What, Exactly, Is Moderate Drinking and How Is it Connected to Flushing? February 03 2015

Flushing, which mostly affects people of Japanese, Chinese and Korean heritage, is far more than an inconvenience or a slight embarrassment after you’ve had a couple of drinks. It could indicate that you’re at a significantly higher risk for esophageal cancer.

The flushing itself is caused by a genetic trait that prevents alcohol from being metabolized. The result is that the body doesn’t transform the chemical acetaldehyde into acetate, which is harmless. With this buildup of the carcinogenic acetaldehyde, there is a greater risk of developing serious health conditions and, as anyone who suffers from flushing knows, there are immediate consequences, as well.

Moderate drinking is the usual go-to way to deal with flushing. Let’s take a look at what moderate drinking means.

Science or Feel?

If you want to go the scientific route to determine what moderate drinking is, you can look to the National Institutes of Health for guidance. That organization defines moderate drinking as one drink for a woman per day and two drinks for a man per day. For most people, that’s certainly moderate and leaves one or two drinks per day for an after-work relaxation session or for enjoying the evening with some friends.

The things to watch out for are heavy drinking and binge drinking. The NIH defines the former as having five or more drinks at the same occasion on five days out of the last 30 days. If you went to five raging parties, in other words, and had too much within the last month, you’re a heavy drinker.

Binge drinking is defined as a pattern. The pattern involves having around four drinks if you’re a woman or five if you’re a man in about two hours’ time. It doesn’t take much to cross the line here, as five drinks in one day at the same occasion in the last 30 days is defined as binge drinking.

While it’s not scientific, one can also go by feel, as well. Listening to your own body is always good and, if you feel like you’re spending too much time drinking, you probably are. Keep away from the trendy advice about the benefits of drinking, as well. The CDC does not recommend that anyone start drinking more because of perceived health benefits.

Moderate drinking allows you to enjoy yourself without undue risk. Know your body and know the science and you can make a mature decision about how much risk you’re taking.

Legal Stuff: We should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).