For many of us, the stress and worry of lockdown 1, with more time at home (zero time commuting or dropping off and collecting children from school and extra-curricular activities) meant more frequent opportunities to indulge in a glass of wine, prosecco or gin that little bit earlier in the day. The result: a longer “drinking” window or the “occasional” glass of wine becomes that little bit more regular.   Sound familiar?

You’re not alone – 28% of individuals surveyed by the UK charity Alcohol Change drank more alcohol during lockdown 1 than usual. 5% of those questioned drank more frequently (more often than twice a week) in lockdown than before; 19% drank alcohol as a way to deal with stress or anxiety.

But does the wine or Prosecco help? The short answer is no…. whilst it might make you feel good (alcohol causes an endorphin release as well as spiking your blood sugar giving you an immediate burst of energy) or help you get off to sleep that night, the subsequent drop in blood sugar is more likely to make you graze on chocolate or treats an hour later and, worse still, wake you up in the middle of the night: you toss and turn, can’t get back to sleep and worry about things you wouldn’t usually.  Plus, those couple of glasses of wine have sabotaged your attempts to lose weight by adding in hidden sugars and slowing down your metabolism – meaning that you store rather than burn fat.

The next day you are grumpier and find it harder to concentrate on work or the kids than usual, which isn’t helped by alcohol depleting the nutrients we need (especially magnesium, zinc and B vitamins) to deal with stress and remain calm. 

You may even find that you have an IBS flare-up or feel more bloated or more constipated than usual, with more gas or wind.

So, this lockdown 2, why not use Alcohol Awareness Week (which last’s until Sunday) as an opportunity to reduce your alcohol consumption, with the added bonus of helping you sleep better, think and feel better, reduce bloating and maybe even lose weight?

Here are 10 handy tips to get you started:

1.    Keep alcohol as a treat for 2 nights a week – spread it out by having 1 treat night in the middle of the week and 1 at the weekend.  Persuade your partner to join you – support helps ease the way!

2.    On alcohol-free nights replace your glass of wine or Prosecco with unpasteurised kombucha: a fizzy, fermented drink that helps feed your friendly gut bacteria as well as increasing their range (win-win!).  There are lots of small local artisan brewers opening up if you want to support a local business.  Alternatively look for brands available online e.g. hippop kombucha, Captain Kombucha or Loving Foods.

3.   Make sure you have cooled, sparkling water at home – add a slice of lemon, lime, grapefruit, cucumber, a few mint or rosemary leaves or some frozen berries and an ice cube to one of your “special” glasses to make it more exciting! Pour a glass early in the evening & crucially before you usually reach for the wine (perhaps when you’re cooking dinner?!)

4.   Alternatively, try a splash of Angostura bitters poured over some ice in a tall glass and topped up with soda or sparkling water and a squeeze of lime.  Add crushed fresh ginger and fresh mint leaves to make it more like a cocktail!

5.   Try making a mocktail with freshly squeezed fruit juices: citrus are best as they tend to be lower in sugar (avoid concentrated or UHT juices that are packed full of sugars and sweeteners).   BBC Good Food has lots of festive suggestions to get you into the Christmas spirit.

6.    If gin is your usual tipple, try swapping this with a non-alcoholic variety: Seedlip or Cotswold Green No. 1 are just two of the many brands available.

7.    Be aware that some tonic waters (particularly diet varieties) are higher in sugar or added sweeteners than others, which is more likely to fuel your chocolate bar cravings and mess up your mood.  Read the labels and choose one that is lower in sugar: Fever-Tree Refreshingly light tonic contains only 2.9% sugar per 100ml bottle or better still use soda water that is sugar free!

8.    For an alternative non-alcoholic aperitif try Everleaf drinks made with natural botanicals such as vanilla, saffron or seaweed – their website has 9 different recipes for non-alcoholic cocktails.

9.    If you are after a beer replacement – check out Sober Sauce that delivers hand-crafted beers and offers a selection box to get you started.  Bear in mind, however, that the beer may still cause bloating if you suffer from IBS or struggle with bloating or gas.

10. If you’re looking for an after-dinner drink to help you get off to sleep – why not try a herbal tea instead? Pukka Night Time Tea could be just the thing you need.

 When you do drink alcohol, make sure you eat at the same time – drinking either with your meal or whilst eating a healthy snack such as mixed, unsalted nuts (think almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts) and seeds.

If you are struggling with the amount of alcohol you drink, please reach out to your GP or seek support: Alcohol Change has a list of suggestions, as does Alcoholics Anonymous (0800 9177 650).

(Please note that none of the brands or websites recommended above are in any way endorsed or sponsored by me and no commission has been received. Links are correct at the time of publishing).

Photo credit: Romet on Unsplash