Moderate Drinking and Oral Cancer – the Links are Real

Moderate drinking is just not ok these days. Oral cancer lurks. And the links are real. Scientific data may be all you need to kick your drinking habit – before it is too late.

Moderate drinking is proving to be unsafe these days. Just who are moderate drinkers trying to con anyway? Oral cancer has very real roots in drinking. That one glass a day could be the invitation for a tumour or two to come and live in your mouth.

Science is showing that heavy drinking is closely associated with certain head and neck cancers. Moderate drinkers face increasingly higher risks of oral cavity, throat cancers and larynx cancers while even light drinkers face risks of getting oesophageal cancer.

What does this all mean? If you drink and you think you drink moderately, what is the future for you? Stop drinking or face the threats of different oral cancers? A study in Australia found “a direct link between the people who drank four or more drinks per day and who developed mouth and throat cancer… That makes you think twice about that extra glass of wine tonight, doesn’t it?” This study followed the drinking patterns of 41,000 adults over more than 20 years.

Drinking is an Oral Fixation

The proof is in the pudding – alcohol is one cause of cancer. The effects of alcohol are many. If we think about the oral fixation that drinking alcohol is, we can understand the reasons why our throats are so vulnerable to cancer. And from our throats, the alcohol goes down our oesophagus into our stomachs, our colons and through our livers and kidneys. All these organs suffer while drinkers imbibe their poison.

And yet, it not easy to stop drinking if you are a drinker. It takes sheer guts and bravery. It means looking at the WHYS of drinking. Then addressing the HOWS. Why do I drink? How can I change my life? Surely reading the stats about throat cancer is one good reason to change a life worth living.

It is sad that oral cancer is mainly a disease of developing countries. Where more stress lurks, where more people drink – to cope, to have fun, to release their stress. Alcohol is one of the main factors in oral cancer which often leads to death. If you knew this, and you think that your drinking is moderate, what would you do about it? If you knew that death lurked in the form of oral or head and neck cancers, would you stop drinking?

How Does Alcohol Affect the Mouth?

Alcohol is a dehydrating substance, and it dehydrates the cell walls in the mouth. If the drinker is also a smoker, the mouth tissues then allow the tobacco carcinogens to enter. If the drinker is not a smoker, there is evidence that nutritional deficiencies also weaken the mouth and then the digestive tract.

So, the body is more susceptible to absorbing the poisons of the alcohol and cannot fight it off with the usual strong antioxidants. A healthy diet packed with antioxidants in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and other wonderful whole foods builds the body and allows the immune system to fight any dis-ease.

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, “some studies have even indicated that cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol intake may be associated with an increased risk for oral cancer. Patients with cirrhosis often develop a smooth, glossy appearance to the oral mucosae (tissues of the throat and mouth) that may be caused by liver-induced cellular changes such as increased cytoplasmic acetaldehyde content.”

There is also new evidence that mouth cancer has risen in frightening numbers in the UK since the 1990s. In fact, mouth cancer is now fourth in line as a top cancer in men in the UK and 12th in line for women.

Drinkaware notes that there are four main kinds of oral cancer: mouth, pharyngeal (upper throat), oesophageal (food pipe) and laryngeal (voice box) cancers. Apparently, tumours can arise in the mouth, throat, tonsils, and saliva glands.

Tracking that Drink

Think about it: take a sip of wine – it rolls around in your mouth as you savour it, it is in close contact with your saliva and glands, it slides down your throat, making contact with all of the above parts of your throat. That sip then finds its way into your stomach, through your intestines, to your liver and kidneys. That one sip has an impact. What about the glass? And the 4 glasses, the bottle a day? Think about it.

An interesting point here is that moderate drinking will not save you from the bell. If you like just one drink a day after work or to relax, you are still doing your mouth and organs a dis-service. And if you like that bottle of wine a day, you have five times the risk of oral cancers that occasional drinkers have.

Dentists can catch the signs of oral cancer early. This early detection means that you can be saved. Many people laugh off their symptoms and think that they have mere gum and teeth issues. But maybe not?

Take a look at these symptoms of oral cancer:

  • Red or white lesions inside the mouth, on the side of the tongue or under the tongue or on the floor of the mouth
  • A swelling or single ulcer that refuses to disappear over about 2 weeks
  • An ulcer that bleeds
  • A feeling of numbness in the mouth
  • A sore throat or ear
  • A swelling in the neck
  • Ongoing bad breath

If you are thinking about ditching the drink, maybe now is the time? Getting sober can be difficult if you are a constant drinker. But the rewards are many. Get past the first 66 days and you will never look back.

Take these steps to look after your nutritional needs as you wean yourself off that poison:

  • Choose foods that will balance the levels of serotonin (a hormone that helps with relaxation) in the brain. So, eat complex carbohydrates found in legumes (peas, bean, lentils, chickpeas, etc). Mix these with wholegrain pastas and breads.
  • Eat lots of starchy fresh vegetables such as your root vegetables (potatoes and carrots), your squash (pumpkin and butternut).
  • Add natural proteins found in eggs and nuts, seeds and free-range meats.
  • Increase your Vitamin B complex vitamins and B12 is a big one, as is Vitamin C. Eat more dark green vegetables, meat and diary products.
  • Increase your minerals which get lost during drinking: zinc, magnesium, calcium and iron are essential building blocks for your recovery. All it means is that you choose a clean diet: fresh fruit and vegetables galore!
  • Take a reliable probiotic daily and eat fermented foods such as kimchi, kombucha or sauerkraut and pickles.

Get outside in the fresh air and enjoy the sunshine. Feel good about yourself.

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