From Whole9, as a preface to our Manifesto series:
As we wrote in It Starts With Food, “We have a theory about food that directly influences the rest of this book. The food that you eat either makes you more healthy or less healthy. Those are your options.”
Of course, we spend the rest of the book explaining why a concept that sounds so simple is not that simple at all in practice. That’s why our Good Food (and drink) recommendations are based on not just one foundation, but a combination of three:
Based on the science as we understand it today, and our vast clinical experience with the tens of thousands of people who have completed our Whole30 program, we make some general recommendations as to things which may make you less healthy–including alcohol. Below, we’ll outline the basics of our case against consumption of alcohol as part of your daily diet. But until you undertake your own self-experiment (via the Whole30) for yourself, you’ll never know for sure how consumption of alcohol are affecting how you look, how you feel, and your quality of life.
Consumption of alcohol provokes an unhealthy psychological response by reducing inhibitions—thus making it all the easier to make poor food choices when under the influence of even small amounts of alcohol. Furthermore, the effects on the brain carry over until the next day, which means a drink or three on a Friday night may lead to a weekend’s worth of junk food. And remember how sugar is “empty calories”? Alcohol is nearly twice as calorie-dense, with no micronutrition to speak of.
From a hormonal perspective, alcohol consumption interferes with glucose regulation (disturbing normal blood sugar levels), in part by disrupting the action of regulatory hormones like insulin and glucagon. That disruption can promote systemic inflammation, a root cause of many lifestyle diseases and conditions. In addition, acute and chronic alcohol consumption are also known to alter some reproductive hormone levels.
Alcohol, even moderate amounts, has been shown to alter the balance of gut bacteria, potentially contributing to dysbiosis. Since the delicate balance of gut bacteria have a tremendous impact on our overall health, anything (including alcohol consumption) that disrupts that balance can impact long-term health in a negative way.
Finally, alcohol is acutely neurotoxic, even in small amounts, altering the normal activity of your nervous system, causing damage to nerve tissue, and disrupting or even killing neurons, the cells that transmit and process signals in the brain and other parts of the nervous system.
It’s difficult for us to make a case that any alcohol – even red wine, gluten-free beer, or 100% agave tequila – makes you more healthy. But while we exclude alcohol in all forms for your Whole30 program, we aren’t saying you should never have a drink ever again. All we are saying is that if you do choose to drink, don’t try to justify it with “heart health” or “gluten-free.” (The fact that it’s just plain delicious and you really enjoy it is reason enough!) Just understand that the less you drink, and the less often you choose to imbibe, the healthier you’ll be.
It Starts With Food
These manifestos are not intended to be a comprehensive dissertation of our research or recommendations. For more information on the psychological impact of our food and drink choices, the effects of alcohol on health, and scientific references used to support our position, please refer to our book, It Starts With Food.