Alcohol consumption can be an uncomfortable topic for some patients, but it is something that needs to be discussed between every physician and patient. Recently, a group commissioned by the US Preventive Services Task Force revealed that every patient should be discussing alcohol use, particularly if their intake is above a healthy threshold. Read on to learn about suggested alcohol intake for adults, and how you can bring up drinking with your doctor.

An Array of Health Problems

Drinking guidelines are in place because drinking too much alcohol can lead to serious health complications. Some issues are a direct result of drinking too much, such as cirrhosis and alcoholic hepatitis, but there are other serious concerns, such as cancer and heart disease, that are strongly linked to overconsumption of alcohol as well. Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption has been linked with many cases of colorectal cancer, as well as a number of other cancers.

What Is Healthy Drinking?

According to authorities like the Centers for Disease Control, safe or moderate drinking equates to no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. This may leave the crowd that regularly attends happy hour after work in a bit of a bind–is drinking more than the recommended guidelines really bad for your health?

Yes. Binge drinking is defined as having more than four drinks in two hours (women) or five drinks within two hours (men). For those that regularly go beyond this threshold, alcohol consumption can lead to pancreatitis, liver disease, ulcers, brain damage, and other problems. In fact, alcohol is the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

This doesn’t mean that if you occasionally go out and have one too many that it will make you sick. However, regular, heavier alcohol consumption should be discussed with your doctor.

Alcoholic drinks are defined as one 12-ounce glass of beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or one 1.5-ounce shot of liquor. When it comes to weekly consumption, men are advised not to have more than 14 drinks in a week, and women seven drinks in one week. Further guidelines advise that women should have no more than three drinks in a sitting, while men only four.

Some groups of people are advised to not drink alcohol at all. If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, if you regularly operate heavy machinery, or if you take medications that could interact with alcohol, you should not drink. There is no research to indicate that any amount of alcohol is safe for a fetus.

Starting the Conversation

During your yearly checkup or physical, your doctor should ask you about your alcohol consumption. There are many ways to cut back or quit alcohol completely, and your doctor will know best which treatment might be right for you. Some patients may need to replace drinking with a healthier habit, while others may require stronger intervention. As we embark on a new year, there’s no better time than the present to cut back your drinking and live a happier, fuller life. 

For more information on GI issues and alcohol consumption, or to speak with a physician directly, make an appointment at Needham Gastroenterology today. With leading-edge treatment and a personal level of healthcare, we take great care of our patients.