Moving to Warmer Weather Might Help You Drink LessMental Health
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
I have been very fortunate to have lived most of my life in warmer climates. I lived in Jamaica for over 16 years and have been living in California for about 40 years. Not only do I find the warmer weather more enjoyable, but I firmly believe it helps keep me healthy. I can go on a hike with my dogs or for a run on the beach any time of the year, and all this activity plays a huge role in keeping me physically active and healthy.
And now there is objective evidence that warmer climates may not only positively influence my exercise patterns - it may also positively influence my tendency to drink. I’ve never really been much of a drinker. (Alcohol literally puts me to sleep). But recent evidence suggests that how much alcohol I drink may be influenced by the type of climate I live in.
According to a report on the study, “throughout the world and in the United States, drinking levels and liver disease correlated with climate and sunlight. Drinking and disease rose as average temperatures and hours of sunlight fell.”
Now that it is getting darker earlier and the weather is getting colder, you may have noticed a shift in your mood.
“For many people, darkness can also exacerbate depression, which is associated with drinking, though alcohol is a depressant. Snowy climates might also increase isolation, which can make depression worse,” according to the report.
Obviously, there are multiple factors that may cause a person to drink excessively. But one major cause is depression, and there is definitely a correlation between weather and sunlight and depression.
There are several ways the climate we live in may increase our chances of developing depression and steer our drinking habits. If we are not getting enough exposure to sunlight, we may be vitamin D deficient (we get most of our vitamin D intake from the sun). A deficiency in this vitamin may cause us to feel depressed.
When we feel depressed, we may tend to drink more in an attempt to feel happier. But in reality, excessive alcohol consumption just intensifies depressive moods and causes several nutrient deficiencies. Some of these nutrients are associated with our mood and deficiencies may cause us to feel sad. As we have discussed before, excessive alcohol consumption depletes the body of essential nutrients such as selenium, iron magnesium and zinc.
(If you’ve ever gone to Vegas, you may have seen people who overdid it on the partying get vitamin infusions to help replenish nutrients and nurse a hangover. In fact, vitamin drips and injections are becoming widely popular across the country).
“Alcohol inhibits the breakdown of nutrients into usable molecules by decreasing secretion of digestive enzymes from the pancreas. Alcohol impairs nutrient absorption by damaging the cells lining the stomach and intestines and disabling transport of some nutrients into the blood. In addition, nutritional deficiencies themselves may lead to further absorption problems. For example, folate deficiency alters the cells lining the small intestine, which in turn impairs absorption of water and nutrients including glucose, sodium, and additional folate,” reports the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
The recent study also suggested that people in colder climates tend to drink more because they use alcohol to warm themselves up. Of course, an exception to the rule with this is that people on vacation in warmer climates tend to drink more. But this is more celebratory and just a result of enjoying vacation.
So one of the most important takeaways from all this research is that we have to be proactive about managing and preventing depression, especially during the winter months.
How Can We Be Proactive?
- Know how much is too much. If you order a glass of wine at a restaurant, the bartender is likely over pouring. Read here to learn what are considered proper servings for certain alcoholic beverages and what’s the maximum amount men should drink compared to women.
- Warm up with hot tea. There are so many varieties of tea, both with caffeine and without. Depending on your preference, you can sip green, white, black, ginger, pomegranate or practically countless other types of tea. Not only will they warm you up, but teas are also rich in antioxidants and may help fight oxidative stress and inflammation.
- Have a mocktail. You may find that your drinking habits are more ritual based. For example, if your normal routine is to come home from work and pour a glass of wine, you may do this simply out of habit. Try replacing that wine with a healthy “mocktail.” You can try making this non alcoholic sangria, which is packed with nutrient-dense fruit. Or simply take some sugar-free club soda or sparkling water and add lime, strawberry, blueberry or any other healthy additions you like. You can even add nutritious herbs like basil and mint.
- Pace yourself. It’s easy to lose track of how much you are drinking, especially during all of the holiday festivities. Make sure to have water in between your alcoholic beverages. It is extremely important to stay hydrated and if you are drinking plenty of water, you may find that you don’t want that second martini or glass of wine.
- Come to the light. You may not be able to help that you live in a place with constantly dreary skies and brutal winters. Bright light therapy may help if you are feeling down.
- Say hello. People living in snow and colder weather may feel more isolated and, as a result, more depressed. This is why it is important to make sure you have some kind of human interaction, especially if you live alone. So say hello and chat with your coworkers or phone a friend or family member when you are feeling down.
- Eat right. Eating healthily is one of the best things you can do to maintain your overall health. It is important to get nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fats and protein, from the foods we eat. So include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes in your diet. Read here to learn about eight minerals that may help prevent depression. You might also want to consider taking a comprehensive nutrient test in order to see if you are deficient in any essential nutrients like minerals, proteins and vitamins.
- Get moving. Along with healthy food, exercise is one of the best “medicines” out there. Just an hour of exercise a week may help keep depression away. Instead of hitting happy hour after work, take a yoga or boxing class. Bring your friend or coworker along.
Finally, if you suffer from alcohol addiction or know someone that does, just remember the negative health consequences and identify those resources you can use to help kick this debilitating addiction.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.