If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably thought ‘Ah, go on…it is Christmas!’ more than once over the last couple of weeks. And that’s fine in the short-term, but when it comes to ageing we unfortunately can’t get away with it for long if we want to avoid looking like a saggy old handbag in the future.
But why does our skin age? Skin contains proteins called collagen and elastin. Collagen gives skin its firmness and plumpness, while elastin its resiliency. As we get older, the proteins break down, the skin begins to lose its firmness and resilience and the lines of facial expression start to ‘stick’. In addition for women, who have a thin layer of fat cells distributed all over their bodies, age causes these fat cells to shrink causing sagging and wrinkles. It’s just not fair is it?
Other factors can also increase the breakdown of collagen and elastin. Exposure to the sun’s harmful rays, pollution, bad diet, illness, smoking, and (this is the worst bit) DRINKING ALCOHOL; all can make you look years older than you actually are.
We all know alcohol is dehydrating, increasing the rate at which the body loses water. Dehydrated skin ages more quickly so regular drinking means deeper lines and facial wrinkles. Just look at Keith Richards!
Alcohol also has a direct effect on the condition of the skin in that it causes the small blood vessels to widen, producing flushed, coarse skin, open pores and broken veins.
And for the ladies, if I’ve depressed you enough already, skip this next part –we process alcohol differently to men and retain a higher blood alcohol level for longer. This makes us more susceptible to the harmful effects of alcohol (liver damage, heart muscle damage, osteoporosis & brain damage). But because we have thinner skin we are also more likely to show alcohol damage earlier than men.
Oh my God, get me a drink!
The good news is that experiments have shown that moderate alcohol intake — roughly one drink a day for women, or two a day for men — can reduce inflammation, promote healthy cholesterol levels, improve insulin resistance, and help blood vessels function properly.
So there you go, drink in moderation if you want to age well. But there are also good and a bad ways to drink alcohol.
- Choose your best time to drink – Every time you take a sip of wine your body reacts as if it’s being poisoned. A group of enzymes (alcohol dehydrogenase) swing into action to get the alcohol toxin out of your system as quickly as possible. Your body is in peak production mode for these enzymes at 8.00 pm – so if you’re going to drink that’s the “healthiest” time to do it!.
- Take care when drinking alcohol at lunch-time Your body deals with alcohol much less efficiently during the day as production of alcohol dehydrogenase drops.
- Make sure you aren’t “tired and emotional” BEFORE you start drinking. Tiredness and hormonal changes effect your body’s ability to produce those all important enzymes and one drink will hit your body like two.
- Stay away from the ice bucket – The coldness of an iced drink opens a valve at the top of your stomach – so you tend to gulp rather than sip slowly. As the healthiest of us can only eliminate one unit an hour – your body won’t be able to cope.
- Drink a lot of water. Make sure you have at least a glass between each drink and plenty before you go to bed. Many hangover symptoms – headache, nausea, furry mouth – are due to the effects of dehydration rather than the alcohol poisoning.
- Eat something with your drink – We all know this one. Food slows the absorption of alcohol and delays its effects.
- Line your stomach – That old drinkers tip of lining your stomach with a glass of milk really does work. Make sure it’s full fat milk though or try full fat pro-biotic natural yoghurt. Just make sure you give it time to settle on your stomach before you hit it with your first cocktail.
- Don’t try and keep up with the boys – especially if you’re a girl. Women produce less alcohol dehydrogenase than men and so the alcohol effects us more quickly. We also have more fat and less water in our bodies and so alcohol is more concentrated in our systems.
- Be honest about how much alcohol you drink – Dietary guidelines set the boundaries at one drink per day for women and two for men. One drink should be a SMALL glass of wine, a single measure of spirits or a half a pint of beer.
- Never go on a binge – excessive amounts of alcohol in a very short period of time is the worst possible drinking habit you could have. Binge drinking pumps toxins into your body at a rate your major organs – specifically the liver, brain and kidneys – just can’t handle. Spread your alcohol consumption out and keep it moderate – little and often is OK (but LITTLE is the important word here). Frequent binges are a recipe for alcoholism and liver damage – not to mention wrecked skin.
So drink wisely and choose moderation over excess – unless you want to look like a Rolling Stone!