A Glass of Wine with Dinner?
I like a glass of wine every now and then. Especially with dinner.
When I was younger, I enjoyed a range of adult beverages. I turned 18 in 1972 and, in New York at that time, you could buy alcohol from a store or restaurant at that age.
Beer was always #1 in those days and there was an occasional bourbon in the winter and gin & tonics in the summer.
But I found, following my COPD diagnosis, that I was enjoying those beverages less and less and found wine to be much easier on the palate.
Still… I didn’t know much about COPD and the consumption of alcohol in any form. And, so I began to read….and read…and read. Depending on who you ask or what you read, the opinions on alcohol and COPD cover a wide range.
While research on the effects of alcohol and COPD is ongoing, there seems to be some agreement among the many schools of thought:
The negatives of consuming alcohol
From what I’ve read, one-third of adults with chronic health problems, including COPD, report that they drink regularly. 1 Of those, 7% report drinking heavily.
Many reports about COPD/alcohol mention the fact that alcohol lowers glutathione-antioxidant levels2 and can aggravate COPD symptoms. Glutathione is an antioxidant that can be found in our lungs. As you may know, antioxidants may prevent or delay some types of cell damage. They can be found in many foods, including fruits and vegetables.
Ability to clear mucus
Other reports mention that alcohol can also decrease the ability to clear mucus from our airways. As you are very well aware, I’m certain, this poses a serious health risk for many of us.
Our mucociliary (there’s a $10-dollar word!) transport system works continually to clear mucus and contaminants out of our airways. When you drink heavily, the system doesn’t work as effectively as it should.
Alcohol can also interfere with several different COPD medications, including steroids and antibiotics which many of us take on a daily basis.
A 2016 study on changes in health and alcohol consumption indicates that being diagnosed with a medical condition or beginning treatment for a serious disease often prompts some adults to quit drinking.3
However, that’s not the case for many people with COPD. The same study found that people diagnosed with COPD, as well as other cardiovascular disorders, aren’t as likely to give up drinking because of the diagnosis.
Alcohol and sleep
Many people think that a drink at night helps them fall asleep. This may be true. But it’s also true that alcohol can cause you to wake up often during the night. This reduces the quality of sleep that you might get.
Alcohol can also act as a diuretic, causing you to urinate more frequently. And for those of us who already face this problem, this is not good news!
Alcohol can also lead to poor nutrition.4 From what I’ve read, if you’re a moderate to heavy drinker, you could be substituting alcohol for other more nutritious sources of calories, causing a general degradation in the quality of nutrition you take in.
The positives of consuming wine
Wine can be relaxing and has potential health benefits when taken in moderation. I think that’s why I prefer it. A recommendation for safe drinking levels I found is one glass of wine a day for women and two glasses a day for men. (Sounds kind of sexist, no?)
Some studies I saw show that a small amount of alcohol consumption is correlated with an increase of 'good' cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein - HDL) which can result in a subsequent decrease in 'bad' cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein - LDL).5
Wine is also rich in antioxidants, which may help to protect the lining of blood vessels in the body and the heart. Resveratol, an antioxidant you may have heard of, is found in grape skin and seeds. It has been found to repair cells and reduce inflammation. And – most importantly for us – it may actually slow down the effects of COPD. Further studies on this fact are currently being conducted.
Each situation is unique
The decision to drink wine or any alcohol is a personal choice and depends on your general health, any underlying medical conditions or medications you may take and your ability to limit your consumption to just one drink.
Although there are potential positive effects of alcohol, overindulgence can negate the benefits. Drinking too much can increase the risk of high blood pressure, liver damage, heart disease, obesity, and can obviously increase the risk of impaired driving and accidents.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, any and all decisions about what you can and cannot drink should be run past your physician.
So if he/she says it’s OK, have one on me!
Which of the following best describes your COPD diagnosis?