Why alcohol is the worst thing for a healing diet – but not for the reason you think

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Any of us with IBD or other digestive problems know that alcohol is anathema to a healing diet. It’s highly inflammatory which basically means it can make your horrible symptoms a whole lot more horrible. But that’s not my problem with alcohol – not my primary problem, anyway.

I am in remission and while I took alcohol out of my diet completely for my first month on SCD, I reintroduced wine and vodka slowly – which is okay to do if you’re in remission. I often enjoy a glass of wine in the evenings, and occasionally vodka mixed with juice. But what happens when it’s more than a single drink in one night?

Willpower + alcohol = diet disaster

I don’t think there are many people who find it easy to follow a strict diet, be it SCD, paleo, autoimmune paleo or something else. This means that every day, you need to make an active decision to eat properly, and every day is a concerted effort to avoid the foods you’d love to eat. For me, it’s a daily battle of wills, and most days, I win. Most days, I’m not two or three glasses in.

When I’ve had more than a drink or two, it becomes infinitely harder to fight the voice of temptation in my head. Because alcohol lowers one’s inhibitions, it’s means that not only do you sing louder than usual or propose to strangers, but also your usual steely reserve – at least when it comes to your diet – starts to crumble.

Your brain on booze: The drunken munchies

Fast forward two, three glass of wine, and suddenly you’re cured of your lactose intolerance and gluten really isn’t that bad. The angel on your shoulder has given up the ghost, cracked open a beer and is chilling with the devil on the other side – probably taking bets about how long it’ll be before you termite your way through your girlfriend’s treat cupboard.

Cookies, chocolate, burgers, cereal, pure lumps of sugar – nothing is safe from my greedy, sugar-seeking paws when I’ve had more to drink than I should. I don’t even bother bargaining with myself – I pre-forgive myself and reason that it’s been so long and I’ve been so good.

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The last time the booze-binge monster came out to play… and the time before that

Last Friday we played a zombie-themed board game at a friend’s house. Board games are not my bag at the best of times, and zombies bore me to tears. So, I played halfheartedly while knocking back glasses of wine. We all were; it was merry!

But when I got home, the booze-binge monster was raring to go. Luckily, I only had ‘healthy’ food to binge on – but it didn’t stop me clocking a bag of cashews (I shouldn’t be eating them) and several handfuls of dates (a big hit of sugar) before managing to get myself under control.

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The time before that, however – about a month earlier –  the binge included several chocolate eggs left over from Easter, 12 chocolate chip cookies and several lemon-flavoured ones – all from K’s cupboard, and all within a space of about 5 minutes. I was out of control and reasoning that it’d been so long since I indulged, but also that we’d just got back from Bali and I’d eaten like mad so I was still kinda on that vibe, but also they’re just cookies and tomorrow is a new day… blah, blah bloody blah. It’s all boozy bullshit.

For K

Dear K…

Testing your own reactions to alcohol

We all react differently to booze. I don’t actually dance on bar stools or propose to strangers. I don’t do daring or stupid or crazy things when I’ve been drinking. I talk a lot – but I do that when I’m sober too (so I feel pretty sorry for those around me). And I eat ferociously. If this sounds like you too, then you – like me – need to limit or restrict your alcohol consumption. We work so hard to control our diets, that it simply isn’t fair on us to let our drunken selves destroy the solid foundation laid by our sober selves.

Do any of you experience these kinds of booze-food binges on your diet, or do you avoid alcohol altogether?

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3 thoughts on “Why alcohol is the worst thing for a healing diet – but not for the reason you think

  1. Pingback: 5 things you need to do for success on AIP/SCD | My experiences on SCD and the autoimmune paleo diet

  2. I got a good laugh about this post because it describes me perfectly. Then I got a sick feeling because “it describes me perfectly”.
    Thanks for putting yourself out there for us.
    Me: Male, 52 yrs, New to Hashis, AIP (2 mos), no alcohol, definitely showing signs of improvement

    I am sure it shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but I am pretty self-conscious about telling people that I am off alcohol, as it implies that I am recovering from an alcohol addiction problem. They are just trying to be nice, but it aggravates me when they ask what AA group I joined, or which of the twelve steps was the hardest or that there cousin quit with the help of our local church group. It makes me want to start chugging drinks in front of them just to prove to them that I don’t have a drinking problem. At least, not the one they think I have.
    My other (unanticipated) alcohol problem is that while I used to love cooking and getting creative in the kitchen, it only really is fun with a glass of wine to loosen up the creativity. My diet would be much more complete and well rounded if I could get past the idea that kitchen creativity comes in the form of red liquid from a long stem glass. AIP was fun at first because the recipes were different and the challenge to make appealing was kind of exciting. Lately I have to drag myself out the kitchen and just make whatever will fill my stomach and still passes for AIP.
    Thanks again for the time you put in to this blog.

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    • Hi Teej, thanks so much for stopping by, and for your comments. I can definitely relate to what you’re saying – the moment you say, “I don’t drink”, people assume you’re an alcoholic. I think in general, people find it very hard to understand why you wouldn’t drink if you’re not an alcoholic. I wrote this post 18 months ago and nothing has changed – alcohol is my diet kryptonite, and in fact I don’t even drink much wine anymore. Fortunately, I don’t miss it.

      As for cooking, I can totally understand that – plus of course, there’s the joy in adding a little of what you’re drinking to the food – nothing like red wine in a bolognaise sauce, after all. AIP is tough – I did it for a while and I found it extremely difficult. There are loads of great sites though with excellent recipes – try thepaleomom.com, wellnessmama.com/ and phoenixhelix.com, who does a really easy, not-bad-tasting sauerkraut. It can be a bit of a bore – and a challenge – to cook AIP meals but there really is a lot of inspiration online. Good luck! I’m glad you’re already starting to see an improvement. Take care, and all the best, Debby

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