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Dry January: Alcohol’s Effect on the Bones

As Wisconsinites, alcohol consumption is deeply engrained within our social gatherings, celebrations, and relaxation. In the New Year, some of us may experiment with “Dry January” after a holiday season of drinking. A month of skipping drinks gives our bodies a chance to rest, and we can reflect on our relationship with drinking alcohol.    

Besides hangovers and headaches, alcohol can have an impact on many systems in our bodies. While moderate consumption of alcohol is generally acceptable for most people, it is crucial to be aware of alcohol’s effect on our overall health. This includes the impact alcohol can have on our bones.    

At Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, we know why supporting optimal bone health is so important. Below, we share a few ways alcohol consumption can affect the strength and density of the bones and lead to potential injuries.   

Bone Health and Alcohol  

Several factors contribute to supporting the best bone health. These factors include adequate nutrition, physical activity, and lifestyle choices like alcohol consumption. Being aware of the potential effects of alcohol on bone health can help you make conscious lifestyle choices about your consumption.  

1. Reduces Bone Density   

Chronic and excessive alcohol consumption is associated with reducing bone density, increasing your risk of developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a chronic disease that causes the bones to become weak and prone to fractures. These fractures are a major cause of pain and disability.   

2. Impairs Bone Remodeling  

Our bones are constantly undergoing a process known as remodeling. Bone remodeling involves the removal of old bone tissue and the formation of new bone. Studies show that alcohol can directly inhibit the action of bone-forming cells known as osteoblasts. Also, alcohol may also enhance the activity of bone-absorbing cells, known as osteoclasts. This disruption of the intricate balance of bone remodeling can result in an unhealthy bone structure.   

3. Increases Risk of Fall and Fractures  

It’s no secret that being under the influence of alcohol slows reflexes and may cause confusion, dizziness, or disorientation, causing falls and injuries. Additionally, if you have weakened bones, you are much more likely to experience a fracture. If alcohol use is related to the cause of brittle bones and fractures, they will also likely heal slowly due to malnutrition.   

 4. Nutritional Deficiencies   

Alcohol consumption can affect how our bodies absorb nutrients essential for bone health. These nutrients include calcium and vitamin D, two critical nutrients for healthy bone development. Calcium is the major building block of our bone tissue. Along with vitamin D, protein, and other vital micronutrients, calcium builds strong bones and helps us support bone health as we age.   

5. Hormonal Changes  

Studies have shown alcohol to cause hormone deficiencies in both men and women. Excessive use of alcohol in men may lead to their bodies producing less testosterone. Testosterone is linked to the production of the cells necessary for bone formation. In women, overuse of alcohol may decrease estrogen levels. Estrogen also helps with bone formation, which is why a decrease in estrogen relates to bone loss during menopause.    

Everything in Moderation  

While there may be several negative links between alcohol consumption and bone health, it’s good to know that moderate alcohol consumption likely isn’t harmful. Moderate drinking (around one drink per day for women and two for men) may not have the same detrimental impacts on bone health as excessive and chronic drinking.   

Alcohol Alternatives

  • Soda and fresh lime – Keep it simple and refreshing!  
  • Kombuhca – Kombucha is a fermented tea that has probiotics that may help your gut microbiome.  
  • Fruit or cucumber infused water – Combine chopped fresh fruits or cucumbers to add a subtle flavor to regular water
  • Soda and cranberry juice – Combine seltzer with cranberry juice for a fizzy fruity drink.  
  • Viral “Sleepy Mocktail”Combine seltzer with tart cherry juice and magnesium. This mocktail claims to help with healthy sleep.  
  • Adrenal Cocktails – Combine orange juice, coconut water, and a pinch of salt. This mocktail claims to help with hydration and boost energy.  

Maintaining strong bones is a lifelong journey involving several factors, like eating a balanced diet, regular exercise, and making informed lifestyle choices.   

If you have any concerns about your bone health, consult with an orthopedic expert at Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin for personalized advice. Make an appointment online or call (414) 961-6800.   

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