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5 foods to avoid when going gluten free

It can feel a bit daunting to embark on the adventure that is a gluten-free diet. Once you start paying attention you realise just how common it is and how much gluten we consume in a typical western diet. It’s not all bad news though. If you follow a few simple rules and take on a more wholefoods-oriented diet, you’ll soon be wondering how you ever ate any different. Here are a few foods you should be avoiding if you’ve discovered you have a gluten intolerance;

Avoid these if you have Gluten Intolerance

The majority of baked goods

This is probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a gluten-free diet. Most traditional baked goods contain gluten to some degree due to the flours used in baking them. Your best bet is to avoid baked goods entirely, from bread to cookies to cakes. This is a blessing in disguise really, as you’ll be avoiding a lot of sugary and fattening foods by doing this, steering you towards healthier options.

Cereals

A lot of cereals have wheat or oats as primary ingredients in them, so unless you know a specific brand that’s gluten-free (and not replacing those ingredients with other, equally damaging items) you’re better off avoiding cereals or risk triggering your gluten intolerance. A good alternative is to make your own granola from gluten-free oats. That way you can fully control what goes into your morning gruel.

Wheat-based Pasta

What-based pasta becomes a no-no on a gluten free diet too. You can seek out gluten-free alternatives, but we recommend having rice or potatoes as your starch of choice to make things easier and be certain you’re free from gluten (in case of any nasty product recalls!).

Pre-packaged Convenience Foods

This one can be tough on many of us. But completely eliminating pre-packaged snacks from your diet will not only help you avoid gluten, but I will also force you to shift your eating habits to healthier, wholefoods. Having less processed junk in your system will have you Feeling like a spring chicken.

Most of the Gluten-Free Aisle

Speaking of processed foods, ignore the ‘free from foods’ aisle like the plague. The vast majority of those snacks and staples are rampant with highly processed ingredients. It’s the only way they manage to mimic their gluten-inclusive cousins. Most snacks that disguise themselves as ‘healthy’ in those aisles are jam-packed with sugar or nutritionally bankrupt carbohydrates.

Whether you’re avoiding gluten due to coeliac disease, a gluten intolerance, or just because, it’s not nearly as challenging as it may first seem. In fact, the hardest part is probably the social pressure that often comes with any change in diet. If you di suspect a food intolerance though, it might not be caused by gluten, and you’ll be able to deal with the intolerance much sooner if you undertake a scientifically backed intolerance test.

Keto Diet: Fantastic or Fadtastic?

Fad diets. They come and go. Here for a good time, not for a long time.

Atkins, Cabbage Soup, Paleo, Baby Food, Dukan. They all shone brightly in celebrity circles before making way for the next big craze. They often require extreme behaviours such as excessive calorie restriction, skipping whole foods for liquids and limiting yourself to just one food. In the quest for weight-loss, people will ignore the obvious flaws in diets, hoping beyond sensibility that this is the diet that will get that fat off and, most importantly, stay off.

Keto – High Fat, Moderate Protein, LOW Carb.

But the reality is that when the extremity becomes too much people will fall back into their previous ways, eating all the foods that made them diet in the first place. The difference often being, now they have a damaged metabolic rate. Their body has become accustomed to lower caloric intake and, therefore, burns less calories than it did pre-diet. The result? All that weight you lost? It comes back. With interest.

So, with a host of celebrities now aboard the Keto bandwagon, are we looking at the latest fad diet? Or have we finally found the one diet to rule them all?

What is the Keto Diet?

Put simply(ish) the keto diet is a high-fat, moderate protein and ultra-low-carb diet. It prioritises fats to force your body into a state of ketosis (where your body uses ketones for fuel instead of fat). This is said to be an optimal state for burning body fat as it will draw from body fat supplies when it is in short supply of dietary fat.

How easy is the Keto Diet?

Again put simply(ish), not very. Getting into ketosis can be incredibly challenging due to the fact it requires an incredibly high-fat consumption as well as a fairly low protein and VERY low carb consumption. It can take a while to deplete your glycogen (stored carbs) reserves fully and then prevent your body from replenishing them. To truly live on the keto diet requires constant monitoring using either ketone urine strips (questionable accuracy) or blood ketone testing (expensive).

Blood testing is the most accurate way to measure ketones

Does the Keto Diet work?

The million-pound question and, unsurprisingly, the answer isn’t straightforward. Some speculate that carbohydrates are essential to physical performance and that athletes should not consider a low-carb diet as it will adversely affect performance. There are studies which show efficacy for body recomposition and fat loss, but the research is still in its infancy.

Potential Keto Diet complications

Something to consider when you look to move onto a ketogenic diet is intolerance testing. When you introduce a lot of new foods to your diet, you’re potentially exposing yourself to symptoms of food intolerance that could significantly outweigh the positive impact of your keto diet. Intolerance testing will help you identify foods that could cause bloating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and many other symptoms. We have a range of intolerance testing to suit all budgets that you should look at before you start your keto diet.

Nutrichondria: the new health epidemic

As food allergies are becoming more common, there is concern that the data on just how common they are may be skewed due to a new phenomenon; “nutrichondria”. You may have never heard of this new health epidemic. But you’ve likely noticed the wave of individuals self-diagnosing a food intolerance or allergy, despite any scientifically concrete evidence.

A recent DNAFit study defined nutrichondria as “a preoccupation with negative details of one’s diet and a propensity to self-diagnose food intolerances or allergies based on supposition or flawed evidence”.

Why is this a problem? There are various issues with this recent phenomenon, and it can have detrimental effects on one’s health. Here’s how; 

Misdiagnosis of a Food Intolerance or Allergy

Firstly, there’s a huge chance that any self-diagnosis will be a misdiagnosis. This can be just as dangerous as no diagnosis at all, as you may be attributing certain symptoms with the completely wrong food. You’ll then avoid one item while still risking exposure to the true allergen – making you no better off and far more likely to experience adverse reactions than if you had taken a food allergies test, to begin with.

Nutrient deficiency

Whenever food is restricted from the diet, it’s important that you ensure you aren’t allowing yourself to become deficient in the nutrients available in that which you’ve eliminated from your diet. Be sure to replace those micronutrients in your diet to avoid any deficiencies, as vitamin deficiency can bring about all manner of new issues.

Could be a completely different issue

It’s possible that you’ll end up self-diagnosing something as a food allergy or intolerance when, in reality, the issue is something more sinister. Many conditions and diseases all present themselves in similar ways, and it takes a trained physician to understand the subtle differences between them all. An incorrect self-diagnosis could become very dangerous if you end up accidentally ignoring something more malignant.

Don’t self-diagnose

Just like you wouldn’t diagnose yourself with cancer or a mental illness, you shouldn’t self-diagnose a food intolerance or allergy. It’s far safer to get tested if you suspect a food intolerance or allergy, even if it’s just to eliminate them both as a possible cause of your symptoms – you’ll be much better off in the long run.


Elimination Diets and Food Intolerance Testing

There is some argument surrounding intolerance testing and elimination diets. While many condemn intolerance testing saying that a simple elimination diet is sufficient, others swear by food intolerance testing and its efficacy in dealing with food intolerances. At Lifelab testing, we take a different approach. We say, is it too much to ask for both?

Intolerance testing and elimination diets should go hand-in-hand. Both should be used as tools towards achieving a healthier, symptom-free life. In this article, we’ll cover:

– What an elimination diet is

– Who it is for

– How to do an elimination diet

– Our tips for maximising your elimination diet

– Elimination diets without intolerance testing

– The science behind IgG testing

Let’s dive into what an elimination diet is and why it matters.

What is an Elimination Diet?

An elimination diet is a short-term diet where you restrict the foods you eat, with the intention of alleviating existing food intolerance or allergy symptoms. From there, you can gradually introduce foods back into your diet one-at-a-time, and any subsequent signs of discomfort may help you identify which food you are allergic to.

Elimination diets are used when people suspect that they have a reaction but haven’t been able to identify the root cause of their symptoms. They’re also commonly used following a food intolerance test or allergy test to confirm the exact offending item.

An elimination diet should last for at least 4 weeks to allow time for all eliminated foods to be completely flushed out of your system. After the initial 4-week elimination period, you can begin to reintroduce those foods, one at a time, to determine which foods were the root of your symptoms.

It is not uncommon for the elimination period to be enough for a reaction to dissipate entirely. However, this is not always the case, and you should be cautious when reintroducing items – especially those you suspect you might be allergic to.

Elimination Diets Must Follow Intolerance Testing Anyway

Intolerance testing alone will only tell you which foods your blood has responded too. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of those foods are the root cause of your symptoms.

In order to get the benefits from food intolerance testing, you need to commence an elimination diet. But, how so?

Who is an Elimination Diet for?

An elimination diet is ideal for anyone regularly experiencing digestive symptoms such as bloating, constipation, abdominal cramping, or gas. It may also be useful if you are suffering from brain fog, regular headaches, or constant fatigue. These are all common symptoms of food intolerance or allergy and may be alleviated through an elimination diet.

Research indicates that an elimination diet guided by an IgG intolerance test or IgE allergy test can help with symptoms of other conditions such as Ulcerative Colitis and IBS. This is promising, as approximately 80% of IBS patients report that a specific food item triggers their symptoms. A 2013 study found that an elimination diet based on the results of an intolerance test may significantly reduce symptoms in IBS patients who also experienced migraines¹.

This positively impacted their quality of life. A separate 2018 study looked into the effects of intolerance test guided elimination diets in patients with Ulcerative Colitis as well. The study had both an intervention group (who commenced the elimination diet) and a control group (who did not alter their diet).

Reported symptoms lowered significantly within the intervention group compared to the control. With this, they concluded that the elimination diet had helped to reduce the severity of the patient’s symptoms²[. As more research is conducted, it’s becoming apparent that food intolerances play a part in various health conditions. And simply avoiding certain foods could be all it takes for many of us to live without these uncomfortable symptoms.

How to Do an Elimination Diet?

Follow these simple steps to make a start on your dieting.

1. Maintain a Food Diary

‘What gets measured, gets managed.’ So, it’s paramount that you keep track of the foods you eat during both the elimination period and the reintroduction stage. This will be invaluable in determining which foods cause symptoms and to what degree. It’s particularly important when reintroducing items back into your diet.

2. Begin Symptom Monitoring

Ideally, your food diary will also have a ‘symptoms’ section for you to monitor how each food item affects your body. This will help you spot any patterns in symptoms or lack thereof. It will also keep you motivated in moments of weakness when an old craving strikes or you’re offered something containing one of your known problem foods.

It’s helpful to give your symptoms a severity level, to both monitor your progress and determine which foods you may want to continue avoiding indefinitely. Just list the symptoms you notice, note the severity of those symptoms and list the foods you recently consumed, which may be the cause.

3. Start Replacing Nutrients

Before beginning an elimination diet, it’s recommended that you consider the foods that you’ll be avoiding, and the nutrients that these foods are rich in. You should make you aren’t removing any single primary source of nutrients without planning a replacement. For example, if you’re eliminating fish, then it’s important to make sure you still get plenty of omega 3, 6 & 9 fatty acids. While most experts would recommend that you get all of your vitamins and minerals from food sources, rather than supplements, there are times when supplementation may be necessary.

4. Explore Intolerance Testing and Allergy Testing

We recommend that your elimination diet is guided by the results from an IgG intolerance test and/or IgE allergy test, rather than your own gut instincts. Using appropriate test results to inform your elimination diet means you won’t be needlessly restricting your diet (and, as a result, risking vitamin deficiency). It’s also a much more efficient path to becoming symptom-free.

Our Tips Around Completing an Elimination Diet Successfully

Beyond the steps we’ve outlined, consider these tips to maximise the effectiveness of your diet.

Go Cold Turkey with Potentially Problematic Foods

You should start your elimination diet by removing all of those foods highlighted in your test results from your diet. Don’t try removing one item at a time, as that’s what the reintroduction stage afterwards is for. This is the most effective way to conduct the diet and will help you become symptom-free much sooner compared to eliminating the foods one at a time.

Reintroduce Food Strategically

After the 4-week elimination period, you can begin to reintroduce those foods that you removed. Remember that intolerance symptoms can appear anywhere from a few hours to two days after consuming a problem food, so we recommend reintroducing one item at a time, every couple of days. This is the point when monitoring your food intake and symptoms is most important. Be sure to track your meals and make a note of any symptoms you experience.

Start with Small Amounts of Each Food Item, Instead of Going All-in Right Away.

Food intolerances are a digestive issue, so the more you eat of a food that you have an intolerance to, the worse your symptoms can be. If you removed almonds from your diet, for example, have a handful of them at most – preferably less – and see how your body responds to them.

This is where you’ll be able to pinpoint the foods that have causing the most issues for you, and learn what your body can and can’t deal with. You may discover that your body can tolerate certain foods only in small quantities, which can help you avoid symptoms in the future.

Like we said before, the most effective way to conduct an elimination diet is following a food intolerance test. It’ll help you save time and alleviate your intolerance symptoms as quickly as possible.

Can I Do Elimination Diet Without the Intolerance Test?

A lone elimination diet leaves you constantly guessing which foods are causing your symptoms and needlessly lengthens the whole process. It makes you suffer intolerance symptoms for longer than necessary while you keep adding foods to the ‘avoid’ list, hoping to find relief. Because of all this guesswork, the reintroduction period is also much longer than it would be had you followed the guidance of an intolerance test.

It’s far quicker to start off with a solid base of foods highlighted through testing than to hope you can accurately tell which foods aren’t agreeing with you.

IgG Food Intolerance Testing is Scientifically Backed

Unlike a simple elimination diet, IgG testing is medically proven and has various studies supporting its efficacy in reducing symptoms. More research is always being conducted on IgG food intolerances and indicating how people with various conditions can benefit from the tests. So far there are studies looking into IBS, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis and even depression in relation to food intolerances.

There’s no argument here, the elimination diet is a key part of overcoming your food intolerances and getting back to a symptoms-free life. It should be considered one of the vital tools in finally leaving those intolerance symptoms in the dust. Purchase the Complete Intolerance Test today to discover what’s causing you issues, or fill in our Find My Test quiz to find out what test is best suited to you.

References

[1] Aydinlar, E.I., Dikmen, P.Y., Tiftikci, A., Saruc, M., Aksu, M., Gunsoy, H.G. and Tozun, N. (2013). IgG-based elimination diet in migraine plus irritable bowel syndrome. Headache, [online] 53(3), pp.514–25. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23216231 [Accessed 10 Mar. 2020].

[2] Jian, L., Anqi, H., Gang, L., Litian, W., Yanyan, X., Mengdi, W. and Tong, L. (2018). Food Exclusion Based on IgG Antibodies Alleviates Symptoms in Ulcerative Colitis: A Prospective Study. Inflammatory bowel diseases, [online] 24(9), pp.1918–1925. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29788288 [Accessed 10 Mar. 2020].

Tree nut allergies could lead to vitamin deficiencies!

Tree nut allergies are one of the most common kinds of allergies. They tend to be persistent and its rare for people to grow out of this allergy, especially after the age of 5. Learning to avoid tree nuts is the first hurdle in being diagnosed with a tree nut allergy, but there’s a secondary challenge after that – ensuring your diet remains balanced without tree nuts.

Because nuts are highly nutritious, having an allergy to them means missing out on a whole host of nutritious snacks. It’s important to make sure you still get enough of those vital nutrients that are abundant in nuts.

Common Vitamins and Minerals Found in Tree Nuts

Omega 3’s

Omega 3 is an essential polyunsaturated fat that your body cannot produce on its own. This means it has to be consumed through the diet. They’re found in many tree nuts, seeds and fish.

There’s also evidence suggesting that consuming more omega 3’s can help fight against anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that people who regularly eat foods containing omega 3’s are less likely to develop depression. One study even saw EPA (one of the 3 types of Omega 3’s) to be just as effective as a prescribed antidepressant drug.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is probably the one vitamin you’re least likely to become deficient in, because it is present in the vast majority of foods, although in small amounts. Vitamin E is best known for contributing to skin health and reducing oxidative stress. Birth wat many don’t realise is that it’s also vital in most of your bodies daily processes, as all of our cells use it to interact with one another.

Tree nuts are an excellent source of vitamin E, but the nutrient Is still present in many other foods. Those most abundant in vitamin E include sunflower seeds, goose meat, avocado, mango and kiwi.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a proven aid in fighting depression and type 2 diabetes as well as being essential for optimal bone health and keeping blood pressure low. Low magnesium intake has also been associated with chronic inflammation, so it’s all the more important to prioritise this nutrient.

Luckily tree nuts aren’t the only source of magnesium. You can get plenty of magnesium through eating mackerel, spinach, dark chocolate (>70% cocoa solids), quinoa and pumpkin seeds.

If you still struggle to get your daily recommended intake of magnesium, you can reach your daily requirement with magnesium supplements, which are available in various forms. Be sure to consult your doctor before taking any supplements.

Having a tree nut allergy doesn’t mean you’re doomed to develop deficiencies. If you plan your food appropriately and ensure you get plenty of the above nutrients, you’ll be in tip top shape. If you’re unsure whether you are allergic or intolerant to any of the suggested alternatives, we can help you identify any problem foods through an intolerance and allergy test. It’s always best to be safe rather than sorry.

Allergy Testing Before Giving up Your New Diet

So you’re a couple of weeks into your “New Year, New Me” quest and, frankly, the only thing new is the constant state of exasperation at the fact your new diet appears to be doing absolutely nothing. Your goal dress you bought to wear to that wedding you’re dieting for still clings stubbornly around your stomach. What is the point, might as well grab the ice cream, stick some loungewear on and ignore the world outside. PUT DOWN THAT MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP. We have the answer;

Intolerance & Allergy testing.

That’s right, the food you’re eating IS the problem but NOT in the way you think. Bloating is an incredibly common side effect of a food intolerance or allergy and, when you’re looking to lose a few pounds around the stomach, it can be the difference between sticking to and giving up on your new diet.

New Food, New Problems.

When you started your new diet, you have probably introduced a lot of new foods that you either haven’t eaten a lot of or may even never have ever eaten before. So as you have been losing body fat, your food intolerance has been masking your progress by filling your stomach with gas. Incredibly annoying but intolerance and allergy testing is your salvation here.

How Does Bloating Work?

Bloating occurs when you eat a food to which you’re intolerant. When you have an intolerance, your body doesn’t produce enough enzymes to break down the problem food, and so bacteria does the job instead. The problem being that when they do so, they create an excessive amount of gas which becomes trapped in the stomach. As a result, the stomach expands, leaving you with that bloated feeling. It’s time to take action and identify the food that is irritating your gut and keeping you out of that body goals dress.

Intolerance and allergy testing is available to suit all budgets on our website.

7 wheat-free bread replacements for those with wheat intolerance

Having a wheat intolerance isn’t all that easy to deal with. For some, it can be quite a disappointment to hear that they need to drop the ingredient to have a symptom-free life. Some may find that the hardest part of living wheat-free is the loss of bread from the diet – a staple for many of us. Here we’ve compiled a quick list of wheat-free replacements that can be enjoyed in place of a regular loaf.

1 – Ezekiel Bread

Ezekiel bread is arguably one of the healthiest types of bread you can eat. Made from several different grains and legumes it’s packed with a wide variety of nutrients. To top it off, this loaf contains no added sugar, cutting your daily intake of the sweet stuff.

2 – Corn Tortillas

If your lunch is usually a few sandwiches, try a corn tortilla wrap instead. It’s wheat-free and can lead to a more adventurous lunch-time. You could also experiment with using tortillas as a pizza bottom replacement.

3 – Lettuce and Leafy Greens

Swap out your sandwich altogether for a plate of leafy greens on the side of your usual sandwich filling and you’ll not only have avoided an upset stomach, but you’ll also be enjoying a healthier, less calorie-dense alternative.

4 – Rye Bread

This darker, denser loaf is both wheat-free and rich in fibre. Be warned though, as it does have a more acquired taste and is NOT gluten-free.

5 – Potatoes

Filling and nutritious, potatoes area wonderful carb alternative. Packing more than 70% less calories-per-gram compared to a wholemeal loaf, this diverse and satiating vegetable is a great alternative.

6 – Sourdough Bread

This sour bread contains probiotics to feed our gut bacteria, and its longer fermentation process may mean that it’s easier for your body to breakdown the nutrients. It isn’t recommended that you have this loaf with sweet toppings though, so leave the honey or jam for another day.

7 – Oats

Try swapping your morning toast for a wholesome bowl of porridge. You can even add a few berries to sweeten it up. Or throw in a handful of nutritious nuts to add that extra crunch.

Living with a Wheat Intolerance

Going wheat-free isn’t the end of the world and learning that you have an intolerance to wheat can actually be a good thing. It means working around your wheat intolerance and trying alternatives. Most importantly, it means learning how to eat without suffering uncomfortable symptoms from your food intolerance, and ultimately, improving your relationship with food.

How to Avoid Yeast

Yeast can be a problematic food for many of us. Between yeast allergies, intolerances, candida, and dropping the ingredient for the dietary benefits, there are plenty of reasons to leave yeast out of your diet. Whatever has driven you to remove yeast from your diet, we’ve got a few tips to help you out.

Change your major carb source

We’re not going to suggest that you drop carbohydrates altogether like many popular diets around but changing your major carbohydrate source will be helpful in eliminating yeast from your diet. This is much easier than it seems. While there are a lot of yeast filled carb sources, such as bread, pastries, breaded food and pasta, but there are also solid yeast-free carbs to choose from. Try swapping your bread and pasta for rice and potatoes.

If you insist on enjoying baked goods on your new diet (we can’t blame you!) then opting for wheat-free flours is the way to go. Try potato-based flours, spelt or other flours that don’t contain gluten.

Avoid fermented goods altogether

That means vinegar, alcohol and any other foods that contain fermented ingredients. It’s also best to remove fruit, fruit juice and dried fruit from the diet for this reason. If you’re avoiding yeast to beat candida you should really avoid sugar and sweeteners altogether.

Sugar is what the candida feeds off, so while avoiding yeast, you should also seek to starve the candida by avoiding sugar in all forms. That includes fructose, sucrose and other forms of simple sugars.

Skip the Soya

Much of the soy used is fermented, and since the ingredients lists don’t exactly give you a detailed history of each ingredient, it’s best to just avoid the ingredient altogether. Once you aim to get rid of soy from your diet, you may be surprised to see just how frequently it is used as an ingredient in pre-packaged food. Another reason to enjoy home-cooked meals and avoid processed stuff.

Yeast-Free = Healthy?

It’s not the most usual diet but going yeast-free can be very beneficial to your health. But it’s not that eliminating yeast alone is healthier for you (unless you have a yeast allergy or yeast intolerance). Going yeast-free coincidentally means swapping sugary snacks and baked goods for more nutritious options, like nuts and seeds, meat, vegetables and fish.

Drinking with a Yeast Intolerance over Christmas

We all enjoy an alcoholic drink or two with family and friends over the festive season. But those with allergies and intolerances can have a tougher time finding a drink that doesn’t lead to uncomfortable or potentially life-threatening symptoms. Particularly if you have a yeast intolerance or allergy, yeast is a primary ingredient in the production of these beverages.

Fermented Alcoholic Drinks

The problem for those with a yeast allergy is mostly with fermented drinks. All alcoholic beverages use yeast to help with the fermentation process. It’s used to turn the sugars into ethanol. No yeast, no alcohol.

There are a few options that those avoiding yeast can still drink on a night out though. But be warned, this is mostly anecdotal, and there is still more research needed.

Distilled Spirits – the Non-Allergenic Saviour

Because distilling a drink usually removes most yeast by-products from the liquid, the vast majority of them are considered yeast-free. The consensus is that the distillation process removes all but the most minute traces of yeast from these drinks.

Clear liquors such as Vodka and Gin are common choices for those avoiding yeast. They’re also considered the best options for avoiding a hangover because they’ve been refined. The refining often removes undesirable congeners which are also believed to contribute to hangovers. So, opting for a clear spirit could be a doubly wise choice for the yeast intolerant drinker. You could end up experiencing fewer side-effects of alcohol than those without any intolerances or allergies at all!

It’s not a Perfect Science – Yet

While the expectation is that distilled drinks shouldn’t be a problem for those with Yeast allergies, there has been very little research into it. If you are allergic to yeast, its best to discuss further allergy testing with your allergist or doctor before adding any of these drinks to your diet.

Alcohol Facts and Myths

Alcohol has many effects on the body, with various pitfalls and even a few purported benefits. Once it enters your system, it starts working on multiple organs. The heart, liver, brain are just a few. If you’re frequently drinking too much, the organs affected can begin to develop long-term health problems.

Many of us are blissfully unaware of how alcohol actually affects our bodies. So we’re going to fill you in on 13 facts (and a few myths) on this celebratory substance enjoyed in many countries around the world.

13 Alcohol Facts

  1. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that it slows down brain activity. However, it first behaves like a stimulant in small amounts, which is why some people become more sociable or upbeat to start with.
  2. Alcohol triggers the release of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that’s associated with anticipation, pleasure and satisfaction.
  3. Alcohol is one of the most misused substances (both legal and illegal) with roughly 1 in 8 Americans meeting the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder.
  4. According to a study in 2015, light-eyed Americans (of European descent) are more likely to misuse alcohol than dark-eyed Americans of European descent.
  5. Research has indicated that rates of alcohol use and high-risk use increased between 2001 and 2013, despite the popularity increase in health.
  6. Teens who started drinking before the age of 15 are more likely to develop a dependence on alcohol later in life.
  7. A study that explored drinking around Italian families found that young Italians who drank at family meals while growing up were much less likely to develop unhealthy drinking habits in later life.
  8. People who have more muscle mass and less body fat are more tolerant of alcohol, due to muscle absorbing alcohol faster than fat.
  9. Long-term drinking is more likely to result in adverse health consequences for women than men, even if women drink less for a shorter period.
  10. Alcohol-related deaths are the third leading cause of preventable deaths in America. Roughly 88,000 people die each year in the States from alcohol-related causes.
  11. Alcohol consumption significantly increases the risk of dementia.
  12. Drinking red wine (in moderation) is considered good for the heart. It contains resveratrol, a substance that helps lower cholesterol, stop blood clots and even prevent blood vessel damage.
  13. While red wine in moderation can be beneficial, dark drinks are more likely to cause a hangover than clear beverages. Opting for vodka over whiskey might be a good idea if you don’t want to write off the following day.

That’s a lot of facts about alcohol. But there are a lot of myths surrounding the substance as well. Here are a few myths that many of us still believe;

Top 5 Myths

1. “It’s OK to get drunk every now and then.”

Drinking enough to get heavily drunk is considered binge drinking, which is associated with severe health problems such as unintentional injuries, cancer, and heart disease. Regardless of how infrequently you do it, if you have 4 to 5 (or more) drinks in a single sitting, you’re putting your health at risk.

2. “Wine or beer won’t make you as drunk as hard liquor.”

All alcoholic drinks contain ethanol, in roughly the same amounts. This is why certain drinks are sold as pints (beer, lager and cider), glasses (wine) and shots (spirits). While spirits are easier to drink in excess, due to having a smaller volume, each serving will have roughly the same effect on your body.

3. “It’s always safe in moderation.”

Moderate consumption of some alcoholic drinks can have health benefits, but this doesn’t equate it to being ‘risk-free’. There are many groups of people for whom the risks can vastly outweigh potential benefits. Such as those who;

  • are pregnant or trying to get pregnant
  • are taking prescribed anti-depressants or other psychoactive substances.
  • have AUD, alcohol dependence, or a family history of either
  • have heart failure or a weak heart
  • have liver or pancreatic disease
  • have previously had a stroke, heart failure or a weak heart.
  • plan to drive or operate machinery
  • take other prescription medications that interact with alcohol

4. “Drinking is only a problem for those who can’t hold their liquor.”

It can actually be a good sign if you can’t hold your alcohol. Those that no longer feel the effects of alcohol are probably developing a tolerance to it, which can mean they’re at higher risk of developing a dependency.

5. “You can sober up quickly with a cup of coffee.”

This may be the biggest lie surrounding alcohol – most likely due to a misunderstanding of what causes the symptoms of a hangover. The idea behind it seems sound enough though – since alcohol is a depressant, you should counteract it with a stimulant.

The symptoms of feeling drunk or hungover are mostly due to your blood alcohol levels dropping, rather than the psychoactive effects of the drink. Symptoms that aren’t caused by the drop in alcohol are just your body working through it – it’s a matter of giving yourself time to flush it out of your system.

It’s not just the Alcohol

Alcoholic drinks can have negative consequences in everyone, but some people are more affected than others. For example, those with a barely, hops or yeast intolerance will find that a single pint of beer can cause uncomfortable side-effects like bloating or intestinal discomfort. Grapes, apples, pears and citric fruits can all be sources of unusual symptoms as well, as we can even be intolerant to these fruits. If you’re wondering whether you should be avoiding beer, lager or ale due to an intolerance or allergy, consider getting tested against their main ingredients.