alcohol consumption and best options

Mentioned in this episode:

Watch the FULL VIDEO on JJ’s Youtube Channel 

I use the Nutrisense continuous glucose monitor

Learn how alcohol and other foods cause leaky gut in The Virgin Diet

Try Additive-Free Alcohol with Dry Farm Wine

Study: Alcohol and Cancer Risk

Study: Alcohol and Sleep Quality

Click Here To Read Transcript

ATHE_Transcript_Ep 538_I Quit Drinking for 28 Days and This Is What Happened
JJ Virgin: [00:00:00] Hey, this is JJ Virgin. Thanks so much for joining me. This is Ask the Health Expert. In each episode, I put the Power of Health in your hands and share ways to get healthy, lose weight, heal your gut detox, and lots more. So you can look and feel better fast if you’d rather watch the video. Hey, I did put on my makeup and do my hair, so check it out on my YouTube channel.
So I grew up near Berkeley, California, and that happens to be just a little short drive away from the famous California wine country. And here’s what’s awesome. When I was growing up wine tasting there was free. All these amazing wineries, and I fell in love with wine. It was pretty easy to do. Wine has. Been a big part of my life. I mean, I really couldn’t imagine going to a nice dinner or a great party without it.
Fast forward, I meet my husband, Tim, and. We fell into a little bit of a rut. The way we would kind of set the, oh, we’re done with work is we would go to our big wine cooler and we’d pull out a bottle of wine first. You’re like, oh, we’ll each have a glass, we’ll have another glass. And then pretty much every night we’re having a bottle of wine.
And so we decided a few months ago that we were gonna break up at least temporarily with, you know, one of my closest friends Cabernet. And I’ll kind of tell you what happened from that is pretty telling overnight my sleep improved, I mean, dramatically improved. I track every night, I track with my Aura ring and my [00:02:00] Apple Watch.
But what I immediately saw when I pulled the alcohol out just one night was that my deep sleep and my HR-V improved. And then after a few weeks, This little bit of belly bloat that always bugged me, you know? And I’m like, lean, and I’m like, what is that? And that’s gone. Two pounds gone. The other cool thing is I’ve been wearing a cgm, a Nutri Scent cgm, and I watched my CGM numbers and I also noticed I was always having like a 90 morning fasting blood sugar, which is.
You know, fine. But it’s weird for me. I should be more in the 70, 80 and now it is. And then there’s just better energy throughout the day. No little headache, periodically. And so I said I was breaking up temporarily. And my decision from the Soul Experiment is that wine for me is a great friend who I love to hang out with now and then, but I don’t really want them moving in.
So I say this, if you’ve been thinking about trying dry January, sober October, whatever those things are, [00:03:00] or quitting for good, let’s just unpack. All of it, the good, the bad, the ugly. So you can make the best decision for you, the best decision in terms of like your weight loss, your energy, your overall health.
So first up is alcohol healthy. Bottom line is your body can’t use or store alcohol. Your body perceives alcohol as a potential toxin, so it’s gonna prioritize processing alcohol before carbs or fats or protein. In other words, everything else, all the macronutrients are gonna take a backseat when you drink alcohol.
And what else takes a bad seat? Burning fat. You’ve heard of fatty liver. And fatty liver is the buildup of fat in your liver, and that happens because. Your body is prioritizing burning alcohol. This can be the same with fructose. You’ve heard of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease n d alcohol is a toxin.
What is toxic about alcohol? It’s really the way it’s [00:04:00] metabolized. So your body uses an enzyme called a D H to help your body break down alcohol. When alcohol is broken down, a toxic substance called acetyl aldehyde is. This is a very bad substance. It can be super dangerous, can even cause cancer. So your body wants to get rid of the stat, right?
So your body then turns acetyl into something called acetate. Not as dangerous. And then acetate is turned into things that are easy for your body to get rid of, like water and carbon dioxide. Now, if your A D H enzyme works quickly and the rest of your detox pathways can’t catch up, you’ve felt what this feels like it’s a hangover.
It’s headaches, it’s fast heart rate, it’s memory lapses. And then there’s the chronic risks of I’m just drinking too much all the time and they are scary and there’s a lot of ’em, high blood. Heart disease. Liver disease, digestive problems, different kinds of cancers [00:05:00] like breast and mouth and throat, esophagus and voice box, and liver and colon, and recant, a weak immune system.
When you’re always getting sick, you have challenged with learning and memory, mood disorders and depression and anxiety and social problems, alcohol use disorders, alcohol dependence. So heavy is when you’re averaging more than seven drinks a week for a woman, or more than 14 for a. Alcohol is also estrogenic.
So alcohol, and it’s one of the reasons, of course, that there’s higher risk of breast cancer, and that’s a, that is a well established one is because alcohol can change how you metabolism estrogen. Now, when we’re looking at this in these higher estrogen levels in women who drink, , it’s not the good estrogen.
Remember, we have three different types of estrogen, and what you wanna avoid is high levels of estro, because that can increase your risk of breast cancer. Now more than one alcoholic drink per day in women can increase testosterone and estrogens. Remember, we’re really looking at that estrin, the bad one that can increase and cause estrogen.
[00:06:00] Dominance. The next one that I, drives me crazy because that’s why I wrote The Virgin Diet is alcohol can damage your gut and it can do two different things to damage your gut. Number one, it can disrupt your gut microbiome, all the trillions of bacteria in your gut. Can lead to dysbiosis or imbalances because all of a sudden you might have too many bad guys, right?
You are killing off the good guys or you don’t have the diversity that you need to have. But the other thing that it can do that I wrote the Virgin Diet about is it can lead to leaky gut. Just a single heavy episode of drinking can damage the mucus cells in the in the gut and increase inflammation and.
Gut permeability. But if you’ve done this, you know exactly what I’m talking about is what alcohol can do to your sleep. And I’d just love to hear from you. Comment below on what you’ve noticed when with your sleep if you drink, because I know what I’ve noticed. So here’s a deal. We know alcohol can make you sleepy.
It’s a central [00:07:00] nervous system depressant. So you might go, gosh, I sleep so much, I, I fall asleep. So much easier when I have a glass of wine. And you’re right, you do. You just don’t stay asleep. Well, because even a drink or two means you spend less, less time in the rem stage of deep sleep. And what does that mean?
That means you might have spent the same amount of time in bed, but you didn’t get that deep sleep that you need to feel refreshed. Then if you ever drank and woke up, Two in the morning. That is the hypoglycemia that happens because remember, alcohol’s being metabolized first, so then it’s blunting the liver’s ability to release glucose into the bloodstream, and it can also stimulate the res release of insulin, which can also cause a drop in blood sugar levels.
Then all of a sudden you’re waking up at like two in the morning and you’re sweaty and you’re shaky, and you cannot, you’re so tired, but I can’t fall. Sleep. So then if you’re using alcohol chronically, it just then leads to insomnia symptoms and [00:08:00] could even give you things like sleep apnea. Now let’s talk.
Wait, let’s talk. Fat burning because remember when I talked a little earlier about how alcohol’s metabolized before protein, fat and carbs? Everything, including fat metabolism moves to the back of the line. When you drink, your liver’s top priority is to clear that alcohol, right, because it senses it as a toxin.
Now, depending on how much you drink in your overall tolerance, alcohol can shut down fat burning for 12 to 36 hours after you consume. Depending on how much you drink in your overall tolerance, this is gonna make you crazy. Alcohol can shut down fat burning for anywhere from 12. To 36 hours after you drink it.
Okay, so now couple that you’re now not able to burn fat, and have you noticed that when you drink, you’re a little hungrier and it’s not for salmon and Brussels sprouts? We know that alcohol could reduce your willpower and make you want to eat things that you wouldn’t normally touch. [00:09:00] and you’re eating more, you’re eating more often, you’re making choices that are, you’re like, oh, well heck, I’ll just have the popcorn, the chips, the sugar, the stuff, cuz it’s never, I’m just gonna have the more broccoli, right?
And then couple that with, you know, I’m having a Cosmo, I’m having an appletini, I’m having some kind of alcohol mixed with sugar. And again, now you’ve got the sugar coming in, but your body is not focused on that because it’s gotta burn off that. First, and the alcohol can only be metabolized. It’s very slow.
Your liver can only metabolize about an ounce of alcohol per hour, and there are some benefits to alcohol. there are. So some research shows that moderate alcohol use what is moderate? I keep talking about this. That’s up to one drink a day for a woman, up to two drinks a day for man up to not over may reduce your risk of heart disease.
May ischemic stroke. An ischemic stroke. What is that? That’s when the arteries to your brain become [00:10:00] narrowed or blocks and that then is gonna cause some severely reduced blood flow, may reduce diabetes. You wanna drink occasionally and you still wanna lose weight or maintain your weight. Here are a couple things to consider.
Healthy alcohol intake. No more than one. Drink a day for women. Two drinks for men. Now, here’s what’s important. That does not mean that you go, you know what I’m gonna do? I’m just gonna store that up for Saturday. M. Okay, so let’s talk about like how you get yourself classified. A light drinker, and this is looking over the last year, a light drinker is like you’ve had 12 drinks the past year.
You have three drinks or less per week, and that’s the average over the year. Moderate drinker, three to seven drinks per week for women, three to 14 drinks a week per men, and then heavy drinkers are over. more than seven drinks for women per week. More than 14 drinks for men. But here’s what’s important.
Size matters. So you gotta [00:11:00] actually know your sizes here. Beer, that’s 12 fluid ounces, wines, five fluid ounces. And you’ve gotta look at the alcohol content there, of course. And distilled spirits. 80 poop one and a half fluid. . Now here’s the deal with wine. Gosh, one of the, my favorite relationships, one of the greatest educators on wine for me is Todd White of Dry Farm Wine.
And I remember when he sat me down and taught me about the alcohol in the United States, the wine in the United States, and what they were allowed to do. Because you know, things like sulfites that they will add to wine as a preservative. But turns out in the United States, wine producers can legally, and by the way, they do not have to tell you, use 76 different FDA approved additives without disclosing any of them on the bottle.
And they are things like mega purple coloring, dye fish, bladders I don’t get it. Sulfur dioxide, dyl, bicarbonate. So all sorts of stuff. And I still remember when. . [00:12:00] I sat down with Todd, he explained all this to me and I’m like, are you kidding me? And I started using just Dry Farm Wine and then I went and had regular US wine.
And the difference, like all those symptoms I told you about felt like crap. So some of that stuff, could be your body having to detoxify not just the alcohol but all the other garbage they added into the alcohol. And then you look at things like mixed drinks, where then you have the alcohol and then you add in fructose.
So you got the fructose alcohol, bam, one, two punch whammy on your liver. And then of course, I just have to do a shout out if you are a beer drinker. I don’t know. I think there’s a reason that we have beer bellies, I think. I think. But at least make sure you’re getting gluten free. So you’re probably wondering, well, if I am gonna drink, what should I drink?
I believe that your Best Buy bet is totally Dry Farm Wine. I know this sounds like an advertisement for Dry Farm Wine, so I just love, I love Todd and David, but I think they’re doing such an important information campaign out there, and so you [00:13:00] wanna have, they do lab tested wine, so what are you looking for?
High quality, no, no sugar added, no toxic additives. Lower alcohol somewhere, you know, highest would be 12.5% organic biodynamic testing again, or farming lab tested, right? So look for those wines that are the clean wines. And then remember what I just said about light, moderate, and. . So I would say I don’t think that we should be drinking every single day.
I think it’s something that you work into having a nice dinner or having friends over and use it in those ways. I don’t think if you’re eat drinking every single day, I think you’re really setting yourself up for some, some challenges because again, your liver’s primary goal is to break down and eliminate alcohol burst.
So we’ve gotta be super careful there because if you’re trying to burn fat, it’s taken a back. , right? All the energy from your food and your drink goes towards digesting alcohol instead of being used [00:14:00] for energy. This is why, like if you’re trying to lose weight, you know, maybe once a week, but if you’re trying to lose weight and you think you’re gonna have wine every single night, I don’t think that’s gonna be the best, the best choice for you.
Now, I only briefly touched on liver health in this video, but liver holy smokes. I mean, obviously it’s a huge thing here, but there’s over 500 jobs to do in the body, so you gotta make sure you’re treating it nicely and that it’s working optimally so you can stay on track towards your health and weight loss goals.
So next up, watch this video on what to eat, when to eat, and why to support your. Not only to process alcohol effectively, but to avoid sabotaging all the other hard work you’re doing.
For more info on this and other health topics I cover, or to rate and review, find me on Instagram, Facebook, and my website jjvirgin.com, and don’t forget to subscribe to my show so you won’t miss a single episode. [00:15:00] Go to subscribetojj.com. Thanks again for being with me this week.


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