The case for moderation
Giving your liver a break from alcohol for a few days every week has an upshot: as you drink less wine, you can drink better wine.
As one of the two traditional dry months (November being the other) comes to an end, you may wonder what you have achieved. I have given up alcohol for an entire month myself on a few occasions, but in my line of business it isn’t easy. I work in one of the few areas where the phrase “bringing your work home with you” has a rather more attractive meaning than most.
In any case, most health professionals argue in favour of a more long-term, year-round strategy rather than a complete purge once a year.
One of the biggest health risks associated with drinking wine is cirrhosis of the liver, something the French, with their obsession with “la foie” are very aware.
The liver looks after processing alcohol and cleansing the blood. It is one of the very many functions it provides for us. Overindulgence can lead to the destruction of liver cells, a build-up of fat deposits, liver inflammation, cirrhosis or even liver cancer.
The good news is that the liver is the only organ in the body with an ability to regenerate. All it needs is time.
The bad news is once you reach cirrhosis stage, which can happen very quickly, no regeneration is possible. The theory is that if you give your liver three days out of seven to recuperate, you can let loose for the remaining four. It is an idea that I have clung to for years but probably honoured more in the breach than the observance.
Then, a year or so ago, it was remarked by members of my family that the Wilson figure, never noted for being exactly svelte, would shortly be directed to what my father used to call “the portly rail” at the tailors.
Urgent action was called for. I therefore reached one of those compromises in life. I would avoid wine (and any other alcoholic drink) on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (and possibly one other day) thus giving my liver plenty of time to recover.
A knock-on benefit would be that I would also lose weight, partly because of my lower wine intake (and all alcohol has calories) but also because I would be less inclined to reach for those nibbles that go so well with a glass of wine, both before and after dinner.
A visit to my doctor in September confirmed that the first part of my plan had worked. My poor liver, despite being battered by years of constant tasting, was in pretty good shape.
The diet side worked too. Without too much difficulty I shed a stone in weight, although anything more than that proved impossible without drastic measures. And drastic measures are not what it was all about. Long-term lifestyle change is what the experts demand. I needed to find life livable, to be able to still enjoy my two biggest weaknesses in life – dairy produce and wine.