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Drink to Your Health? In Moderation Of Course.

Submitted by on September 4, 2013 – 6:15 pm | 1,771 views
iStock_000002098466XSmallAlcohol is a funny topic in our field. Sometimes our patients are embarrassed to admit to a drink now and then, as if tea is the only drink we approve of.  I’m glad that many people already know that science has shown the benefits of a few glasses of wine per week.  Chinese medicine has always viewed it similarly: it can be good for you.
But in traditional Chinese medicine we need to take it a step further, we try to figure out if it’s good for YOU, based on your own body’s health pattern.
Alcohol has certain qualities that would be therapeutic to some types of people, but not others.  It “moves qi”, which is a top goal when we treat someone with acupuncture. Alcohol is “very warm”, and it is “very damp”.  It is one of the most damp-hot substances humans consume.  Buffalo wings is another. A person’s type, means their pattern of symptoms.  An acupuncturist must diagnose a patient to figure out their pattern and then the treatment plan can begin. A patient can learn which foods and drinks will be good for them, and which will be bad.  Follow your body wisdom, also. The same nutritional advice does not apply to everyone.

There are three patterns that come to mind when I talk about alcohol. One is “Liver Qi Stagnation”.  This means stressed or irritable, therefore your qi is stuck instead of flowing freely.  Since alcohol “moves qi”, it would be medicinal for a person experiencing Liver Qi Stagnation.  I know most of you can relate to the joy the first beer brings after a long day at work.  If you have no negative symptoms with a drink, and it relaxes you, it’s a good fit.

But another pattern is “Liver Yang Rising”, and that’s severe Liver Qi Stagnation that created a lot of heat with anger.  Someone experiencing this would become confrontational or violent from alcohol, due to the heat already in alcohol.  Now there’s too much heat. That person should stay away from alcohol until the Liver Yang is sedated.

A third concern is a pattern called “Damp-Heat in the Lower Jiao”.  These symptoms include a tendency towards urinary tract infections, swollen legs or feet in hot weather, yeast infections.  This patient may notice these same symptoms becoming more prevalent in damp-heat conditions such as humid hot weather, and when drinking alcohol.  If they don’t have liver yang rising, they should just reduce the alcohol amount. Even easier, though, is adding bitters to their drink. Bitters have a medicinal act of clearing heat. They may find that a bitter cocktail (a little Campari?) creates fewer symptoms than beer or wine.