The winter holidays are a time full of family, fun, and festivities, but there are quite a few people who wake up on New Year’s Day determined to make some resolutions for the New Year. If you’ve ever wondered about “how much is too much,” or what the standard guidelines for alcohol consumption are, it’s good to be in the know. Also, if your physician does not ask you about your consumption as part of your yearly physical, it’s something that you should bring up. Read on to learn about safe levels of drinking and if you should be concerned that you’re imbibing too much.

What Are the Recommended Limits?

When it comes to drinking, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is very clear about what safe levels are, which is another way to say drinking in moderation. For men, this is no more than two drinks per day and for women, no more than one per day. Ultimately, women should have no more than seven drinks per week and men, no more than 14. One drink consists of one 12-ounce beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or one 1.5-ounce shot of liquor.

For those that regularly stop by happy hour on their way home from work, or share a bottle of wine over dinner each night, this may seem like an acceptable amount. However, the risks of not drinking moderately and not following the guidelines can put you at risk for everything from colon cancer to heart disease.

Alcohol Screening for Everyone

Late in 2018, the US Preventive Services Task Force released a statement urging doctors to screen all patients for unhealthy alcohol consumption. Even if your doctor does ask about alcohol consumption at your next visit, it is something that you should bring up. If you find yourself regularly drinking too much, even slightly more than moderately, there are many ways to cut back or slow down–or even stop–your drinking, leading to a happier, healthier you. It is true that there are some benefits for drinking alcohol, particularly red wine, but these studies suggest only the moderate consumption of alcohol to reap benefits. Over-drinking immediately leads to a myriad of health concerns.

Those who should not drink at all include those pregnant or trying to become pregnant, those who operate hazardous machinery, those who drive after drinking, and those who take medication that may interact with alcohol. Regardless of any false reports, it is not safe for a pregnant woman to drink any amount of alcohol while she is pregnant.

Binge and Alcoholic Drinking

For the drinker that regularly has three drinks in a sitting, behavioral counseling or advice from their doctor may help them cut back. However, the regular binge drinker, heavy drinker, or alcoholic, may need more help.

Binge drinking is defined as having more than three drinks in one sitting for women and more than four for men. Drinking so much so fast can lead to an elevated blood alcohol content (BAC), which likely puts you over the legal limit for driving. While this may be occasionally acceptable as long as you’re not driving, regular binge drinking does pose some frightening health risks, such as the increased chances of contracting colorectal cancer (especially in women).

The best thing to do, if you find yourself regularly drinking more than you planned, is to talk to your doctor about your consumption. Many avenues and ideas can help curtail your drinking or help you stop completely, contributing to your overall health. For more information on how to cut back on drinking, or how drinking can affect GI issues or contribute to certain cancers, make an appointment with Asheville Gastroenterology today. We’re here to help with any and all of your GI concerns.