Outdoor Air Pollution
What a weird, weird list of unrelated things.
What could they all possibly have in common? They’ve all been declared as known carcinogens.
It’s funny because most people take precautions when it comes to most of these factors. We use sunblock and wear hats. We limit or avoid processed foods. Entire cities have banned smoking indoors and in shared public spaces. Public health advisories are issued when air pollution levels are high.
Yet, we celebrate alcohol. We throw caution to the wind and drink to our health! We’ve infused everything from seltzer and tea to kombucha and ice cream with alcohol.
Entire marathons are run around beer stops. Cancer galas serve wine and mixed drinks.
Oh, the irony.
Alcohol has in fact been linked to cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, colon, stomach, liver, lung, pancreas, skin, and breast.
Suddenly those pink ribbon wine glasses seem almost blasphemous.
We scrutinize almost every aspect of our lives when it comes to wellness. From the food we eat to the materials in our water bottles and the ingredients in our household products. Yet, we don’t even think twice when it comes to pouring the antithesis of wellness in our BPA (known carcinogen!)-free tumbler and downing it.
You can make your alcohol organic, sustainable, natural, non-GMO, and gluten-free. What you can’t do is make it healthy or good for you.
Ethanol, the main component of alcohol, is a known carcinogen, and alcoholic beverages often contain up to 15 other carcinogenic compounds, including formaldehyde, arsenic, and lead.
When our body metabolizes and digests alcohol, it produces a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde damages your cells, rendering them incapable of repair and making them more vulnerable to cancer.
Alcohol also increases the levels of certain hormones in our body, including estrogen. As messengers in our body, hormones are responsible for giving our cells instructions, such as when to divide. Having high levels of estrogen is linked with breast cancer, which is one of the most common types of cancers.
The American Cancer Society states that even small amounts of alcohol—fewer than one drink a day—still raise the risk of breast cancer in women along with other forms of the disease. In fact, a recent large-scale study found that alcohol causes 75,000 new cases of cancer in America every year, as well as 19,000 deaths from the disease. Shockingly, this study surmised alcohol can account for more than one in eight cases of breast cancer in women and one in 10 cases of colorectal and liver cancers nationwide.
Alcohol also produces other devastating effects on the body, weakening its ability to process and absorb nutrients, and causing liver damage, weight gain, and overall body fatigue. Weakening our bodies’ ability to fight off illnesses only causes us to lose ground in our wellness journeys.
Why aren’t we being clued in to the risks of drinking? Where are the guidelines that speak to these dangers?
The alcohol industry lobbyists shut them down. Last June, a panel of scientists issued the recommendations for the updated federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, advising to lower the recommended daily limit for alcohol consumption to just one drink a day for both men and women. They could no longer argue against the evidence that higher levels of alcohol intake contribute to poor health and earlier death.
Those guidelines were published in December and did not include the recommended lower alcohol guidelines. The alcohol industry lobbyists shut them down. Money talks. The $253 billion alcohol industry generates almost $10 billion in taxes alone. Few other industries can compete with that revenue stream, and those that can (like the pharmaceutical industry) profit from it as well.
We don’t need guidelines or black box warnings to change the tide though. Over the past year, we’ve learned that getting proactive about our health and wellness begins with the changes we make. We also know that our choices can influence others. I couldn’t imagine not telling a friend to buckle up when we get in the car. So why wouldn’t I at least mention what I’ve learned about alcohol and our health?
Choosing wellness over wine isn’t any different than any of the other changes we make to support or improve health.
If we can speak up against smoking sections in restaurants or contaminant levels in our water, then we can also speak out against alcohol at health benefits or martinis at a marathon.
Raising awareness begins with raising our voices. I’m ready for mine to be heard.
If you’re ready to choose your wellness and take a break from alcohol, join The Alcohol Experiment. This free 30-day challenge has helped over 240,000 people rethink their drinking. Learn more at The Alcohol Experiment.