Paleo Alcohol: How to Consume Alcohol Safely!

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By Dr. Justin Marchegiani

Is alcohol Paleo? Obviously not! My definition of Paleo is eating foods that are nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory, and low in toxins (independent of macronutrients).  The better question to ask is, how  we can consume alcohol (paleo alcohol) in a way where it mitigates a hangover, allows us to experience a gentle buzz, and doesn't cause blood-sugar swings or sweet cravings.

My experience with alcohol is it tends to be the gateway drug to junk food. I think everyone has had the experience after a few drinks of finding themselves more prone to reach for some extra sweets or even gluten-rich food, like pizza. Well, if you consume alcohol correctly, your cravings for sweets will be much more manageable.

With Memorial Day weekend just passing, many of us probably found ourselves at some sort of party or cookout where alcohol may have been consumed. This goes without saying: you don't have to consume alcohol to be healthy, but, again, many people will be put in social situations where a drink or two may be par for the course.

It also goes with out saying, if you are an alcoholic, please abstain from alcohol completely.


So There's the 80/20 Rule

If you are in relatively good health and on point in your diet and lifestyle, 80% of the time, you typically have about 20% wiggle room where you can cheat and indulge. I am a fan of this rule, but I still like to choose the best cheats possible. When it comes to cheating, there is a spectrum: indulge in cheats that may have a little added sugar (ideally not from high fructose corn syrup), healthy proteins, or healthy fats and cheats that contain nutrients (not empty calories) and are non-GMO. This will avoid throwing your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride.

Healthier Treats vs. Unhealthier Treats

As you can see, it's possible to indulge and not have to take on the deleterious side effects.

If you have an autoimmune condition or have issues with blood-sugar balance, adrenal fatigue, your gut, or thyroid imbalances, you may want to think about what percentage you cheat and to what degree you cheat on the cheating spectrum mentioned above. With most of the previous conditions mentioned, blood-sugar stabilization tends to be an issue. One of the biggest stressors on the hormonal system is blood-sugar stability, so if your blood-sugar stability system is already stressed, adding refined sugar in the form of alcohol may be the straw that breaks the camel's back and prevents you from healing.

I have an autoimmune condition, so I very rarely let gluten touch my lips, but I will sometimes let myself indulge with a gluten-free pizza. Most of my cheats typically include the following:

1. Sweet potato with grass-fed butter and cinnamon
2. A green apple with almond butter
3. High-quality dark chocolate, 80% or greater
4. Hail Merry tart

Is the 80/20 Rule Right for You?

80/20 Rule: You feel good most of time, but you take relatively good care of yourself.
90/10 Rule: You are tired more often, experiences PMS, digestive issues, low libido, brain fog, hypothyroidism, and memory issues.
100% Rule: You currently have an autoimmune condition, poor energy, poor mood, frequent diarrhea, digestive disturbances, or are overweight.

Want to know if alcohol is for you? Click here.

In Most Cases, Alcohol Contains a Few Compounds I Consider Toxic:

1. Mycotoxins (fungus)
2. Excessive sugar, especially when consuming multiple drinks
3. Empty calories, containing 0 nutrients
4. May contain gluten, especially if you consume beer

How to Mitigate the Damage of Alcohol and Utilize Paleo Alcohol Versions?

1. Stabilize your blood sugar before you drink: I always consume protein and fat before I consume alcohol. Protein is primarily digested in the stomach, the same place alcohol is absorbed. Taking in some protein can slow down the absorption of alcohol (in a time-released fashion) into the bloodstream. This provides a magic carpet alcohol ride instead of the roller coaster version where alcohol sneaks up on you fast.

2. Choose healthy versions of alcohol, and add extra components to the drink that aid in detoxification, prevent dehydration, and mitigate toxins in the body. I typically choose a clean vodka (potato based) or tequila.

3. Consume Kombucha tea, which is high in various B vitamins, antioxidants, and probiotics. Coconut water is also high in various electrolytes, such as potassium. Combining these two together helps prevent dehydration and actually provides some nutritional value to the alcoholic beverage.

4. Use the juice of half a lime. Lime juice is highly alkalizing and also helps with insulin sensitivity. Remember, alcohol is sugar, so it's important we do everything possible to decrease our insulin spikes. Insulin spikes will lead to hypoglycemia, and hypoglycemia will add more stress to the adrenal glands and also cause additional sweet cravings.

5. Adding in sparkling mineral water provides extra minerals and also adds carbonation to the alcohol, which helps with alcohol absorption. The better you absorb alcohol, the fewer alcoholic drinks you need to consume. This is a win-win deal!

My Favorite Paleo Alcohol Drinks:

Nor-Cal Margarita (Thanks Robb Wolf)

What you need:

1. 1–2 shots of tequila

2. 1/2 a lime squeezed

3. Carbonated water (I use sparkling mineral water)

4. Liquid stevia if you need extra sweetness

5. On the rocks

Dr J's Moscow Mule

What you need:

1. Ginger kombucha 5–8 ounces

2. 1/2 a lime squeezed

3. 1–2 ounces of coconut water

4. Liquid stevia if you need extra sweetness

5. On the rocks

The Take-Home Message!

Following a Paleo diet is not about being perfect. Yet many people that go Paleo notice remarkable improvements in how they look, feel, and perform. When some people cheat, or move away from that style of eating, the side effects are bearable, and many are able to return back to their Paleo diet with no issues. Some people are more sensitive, and cheating with inflammatory foods and beverages may set them back for days—it's essentially their kryptonite!

There's always a risk-reward analysis that has to be done, and it's always good to do a mental check to see if the few hours of fun and indulgence are worth the few days of pain. Again, it's different for everyone, and it depends on where you are on your health journey. My suggestion is to figure out where you lie in that spectrum, and if you are more sensitive, try some of the suggestions that I made above.

If you don't listen to your body's whispers, you will have to endure its cries!

Click here to know more about alcohol and your health 


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