When it comes to our health, we try to do everything we can to stray away from getting sick. We eat our vegetables per mom’s request, exercise at least once a week (sometimes every other week), and get enough ZZZ’s to avoid burn out. However, no matter how well we manage our health, there are times when we develop a cold so severe that we just need to take a breather and let nature run its course.
But what if we told you that instead of taking a shot of medicine, it might be wise to down a glass or two of your favorite alcoholic beverage? While we don’t condone drinking yourself silly to forget you even had a cold in the first place, it’s always a good idea to see exactly how alcohol can affect your immune system while you’re down with the sickness. So, before you pick up that glass of wine or shot of mezcal, we talked with Grant Wheeler, beverage director from Den Hospitality, for some ways to get boozy while keeping your wellness in-check.
Skip the Vodka, Drink a Hot Toddy
As much as you want to ignore your Doctor’s order — as you can probably guess — it’s not recommended to get your drink on when you have a cold; however, if you had to, you can have a drink that involves a lot of lemon and honey, like a Hot Toddy. “I strongly recommend not drinking when someone is feeling ill, particularly if they have upper respiratory infections,” says Wheeler. “But if [you] had to drink something, I would recommend a hot toddy that’s heavy with lemon juice and honey, but low on the booze side. A little bit of alcohol can make someone feel like their symptoms are being relieved, but that’s just because a little buzz takes the edge of the reality of a stuffy nose and sore throat.”
He continues by saying that the honey has real peroxides that act as a natural disinfectant, and the lemon helps our bodies do many wonderful things. For instance, it helps keep water moving throughout the body so that our immune system can better deal with an infection. “[A]lthough [the lemon is] acidic, citric acid gets transformed into a basic or alkaline substance in our body (sodium citrate) which helps keep us more alkaline,” says Wheeler.
Drink Wine When You Feel a Cold Coming On
“The only alcohol I can recommend for curing [a] common cold is red wine,” says Wheeler. “Red wine can come in the form of preventive medicine. It’s considered a Reservatrol, which is a polyphenol, [similar] to an antioxidant, that reduces inflammation and stress hormone responses in the body.” Wheeler recommends drinking it once your cold is in full swing, since it can help prevent the virus from multiplying in your system. “[However, Incorporating red wine into your diet] can set you up for a healthy immune system by warding off things like aging, heart disease, and diabetes.”
“Red wine, though, also has histamines in it,” says Wheeler, “which can cause a hormonal response that will shut down your immune system and slow down the ability for your liver to process toxins, so if you are trying to get some reservatrol once you’re already sick, maybe try some peanuts or raspberries instead.”
No, Alcohol Will Not Help With Your Anxiety
Sometimes, anxiety can make an appearance when you’re sick because you want to go back to regular life. However, alcohol may reduce anxiety for a limited amount of time, because it acts as a sedative and a depressant. But really, most alcohol induces “a hormonal response, which raises the level of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the body,” says Wheeler. “The cortisol is how our body engages both hunger and our ‘fight or flight response.'” So, therefore, drinking while having anxiety is not the best combo, no matter how you wish to do so. “Essentially booze stresses us out and makes us hungry, but the sedative effects can certainly help us feel less anxious on an airplane, a first date, or at dinner with the in-laws.”
Do Drinks with Orange Juice really help?
According to Wheeler, alcohol both depletes vitamin C in our body and prevents the absorption of it. So much so that he would recommend heavy drinkers to take vitamin C supplements to ward off gum disease and osteoarthritis. The ironic thing about Vitamin C is that it can also reduce alcohol cravings. “Some citrus, like oranges, can cause a mucus response in the body, which certainly won’t make you feel better if you already have more mucus than you know what to do with.” So since there are pros and cons for drinking orange juice or taking supplements, it’s best to steer away if you are feeling congestion in the nose and throat.
So after all this, if you are still contemplating that a glass of merlot or whiskey, then it’s best to avoid booze altogether if you feel like death. In the end, a glass of wine or hot toddy doesn’t hurt, but if there is anything else you are craving, suck on a lemon and call it a day.
[Editor’s Note: Since we’re not know-it-alls, always make sure to consult with a doctor before trying anything new. We’re here to guide and provide information that could potentially help, but each person is different so do what’s right for you!]
Graphics by Madison Terry and Arianna Margulis.