Last night I dreamed of meandering through an unfamiliar cityscape, following some lonely sidewalk next to a river at night, feeling particularly sad and miserable beneath dim yellow street lights. I wore a black suit, carried a highball glass, and was absolutely drunk!

Having crossed the river, I soon realized (even in my dream-drunken state) that I'd been wandering aimlessly. Feeling rather pathetic, I decided to walk back across the river and sober up in a casino that I knew was there. Drunk and depressed, I figured I'd just sit in front of a slot machine for a few hours.

There was more to it -- the highlight being my arrest after scaling a drawbridge -- but the most interesting thing to me about this dream was my inebriation; I really felt drunk -- and, not in a pleasant way, either! (Fortunately for me, a dream of being drunk was not followed by a real-world hangover.)

Isn't it amazing how the body can store not only memories, but also entire states of consciousness ! Upon waking, I got to thinking: Why in the world would I dream of being drunk ? I wasn't sure. But, then I remembered what triggered this...

This weekend, we threw a raw potluck Halloween party (and it was a super time!). While prepping for the party, I cleaned off our front porch in order to make it look like a gypsy tent. Doing this, I found a grocery bag full of beer and champagne. It had been sitting there for more than a year, ever since I decided one day that I didn't want to drink alcohol any longer.

I suppose you could say that this is another positive change that following a raw foods lifestyle brought about in me. Prior to really making that 100% commitment (even during my "high raw" years), I did drink occasionally -- usually when guests who liked to drink visited.

Mostly, over the past 4 years or so, I was an "occasional social" drinker, probably averaging a beer or two every 3-4 months. Prior to those years, I was largely the same, although I admittedly over-indulged many times as well -- usually on special occasions. (And then there were "the college years" which, as many people can relate to, constituted a whole painfully irresponsible category unto themselves as far as alcohol consumption went.)

But it's interesting to me that, after having had no alcohol whatsoever for more than a year, I found that old booze. I thought, "Why in the world am I even keeping this old crap on our porch !"? (I'd planned to give it to a neighbor, but never did.) So, I went to toss it out. And I think this is the action that spurred that dream. You see, we recycle our cans and bottles, so I decided to open each one and pour it out before throwing the empties into our recycle bin.

The champagne bottle was fun. I shook it up really good and then popped the cork. My daughter got a kick out of seeing it fly. Then I went over to a side spot in the yard and emptied all of the beer cans. They were old and shaken up, so each one exploded and foamed all over the place.I smelled like a brewery for a few minutes, but hosed everything off before getting back to work on prepping for the party.

I think that short exposure of smelling it and having all of that old beer froth over my hands stirred up something deep within, and caused that miserable dream. Fortunately, though, it reminded me that I should probably do a blog post about alcohol because, from time to time, people write in and ask about it. "Do you drink it? Is it raw "

*Do* We Drink It? *Is* It Raw?

And so finally we come to the "meat" of the post. Let me answer the second question first:? It depends on the alcohol. For most things (beers, distilled spirits, etc.), the answer is no.Wine, on the other hand, is generally considered raw, similar to any other fermented food like kimchi, miso, pickles, etc. However, with wine, the final product contains alcohol, which does have some toxic effects on the body.

In doing a bit of research, I came across a neat paper by University of Wisconsin-Madison Chemistry Professor Bassam Z. Shakhashiri on Ethanol (featured as his "Chemical of the Week" last February). Prof. Shakhashiri writes:

Ethanol is toxic, and the body begins to dispose of it immediately upon its consumption. Over 90% of it is processed by the liver. In the liver, the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme converts ethanol into acetaldehyde, which is itself toxic.

He goes on to describe how alcohol affects the brain by what I perceive as a systematic removal of sorts: It begins by removing inhibitions (which we perceive as pleasant, and largely a reason that people drink in the first place). (One might argue that, when you've lived a raw lifestyle for some time, you automatically come more into alignment with your true self, which may rather naturally leads to the automatic disappearance of some of the inhibitions you may have felt in the past. Also, as you're not pushing emotions down with food and or drink, you're more used to dealing with things in real time, as your real self. In other words, you may no longer "need" a drink!) Anyway... Alcohol then continues this "taking-away" path, next removing thinking and cognitive skills, then motor skills, then speech faculties, and finally either lung or heart functionality (of course, very few push it that far in one session, although certainly many millions do overindulge regularly, which has its own set of bodily effects over time).

In the interest of objectivity, I want to note that I researched acetyldehyde a bit further, curious about its toxicity. It seemed odd to me that a toxic chemical was actually produced by the human body, even if it did come from the processing of ethanol. It turns out that there are actually quite a number of natural sources of this toxin. Here's a quote from an Australian governmental publication on the matter:

Acetaldehyde has a widespread natural occurrence. Acetaldehyde occurs in nature as an intermediate product in the respiration of higher plants and can be found in ripening fruit such as apples. Also, acetaldehyde is an intermediate product of fermentation of alcohol and in metabolism of sugars in the body. It may form in wine and other alcoholic beverages after exposure to air. It naturally occurs as a result of forest fires, volcanoes, animal wastes, and insects. It is a volatile component of cotton leaves and blossoms. Acetaldehyde occurs in oak and tobacco leaves and is a natural component of apples, broccoli, coffee, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, mushrooms, onions, oranges, peaches, pears, pineapples, raspberries, and strawberries. It has been detected in the essential oils of alfalfa, rosemary, balm, clary sage, daffodil, bitter orange, camphor, angelica, fennel, mustard, and peppermint.

Whether there is a difference between the acetaldehyde produced by your liver as a result of processing alcohol and the acetaldehyde occurring within an apple or a bunch of broccoli (in terms of either amounts you're exposed to and/or the toxicity of such), I cannot say with certainty. (But, it's an interesting question.)? I suspect that the amounts found in naturally occurring sources are considerably smaller than what is produced by the human liver after a good bender. After all, acetaldehyde is commonly cited as the particular chemical responsible for hangovers, and I've never had a hangover from eating, blending, or even juicing apples, peaches, pears, etc.

It also does not surprise me to have such toxic substances present in natural whole foods, as many foods are known to have distinct alkaloids and other chemical compounds that can be toxic in large concentrations --such as the arsenic in parsley and other veggies, the oxalic acid in spinach / rhubarb / chard / beet greens / etc., the cyanide within apple seeds, the lactucarium in certain lettuces, etc. I was just reading something by Victoria Boutenko the other day stating an evolutionary theory related to these alkaloids (e.g., that they're possibly there to help ensure that the plant is not over-harvested -- eaten to the point of extinction -- by the animal kingdom). But, hey, who knows for sure why they're there?

Either way, though, no one's running around claiming specifically that the chemical ethanol, the precursor to acetyldehyde in your liver, is a health tonic. So, if you avoid it, there's no negative effect whatsoever, in my opinion.

Of course, some might retort: There might be no negative effect, but what about missing out on any positive effects from drinking Usually, this argument is accompanied by citing Mediterannean countries where wine consumption and longevity seemingly go hand in hand. But, again, who knows whether it's the alcohol in all of that red wine, or perhaps simply the grapes themselves?

Do You Drink It?

Short Answer: No. I know a lot of raw foodies drink wine from time to time, and many of those undoubtedly still have "the glow."? So, I don't think it's anywhere near as harmful (in my view) as, say, meat or dairy. However, I'm simply not going to get preachy here because, in truth, I don't think it's a very big deal whether you drink wine (or anything else) or not. Plus, given my own history (and especially considering those infamous college days), it would seem fairly hypocritical of me to condemn the practice.

I think it's all just a big journey, and we each have to travel our own path. So, no matter where you are, simply do what you do with conscious intention and you'll enjoy yourself.? (And that goes for everything, including any food you may eat, cooked or raw.) For me, when it comes to choosing not to drink... I simply enjoy the mental clarity and I enjoy the peace and the experience of fully present emotional awareness. So, I wouldn't want to cloud that at all. That's my reason.

(Self-editing kicking in:? If that's so true, Jim, then why do you eat copious amounts of cacao sometimes? LOL... guilty as charged. But at least I admit it!)

I do absolutely love knowing and interacting with similary minded people, and am rather fanatical in the pursuit of optimal health. But, if someone else drinks, it doesn't bother me.? It's just something we all need to decide for ourselves, just like anything else in life. As Woody Allen might quip: "Whatever Works."

I do currently still work with a lot of people who drink and have noticed that, after the initial razzing that you get when you're the only one that doesn't drink, most people don't care too much. They already think I'm insane for not eating meat, and for eating raw foods, so it probably doesn't surprise them to see me with a nice tall glass of water with a lemon slice.

Finally, I wanted to note one other consideration for those who do choose to drink wine. Consider organic and biodynamic wines! These varieties may cost a bit more, but the lack of pesticides and sulfites is at least minimizing your toxicity exposure.

What about you? Do you drink alcohol

Original Comments

Below, we have included the original comments from this blog post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On November 2, 2009, vita wrote:

l do not drink alcohol, l haven't in about 14 years, and l am so glad!

On November 2, 2009, Robin wrote:

I've only been raw for a few years (learned about it in 2006), but I haven't consumed alcohol for about 20 years - for the mental clarity and maintenance of my self-control. :D

On November 3, 2009, Joanna_Steven wrote:

I used to enjoy a little alcohol when I was younger, but never in large quantities. A good thing was that I grew up in France where usually alcohol = enjoyment with food, not getting drunk and leaving our reality. Then in college... College in France is like prison, we barely have time to sleep, let alone drink! I still drank a little, from time to time, but now that I'm high raw, I find I don't even enjoy it anymore. I remember when I was a young teenager, I told someone "I don't like alcohol, I like fruit juices". hah, it's still true :)

On November 3, 2009, Richard Myers wrote:

Jim,

I get around the razzing at social gatherings by ordering a club soda with a lime. Everyone thinks you are drinking a gin and tonic :)

On November 6, 2009, jprostko wrote:

For me, I think distilled alcohol (like vodka or grain) has its place for making tinctures and the like. That said, I always let the alcohol evaporate off before I ingest said tincture.

A little over a year ago was the last time I ever drank, and without going into details, it was probably the worst day of my life, because I decided to have one of those, "Hey, I'll drink like back in college one last time, just for old time's sake!" moments.

That said, I think a beer or glass of wine or mead with dinner now and then is fine, but it's kind of easy to get in trouble after you have your second drink...which then leads to a third, which then leads to a fourth...and so on. I think that usually only happens when somebody has a "reason" to drink though, like being stressed from work or the like. It's easy to live under the illusion that drinking will make a problem go away (instead of actively working towards actual resolution).

So yeah, I think alcohol in moderation can be fine, just like most things. It's when it becomes an abusive relationship that one gets into trouble. I choose not to drink anymore, but I do have a lot of old homebrewing supplies lying around (from before I went raw), and I could easily see myself making a mead one day for the heck of it. It'd be all the better if I get my own bees and made it with their honey. Time to break out my beekeeping catalog! :)

On November 10, 2009, stacy wrote:

Richard:

I do the exact same thing with the soda and lime... ALTHOUGH, I do have a glass of wine once in a while... since I've been raw again, I don't have much of a tolerance for it... even one glass makes me feel a bit dehydrated and just plain toxic.

S