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Dreamers in the grain

Health guru Galina Imrie looks at the health benefits of whisky and drinking.
By Galina Imrie
Do you notice that every time you have a lovely, long civilised dinner with a good friend that involves high quality single malt, drunk slowly and with appreciation, at some point during the evening you feel intensely, almost palpably happy? This feeling of happiness and completeness is so deep, real and overwhelming, and at the same time so elusive that you realise you have been given a great gift. The conversation becomes intense, words acquire meaning and suddenly a lot of things that had appeared confusing find their proper place in your life, and you see the answers that you could not see before.The next day you wake up feeling invigorated, your aches and pains and colds are gone, and the world is a much, much better place.So, can drinking make us happy and can happiness make us healthy? Conversely, can drinking make us healthy and can health make us happy?Professor Eric B. Rimm of Harward School of Public Health in Cambridge, Massachusettes, says: “Regardless of beverage choice, drinking up to 30g of alcohol on most days per week is associated with a 30-40 per cent reduction in coronary heart disease, a benefit which can almost entirely be explained by the beneficial effect of alcohol on cholesterol, fibrinogen and haemoglobin.” If anything, that’s a good start, provided we average 30g a day at most – a large glass of wine or two to three shots of spirits.There must be more to it, somehow. As a digestive health practitioner, every day I see clients who suffer from never-ending colds, bloating, IBS, heavy feeling after meals, lack of energy, constipation, allergies and intolerances. Many of them are responsible eaters, virtual teetotallers and regular exercisers. Where do they go wrong?The key to life, as we know, is balance. The secret key to our digestive health is the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic system keeps us going in times of crisis (“fight or flight”), while the parasympathetic system helps us renew and recharge (“rest and digest”).For the first two million years of our existence we were hunters-gatherers: a brief spell of sympathetic activity (hunting) was followed by a long parasympathetic stretch (resting). It makes complete sense: it takes seconds to kill your steak, and up to three days to digest it!Nature has designed us to be 80 per cent parasympathetic to 20 per cent sympathetic.Now, in the 21st century, hunting for survival takes the majority of our time: the need to make good grades at school, then earn, keep up with the peers, pay the bills, provide for the family. We drive to work on crowded motorways, our hearts sink when we know that we may be late for an important meeting, we eat on the go, and we fiercely jog on the treadmill after work to get rid of the day’s stresses. We live aggressive lives that are 80 per cent sympathetic to 20 per cent parasympathetic.Stress slowly eats us alive, and is now being regarded as the most important driver of accelerated ageing.So what happens when we finally sit down for a quality meal with a quality drink? My theory: As we raise our first glass, we physically focus on enjoying the meal, awakening the parasympathetic nervous system and setting into motion the release of important digestive enzymes.Savouring our favourite after-dinner single malt with a long velvety finish helps relax the body and mind and slow down our overactive brains. As our thoughts settle, we can see more clearly where we are going.There are certain sympathetic things that we are unable to do once we have had a drink: we can’t jump into the car and drive, and we can’t go exercising. This means that we stay parasympathetic enabling the digestive juices to break down our food while our blood delivers the nutrients to the cells without distractions.As a result, we get better quality sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and recharged.How can I prove it? Three eminent doctors who specialise in nutrition told me that they did not know enough about the connections between a good drink, health and happiness.And then I came across this saying: “Spirit sleeps in the earth, dreams in the grain, stirs in the plant and awakens in man.” May be this is the answer we are all looking for?The author’s discussion that health is part of happiness and a good drink makes us happy has not been tested on rats or any other animals. However a lot of human volunteers have shared their first-hand experiences of whisky-related health improvements. Journalists do not give medical advice, for which you should consult your doctor.
COUGH SUPPRESSANT
Add to hot water:a shot of Jack Daniels, a fair amount of Manuka honey and the same amount of lemon juice as whiskey. Stir,get into bed,drink slowly and sweat it out while you sleep.TO FIGHT COMMON COLDS
Stew six cloves in hot water and honey, then add a shot of a decent malt whisky and the same amount of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Pour into a hot glass,get into bed,drink,sleep.

REMEDY FOR ACHES AND PAINS (EXTERNAL USE)
Rub some whisky on your chest,back and shoulders. Mix two parts whisky with one partboiling water,soak a flannelette in the watered whisky,put it on your chest,wrap your chest and back in a sheet of plastic,put on a T-shirt and a sweater and get into bed. Have a Hot Toddy of your choice and fall asleep.WHISKY FOR STOMACH CRAMPING (EXTERNAL USE)
For rubbing on the tummy:mix 20 g of olive oil with two drops of essential peppermint oil and one generous tsp of whisky. Rub into your tummy and lie on the bed to help calm down the cramps WHISKY AND PEPPERMINT FOR BLOATING AND GAS
Add one drop (no more!) of peppermint essential oil and a teaspoonful of Manuka honey to a large shot of a good whisky. Drink very slowly. Follow by a hot cup of peppermint tea and go to bed.