Updated: Sep 5, 2018
Alcohol. We all know too much isn’t great for your body (or your poor liver) but what about a little bit? I’ve been asked jokingly by a lot of patients “So, you’re going to make me stop drinking, huh?” But honestly, the answer isn’t an automatic yes.
Studies have found that alcoholic beverages that contain antioxidants, cough red wine cough, can actually be PROTECTIVE against damage for cells of your immune system. When you hear the word antioxidant, think protection from DNA mutation and damage. When you hear DNA damage, think cancer, aging... essentially, all the things we're not thrilled about happening. Specifically for wine, the key players of phenolic acids and polyphenols are what sets it up for it’s immune bumping potential.
In one study, when participants were asked to drink about 2 glasses a day of red wine for 2 weeks (tough job, I know) their labs showed significant increase in total antioxidant status and significant decrease in oxidative stress. It was a small study, but results were the same for both the volunteers in the 18-30 year old category and those older than 50, which is pretty cool.
But hold up a second, before you go open up a personal bottle of Merlot because “I’m on a new health cleanse.” The actual amount of alcohol that was given the okay according to research is “moderate” consumption, defined as 10-12 grams of alcohol per day for women or 20-24 grams per day for men. Translation? About one glass of wine a day for women, and about two glasses for men.
Now, to be fair, there has also been research where healthy participants were asked to drink 1 to 2.5 glasses of wine a day, their immune system markers were checked, and they decided “eh, nothing happened.” No adverse effects on markers were seen with that amount of wine... but still, the jury is out on the extent of red wine’s immune boosting potential.
As Paracelsus said “Everything is poison, nothing is poison.” Translation: A LOT of things have to be taken into account when giving nutrition and lifestyle guidance because (drum roll) EVERYONE is different, and when we’re talking about what you put into your body aka nutrition, what we’re really talking about is biochemistry and all the crazy reactions going on in YOUR body in particular. The "how," "when," and "how well" of these reactions are going to be different from your partner's, your friend's, and maybe even your parent's. When it really comes down to it, to wine or not to wine is a person-by-person consideration. So talk to your doctor! Wine may not be the latest super food, but research seems to be giving a moderate amount a thumbs up for healthy individuals.
*Though based in research, personal, and clinical experience, the opinions in this article should not be taken as medical advice. Botanical medicine and nutriceuticals should be treated with the same caution and care as pharmaceuticals, as both have the potential for strong, potentially adverse effects and allergic reactions. Please consult a trained herbal medicine practitioner, licensed Naturopathic Doctor, or licensed Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine before attempting treatment.