I get this question All. The. Time. I’ll be honest with you. Ayurveda doesn't really think alcohol is bad, but it also doesn't think it’s great. Let me explain.
Alcohol definitely alters your body’s functioning chemically and hormonally. For example, alcohol can have a direct impact on estrogen levels in the body by interfering with the way hormones are broken down and metabolized. Alcohol consumption can increase estrogen levels in women, which can cause an imbalance in reproductive hormones. Too much estrogen can lead to symptoms such as heavy menstrual periods, breast tenderness and mood swings. Additionally, alcohol consumption increases the risk of certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer.
However, what if your estrogen was low. Would a little alcohol help, perhaps? It's an interesting thing to contemplate, considering so many women struggle with periods and fertility these days.
In Ayurveda, alcohol is basically a carrier for medicines. Carriers for medicines help deliver the medicine into a tissue. We infuse herbs into certain types of consumable alcohol in order to deliver the herb more quickly into a body. In fact, there are actually a bunch of Ayurvedic wines that are used as medicines in Ayurveda for a bunch of different health conditions. In addition, some wines are used to help digest fatty meals, so if you are having trouble digesting fats that you are consuming, then a wine may be prescribed.
Alcohol is subtle in nature, and contains the air and earth elements, plus the elements of whatever else is added to it.
So whether or not alcohol is good for you is much bigger than a yes or no question. It’s not just good or bad. It has a place for some people in some situations. That’s kind of how things go with Ayurveda!
Most of us know the harmful effects of consuming too much alcohol, and we can generally feel when that happens.
I know a lot of people struggle with their relationship with alcohol because many people consume it to medicate an underlying anxiety they carry. This can backfire on some people - especially those who consume it without that oily meal I mentioned above.
There are other things that you can do to alleviate the anxiety you may have, so if you are interested in playing with your relationship with alcohol, here are three things you can try to reduce your anxiety instead:
Create more repeatable, calming structures in your schedule. Look at your schedule, and put calming activities on it. Examples could be meeting with a friend who calms you or scheduling a walk outside in nature.
Practice standing, balancing yoga poses - the ones that make you wobble. When people exercise, they often focus on big muscle groups for looks, but it’s the smaller, less glamorous muscles that do the work of balancing our bodies, and when we concentrate on those in say, a tree pose, we increase our ability to withstand when gusts of wind that might blow by us in life.
Get adequate sleep. Not sleeping enough puts the body on high alert and throws off the body clock. When the body is not balanced, then the mind is not balanced, and it’s a vicious cycle. Sleeping well helps your body trust more. When your body has more predictability and trust, it becomes less fearful and reactive.
So if you are nipping a little alcohol regularly to calm the anxiety, try these tools and see if they help. There are also other herbs that work better for anxiety in the long run than a glass of wine, and you’ll want to find the best ones for your body type, which you can speak with your Ayurvedic practitioner about.
Learn more about your body type, so you can make the best choices for it!