Sun | Dec 11, 2016

Drink responsibly during the festive season

Published:Wednesday | December 24, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Anastasia Cunningham, Health Coordinator

It's always so easy to get carried away with overconsumption of alcohol during the holiday season. Lots of Christmas and New Year's parties to attend - office parties, family get-togethers, at-home celebrations and the like - and alcohol is always a big feature at them all.

Even more dangerous these days, beverage companies are flooding the market with a host of candy-flavoured alcoholic beverages - all high in alcohol content. If you're not careful, you will get carried away, fooled by the sweet candy flavours to consume way more alcohol than intended.

Unfortunately, if you're carelessly gulping it down, you won't know what hit you until it's too late. Not until it creeps up on you and suddenly your head starts swimming, you're rocking like ocean waves and standing, much less walking, seems like a baby learning to take his first steps. Remember, it may taste like your favourite fruit drink or dessert, but it isn't.

Where alcohol is concerned - especially the flavoured ones - be very, very vigilant and follow these helpful tips to enjoy the holidays without ending up an unfortunate statistic.

Always have a designated driver, never drink on an empty stomach, and always, always, always drink responsibly.

Frankly, there is no rule that says you must consume alcohol. There are several great-tasting non-alcoholic beverages which you can consume that will allow you to enjoy the festive season just as well.

TIPS FOR RESPONSIBLE DRINKING

KEEP HYDRATED

Dehydration can cause your blood volume to drop, allowing less blood and oxygen to flow to the brain and allow the stress hormone cortisol to have a greater impact on your system, so make sure you are getting adequate fluid. If you drink alcohol while dehydrated, it could seriously affect your system. Water improves the processing of brain chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine. Staying hydrated can reduce the negative effects of alcohol.

ADD SOME WATER

Drink a glass of water between each alcoholic drink. Sparkling or soda water or any non-alcoholic drink will do just as well. For every alcoholic drink you have, your body can expel up to four times as much liquid. Straight alcohol can have a number of negative effects, including impaired judgement and loss of focus. Adding adequate water to the mix will allow you to still enjoy yourself while keeping sharp. In the end, you will avoid getting drunk and that dreaded morning hangover.

SIP IT SLOWLY

Don't gulp it down. Sip it slowly and take time to savour it. It's not a race to see how much you can down in a night. Slowly enjoying your drink allows you to enjoy the flavour and pleasure of the experience. Your body absorbs alcohol quicker than you metabolise it. The faster you drink, the more time the toxins in booze spend in your body, affecting your brain and other tissues and the greater the hangover will be in the morning.

ONE PER HOUR

Metabolism depends on several factors (gender, weight, age, health), but in general, most people can metabolise roughly one drink an hour, so try to keep your alcoholic intake to one per hour. You don't have to take that other drink if someone is forcing it on you, or just ask for a non-alcoholic drink in-between. Having a non-alcoholic drink between the alcoholic one will keep your blood alcohol concentration down. Space out your alcoholic drinks to keep the desired blood alcohol concentration.

DRINK ON A FULL STOMACH

The surest way to get drunk is to drink on an empty stomach. Consuming alcohol while hungry may produce hypoglycaemia, which can cause dizziness, weakness, and mood change. Make sure to have solid food in your system before having any alcohol. Experts recommend that you eat high-protein foods such as cheese and peanuts, which help to slow the absorption of alcohol into the circulatory system and burn it off. While drinking, make sure to always munch on something or have it with a meal.

ADD SOME ICE

Diluting alcohol with ice or water will increase your time between refills and decrease its effects on your body and brain. As you slowly enjoy your beverage, the ice will melt and create more liquid and reduce the strength of the alcohol. You can also use soda water or another non-alcoholic beverage as a chaser. Don't be influenced or embarrassed into not chasing your drink. Your own health and safety is what's important.