You've been sober(er) for a few weeks now and this is a good time to check in on your wellness as it relates to alcohol and your heart and mind, and for some people, their pregnancy.
Pregnancy and Alcohol
“We can't promise that even one drink is safe," shares Dr. Unjali Malhotra, FNHA Medical Officer for Women's health. “Abstinence is recommended during pregnancy."
“Women are life-givers and it's important to nurture our bodies before, during and after pregnancy. Our bodies need nutrition and hydration – this will allow the growth of the baby. “
If a mother-to-be drinks alcohol during pregnancy, the alcohol reaches the baby through the bloodstream and can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), a condition that can seriously affect a child for its lifetime. The effects of FASD can range in severity and can include growth restrictions, brain damage, or impact a child's mental health and social awareness and social skills.
If you learn you are pregnant and had consumed alcohol before you found out, don't feel guilty. Instead, see your doctor or health practitioner if you have questions or concerns.
Pregnancy is a time when a lot of change is happening – physically, practically and emotionally. It is important to connect with a support system of sisters, aunties, grandmothers, grand-aunties.
Each Nation may have its own teachings and customs about pregnancy and childbirth. You may find it helpful to learn about these traditions and cultural teachings. Talk to people you trust to make you feel comfortable about the knowledge of your Nation and community.
Heart Health and Alcohol
How many drinks can the heart handle?
Before we answer that question, it's important to understand what is considered 'a drink'. 'A drink' is one bottle of 5% beer or a 5oz glass of wine or 1.5oz of spirits.
For your heart's sake, if you drink alcohol, consider that too much alcohol can damage your heart by increasing your blood pressure and contributing to the development of heart disease, stroke (Heart and Stroke Foundation) and cardiac arrhythmias which can be very serious.
Did you know that heart disease is a leading cause of illness and can be fatal yet it's mostly preventable?
Rates of heart disease among Indigenous people in Canada (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) are up to 50 percent higher than the general population. Although 80 percent of premature heart disease and stroke is preventable. There are many ways to reduce risks, such as access to healthy food, engaging in regular physical activity, and annual health checks, including assessing blood pressure and cholesterol. Avoiding smoking tobacco and limiting alcohol consumption can also help your heart health and help with your wholistic health.
Mental Wellness and Alcohol
We cannot consider mental wellness without considering the connectedness to all aspects of the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual self. Consideration needs to be centered on the family and community as a whole, not only on the individual.
'A drink' can potentially help a person who has had a bad day or who feels the need to relax and unwind. However, when a person needs a drink for every strong feeling, problem or situation that arises, this can be a sign of excessive drinking and/or a mental health issue such as depression or chronic trauma (PTSD).
“Some people can develop a problem when they are using alcohol as a way to self-medicate. Their alcohol use is but a symptom of their underlying emotional distress," shares Dr. Nel Wieman, Senior Medical Officer at the First Nations Health Authority.
Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, so overusing alcohol over a prolonged period of time can result in clinical depression. In fact, when being screened for depression, people are often asked about their alcohol use. The good news is that depression can improve when we cut down or stop drinking. Depression is also helped when we increase self-care i.e. good nutrition, increased activity level, meditation, mindfulness.
In severe cases of depression, some people may need to see their health care providers and possibly be treated with medication. If you are worried about your drinking, please speak with your primary health care provider.
Check out Dr. Kelsey Louie's article on 'What kind of supports do we need when we are trying to be sober(er)?' for more information on supporting loved ones using alcohol.
Also, FNHA Wellness Educator Andrea Medley of Haida Nation shared some tips on How to talk to a loved one who is struggling with alcohol use.