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Archive for the ‘Opinion Pieces’ Category

Why I’ve finally decided to vote to LEAVE

In Opinion Pieces on June 17, 2016 at 4:10 pm

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Like most people, the question of how to vote in the EU Referendum on Thursday has been weighing heavily on my mind.

It’s a question of such profound enormity that I have spent a long time reviewing, re-reviewing and questioning both sides. 

And like most people I have found myself pulled one way and then the other. 

One day I’m in and the next day I’m out.

It seems extraordinary to me that we have asked the population to vote on something so complex. Something that even the most hard-core politicos with extensive knowledge of EU matters find complex and without a universal panacea.

Trying to unravel the last 40 years of history since we first joined the Common Market (EEC) in 1973 and then the subsequent manipulation of countries into the European project is a Herculean task.

I’m 47 and I was way too young to remember the last time we had a vote on anything to do with Europe. I was only four years old when we voted to join the Common Market.

As far as I understand, the UK populous was asked if they wanted to join a single common market, the premise of which was that there would be no barriers to trade and it would allow European countries to trade easily with each other without the imposition of tariffs. And that was all the vote was about.

So how on earth have we been subsumed into this European superstate? We have never been asked if we want closer fiscal and political integration. We have never voted on whether we should set up a European Parliament and never voted to allow the EU to have primacy over our own Parliament. And yet that appears to have happened.

But now, for better or worse, we finally have a say. 

I was, until now, persuaded that the best course of action for the UK was to stay in the EU.

I even wrote an article in the Daily Mail explaining why I thought the NHS needed the EU. There are certainly arguments that go in favour of this premise. Not least that the NHS relies on 130,000 EU workers to keep it ticking over. Drugs are also licensed on a pan-European basis which should mean it’s quicker to bring them to market. We also have access to research funding and of course access to healthcare abroad. But the inescapable fact is that the NHS is collapsing around us. It is under extraordinary pressure from the huge surge in migration. It simply cannot continue to exist in its current form unless billions of pounds are pumped in or we start to ration services. Or privatise the whole lot. Something I do not believe in.

Even having said all that, this referendum isn’t just about the NHS. It’s about everything we do – how we legislate, what we have control over and how we protect and look after our country.

Last week the penny dropped for me.

Even though we are not in Schengen and don’t have fiscal uniformity with the rest of the EU, we are inextricably linked.

If you take a step back, and look at the bigger picture, it is clear to me what the European project is really about.

The self-aggrandisement of the EU leaders mean that they are trying to push 500million people from 27 disparate countries into a single Federal Entity. They are trying to create the United States of Europe.

That’s fine if you believe that we should replace our National Governments with a central Pan-European one but I don’t.

These bureaucrats that run it are unelected, unaccountable and can’t even get their act together to publish their accounts.

I hate the scare mongering that has been going on. If leaving is really so dreadful, if it would render us financially bereft and bankrupt the country, then why on earth did the Prime Minister offer the Referendum? Surely the role of an elected Government is to take decisions on behalf of the electorate. It shouldn’t have to have referenda on every nuance.

But we have been given the vote.

I’ve been totally torn. My heart says that we need to leave, stand on our own feet, broker our own trade deals and free ourselves from the shackles of a failing European superstate.

But my business head says personally I would be better off if we stayed. 

As a TV host, I work for many European companies, can work in any country in the EU without a visa and travel extensively with my work. I am also a landlord and rent many of my properties to EU nationals who have come to the UK to study or work. I also own two properties in Spain. I live in Canary Wharf which is the financial capital of Europe and expanding rapidly. Apartments are being snapped up at extraordinary prices as EU nationals and non-EU nationals fight to own property in the epicentre of the fifth largest economy in the World.

As a doctor, I like facts. I like evidence based medicine. And here is the evidence.

Migration

Last year 270,000 EU nationals came to the UK, not the tens of thousands that we were promised. Whilst many are working, they have still put enormous pressure on our infrastructure.

We simply don’t have enough schools, hospitals, our transport network is over capacity and creaking and it’s set to get worse.

How can the notion of the freedom of movement ever work? Essentially 500million people could chose to come and live in the UK even though we are a tiny landmass.

Yes of course, the counter argument is that we could live elsewhere in Europe but since we are the second strongest economy in the EU, it is more likely that people will come here than settle in Spain where youth unemployment is around 50%

Law

60% of our laws come from Brussels. We cannot repeal them. Our Parliament no longer has primacy. This has to be wrong

Economy 

Yes if we vote to leave, there is no doubt that there will be some correction. House prices will drop temporarily but will then recover. The pound will fall but then regain ground as we emerge as a proud, confident nation,

The Bank of England forecasts are wildly off and the talk of the Emergency Budget from George Osborne is boogey man tactics in the extreme. Two former Chancellors and two former Conservative Party leaders have called it nonsense.

We are the fifth largest economy in the World and the second largest in the EU. Our GDP is two trillion pounds.

Over the last three years, we have been the fastest growing economy in the G7 and most globalised. 70% of our GDP comes from exports. Surprisingly I found that only 6% of UK businesses export to the EU, but every single business, even those that don’t trade with Europe, are hamstrung by EU bureaucracy making business more expensive and increasing the cost base.

Interestingly the FTSE is higher now than when Cameron called the Referendum even though the markets think we will leave.  The pound is also stronger to the dollar. Leaving can’t be that bad. Uncertainty is horrendous for markets. As soon as the decision is made, things will stabilise.

Trade 

Even though the Government won’t tell us this, we trade more with countries outside the EU than with those in it.  In fact we trade more outside the EU than any other member state. Only 45% of our exports are to Europe (and this is due to fall further) and in the event of us leaving, they are hardly going to erect barriers to trade since we buy more from the EU than we sell. It would be sheer madness. 

Currently we are not allowed to negotiate our own trade deals with non-EU countries as the EU has our seat at the table at the World Trade Organisation. And the EU’s record on brokering trade deals is shocking to say the least . Leaving means we can negotiate deals with Commonwealth countries, the US, China, Japan and India. And, of course, the EU itself.

Even if we leave the EU, we will still have access to the single market thanks to regulations which are already in place. Many other countries outside the EU benefit from this already such as Norway, Iceland, Lichenstein and Sweden.  And from 1st January 2018, financial institutions outside the EU can provide cross border services into the EU. So we will not lose anything by leaving.

Euro

This is the most important aspect of the EU for the European leaders. And yes it is a total mess. Vast unemployment across Southern Europe, hyperinflation when currencies joined and a recession across most of Europe. They will do everything they can to prop up the single currency and we will have to bail it out yet again if we stay. Qualified Majority voting means the UK will be outvoted if we try and oppose bail outs. They will have to prop it up and since it shows no sign of resuscitating itself, we will have to pay for it.

LGBT

And before I finish, it’s worth reiterating that all the rights that we enjoy in the UK today such as equal marriage, family law and protection from discrimination came from UK legislation not EU legislation. The new countries especially those Eastern European ones trying to join the EU are very socially conservative and have terrible homophobic cultures. Many ban same sex marriage and ban LGBT people from serving in the military. Do we really want to embrace that?

Having taken everything into consideration, I feel that the days of the European Project are numbered. It’s a fanciful power crazed ideology. How can such divergent economies of the 27 member states be squeezed into a one-size-fits-all shoehorn where we have to share common currency, interest rates, employment law, trade, freedom of movement, and foreign policy.

Each 27 member state is unique, all the economies are wildly different with the Northern European countries remaining the powerhouse and the Southern European countries needing continuing bail outs. The project is doomed to fail. 

The only way that the EU can ever work is if there is full political and financial union. And the EU hierarchy knows it.

If we vote to remain in Europe, we are not voting for the status quo. 

If we vote to remain, the EU masters will push us bit by bit into fiscal and political union. The European Court will be in charge of our borders, immigration, asylum, and intelligence services. I understand there are already plans for a single European Army which have been kept quiet until after the referendum.

I’ve thought of little else but this referendum for months and sought wise counsel from as wide a group as possible.

Some months ago, I was at a dinner party in LA where I was being entertained by a CEO of a FTSE 50 company and his wife. He asked me why I was having such a problem with how to vote in the UK referendum. I explained why I felt it was so complex. 

His view was rather more simplistic. He explained that the vote was very simple. 

His take on it was that if we want full fiscal and political union and want to create a Federal Europe then we should vote to remain.

And if we don’t believe in that sort of union then we should vote to Leave. 

Short and succinct. And spot on.

The United Kingdom has never fully embraced the European project. We’ve negotiated all sorts of opt outs and we don’t even share the same currency as the Eurozone.

We are not part of the club as much as we would like to think we are.

It’s time that we made a decision to be fully in or fully out.

In my humble opinion, we need to get out and let Europe get on with it on its own.

We should Vote Leave and see if Europe can achieve its ambition of A Federal Superstate with total fiscal and political union. Or whether the entire project implodes and falls apart around itself.

I’m not a betting man but my money is on the latter

Enjoy the journey

In Opinion Pieces on February 20, 2015 at 8:59 pm

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bestest, craziest, insane medical friends

Let’s just put aside the small matter of where on earth I’ve been for nearly a year (more of that in future posts!) but suffice it to say I’ve been dealing with my own life crisis. Whether I dealt with it very well, or not, only time will tell. But what happened has really made me reflect on the sanctity of life and what on earth we are trying to achieve on this cooling ball of fire.

So you’ll understand why I was thoroughly entertained by a splendid piece in the New York Times today by Pamela Druckerman entitled ‘What you learn in your 40s’.

Now as a man of tender years and clearly with my 40s still at arms and legs distance (in my dreams), I approached it with caution. I’m not sure how much I have honestly learnt as I’ve grown older but she was spot on! Everything she said was true.

In your 20s, you spend all your time trying to get everyone to like you, you start new hobbies, new clubs. You try fitness regimes, diets. You do whatever it takes to fit in. By your 30s, this insane behaviour continues but now you have the dawning realisation that you are not that young any more. You have pressure of speech, keen to tell eager listeners what you have done, achieved and how much of a success you are.

And then you hit 40. I don’t know what happens but there is clearly a seismic shift in your brain chemistry. You suddenly wake up one day and realise that you actually quite like yourself. Moreover, it dawns that you can’t actually change anything about you. This is you, warts and all. And people will either like you or not like you. And you also come to an understanding that despite your silliness, and urge to still go out drinking and dancing to all hours (once in a while) you actually know stuff. Like important stuff. Stuff that takes a lifetime to accrue.

And you also realise one other thing. And it was something spelt out in the article today. A dawning realisation that THERE ARE NO GROWN UPS IN THE WORLD. Everyone is blagging it. You’re blagging it, your friends are blagging it and so are your contemporaries. One of my best medic girlfriends has a recurring nightmare that she never passed any of her exams!

On that topic, a couple of months ago, I went back to my Medical School ReUnion with some of my closest friends. It’s been over 20 years since I left and I hadn’t seen most of the others in all that time. Weirdly I was really anxious about it. But excited at the same time to be reunited with people that I had been through so much with. But I’ve been a bit of a black medical sheep.

20 years is a long time if you stick at one job and do what you’re meant to do. My friends have mostly done that. They did all the exams, worked their buttocks off, did unsocial hours, almost became psychotic (some did) and now they are all at the pinnacle of their careers. They are all 45, Consultant Physicians and Surgeons and Radiologists and lots of other fancy Greek Titles. They are amazing.

But what have I done? Some people think I’ve thrown away my medical training by not becoming a traditional career physician. I can certainly say my career path has hardly been planned, nor could it have been. Having said that, I have done things I could never dream of, I’ve had champagne with the Queen of England, dined in the House of Commons, lived in Los Angeles, hosted and written Prime Time television shows for the BBC and other major networks. I’ve done a movie, bought and sold houses, started and sold a PR company. Oh and I’ve been a physician too! You name it, I’ve done it. But weirdly I’m quite jealous of what they’ve achieved and I think the same is true of them. We always crave what we don’t have

Now despite our obvious differences, my old med school friends and I have discovered one important thing. For some rather too late.
As you plan and plot and manoeuver your way up the career ladder, you are always spurred on by the hope that one day you WILL make it. You will get to the top. you will become the best surgeon or physician or whatever you chose. But at what cost?I may not have had the most financially rewarding career, nor the most traditional, but I can honestly say I don’t regret one bit.

One of my old girlfriends was at the reunion and I bounded up to her. She had always been so feisty, so full of adventure, such a bonne viveur. So naturally, I was so eager to know what she had done over the last twenty odd years. Answering my question, she uttered three sentences which hit me smack in the face.

“I’m a Consultant Radiologist. I’m married with children, we have a house. And that’s it”

WHAT? It was that ultimate sentence that completely shocked me. She had fought hard to get to her goal and now was couching her achievement with those three gloomy words. And that’s it.

As you can imagine, I’ve ruminated a lot since that evening over our various conversations. And I’m happy to report that I don’t want to swap places with any of them, even though they have achieved such extraordinary things. On a more sobering note, some are no longer with us. So I am now even more adamant that you have to live every bit of the path you chose. Life is a fantastic, ridiculous, frustrating, bonkers journey. But it is exactly that. It’s a journey. One you need to enjoy.

It’s not all about the destination. And there are no rules. No grown ups. Noone to tell you what you can and can’t do. And you have to grasp your friendships along the way and hang onto them. They happen for a moment of time.

But most importantly, know this.

We only get one go at it. One performance. One opening night.

Or as my gorgeous friend Frank told me all those years ago at Med School “Life is not a dress rehearsal

Thanks for Thanksgiving!

In Opinion Pieces on November 29, 2013 at 8:01 pm

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Yesterday was my fourth Thanksgiving! It’s an extraordinary time in the US. One of the few occasions that everything shuts, the streets are quiet and friends and family get together to celebrate being alive! It always falls on the fourth Thursday in November and became a Federal holiday in 1863 during the American Civil War when Abraham Lincoln issued a Presidential decree.

Thanksgiving is big in the US. No! It’s massive. It’s actually bigger than Christmas. And yesterday, some of my rather more erudite and intelligent friends explained that the reason for this is that it is entirely non-denominational. I hadn’t really thought about this before. And it’s so obvious once i was told. Christmas is a religious festival, celebrated by countries where Christianity is the predominant faith. My Jewish friends don’t celebrate it as such, but they do get in the holiday spirit by sending holiday cards. And since the US is a giant melting pot of faiths, cultures and beliefs, that’s why Thanksgiving is so powerful. It’s the one day that everyone can get together and give thanks for great friends, family and bountiful food.

In fact, the origin of Thanksgiving seems to be rather contentious. I always thought it was a celebration of a bountiful harvest enabling people to survive the long harsh winter ahead. But according to others it actually has its origins from those early settlers giving thanks for finally reaching dry land after tortuous and painful transatlantic crossings.

One completely bizarre custom that the President has to undertake regards Turkeys. Every year since 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented the President with live turkeys. He then has it in his gift to proclaim a Presidential pardon for one of them (this has the highest legal executive authority in the US). The turkey that the President choses is then spared death and is sent to a farm to be pampered for  for the rest of its life!  Crazy yes. Quaint definitely. But lovely to have a tradition like this in, what is, a relatively young country.

To be honest it doesn’t really matter what the origin of the day is. It really is an amazing day and yesterday was no exception. It was truly wonderful to be part of a great American tradition. And it’s better than Christmas in many ways. There’s no pressure to buy presents whatsoever. It’s about food, drink, friends and family.

And in LA, it’s wonderful to be considered family and to have a strong, cohesive social network.

Long Walk to Freedom

In Opinion Pieces on November 20, 2013 at 8:04 pm

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I first became aware of Nelson Mandela’s plight in about 1984. I was a young 15 year old living in the depths of Suffolk running a mobile disco. A record by Special AKA was receiving huge amounts of airplay. Simply entitled ‘Nelson Mandela’ it was an uplifting reggae anthem issuing a call to action to the South African Government. Simple and repetitive. ‘Free Nelson Mandela’. By this time, he had already been in prison since 1964, sentenced to life imprisonment for treason and saboutage. Four years later a huge concert was staged in Wembley Stadium celebrating his 70th birthday, again pressing for his freedom. It was broadcast to 400 million people in 67 countries. That precious freedom wasn’t granted until 1990. By then he had been captive for 27 years.

Any movie trying to do justice to the life of the revolutionary and politician who fought apartheid to become South Africa’s first democratically elected black President is going to be a tough mission. Based on Nelson Mandela’s 1984 autobiography, producer Anant Singh started planning the movie whilst Mandela was still behind bars. And last night I saw the finished work and a question and answer session with the two leads and Singh courtesy of BAFTA LA.

It’s a long movie. But i guess you would expect that when you are covering a whole life’s work, political ideology, historically significant events and world-changing moments. I had really been looking forward to seeing it especially since both leads are British.

To be honest, I expected the movie to be sensitive, powerful and emotional. If i had any reservations, it was whether Idris Elba and Naomie Harris, both Londoners, could pull off the biggest roles of their lives. But I was completely wrong. Both Elba and Harris are sensational. They both suspend belief and immerse you in the complexity of the two characters.

I wish I could say that for the rest of the movie. I found the first half dragged. The plot felt as though it jumped around, trying to cover too much historical ground. But I had little empathy for the protagonists.  It was only until over an hour had elapsed, that we saw a deeper portrayal of the complex characters, their motivations and their demons. And that’s when I finally had true empathy with them. In fact, the turning point was watching Harris chronicle Winnie Mandela’s change from supportive and loving wife to ardent activist that got me. She captured the accent beautifully and the motivation behind the woman.

And as for Idris Elba. Well, the boy from Hackney, East London has done well! His accent was amazing, his thoughtful portrayal shone through. The aging process was extraordinary thanks to prosthetics and Elba’s change of body language. In the interview he gave afterwards last night, he explained that his one sadness was that he couldn’t lose enough weight in time when filming Mandela’s eventual release from prison. He wanted to show how cachectic the man had become. But due to the punishing filming schedule it just wasn’t possible. So instead, they made his clothes bigger and made them hang awkwardly. Simple but clever.

After we left the screening, a group of us spent ages discussing the relative merits and weaknesses of the movie. A sure sign that if nothing else, this movie is a talking point.

Mandela has polarized opinion throughout his life. And I have a feeling this movie will do the same.

Bullseye rating 6/10

Meet the host of Sugar Dome….

In Opinion Pieces on January 29, 2013 at 9:54 am

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It’s a cut-throat culinary competition.

And it has a British host as its ringmaster. No-nonsense, maverick, mercurial, theatrical and just a bit unhinged!  Enjoy!

click the link below

Sugardome Edit

Sugar Dome

In Opinion Pieces on January 28, 2013 at 5:08 pm

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So we are now half way through the first season of Sugar Dome here in the US. Excitingly the series is about to start transmitting in Canada and I know the UK is to follow suit later this year.

For those of you who have no idea what it is about, it’s a cut-throat culinary competition.

Every week three teams battle it out for six hours to claim the title of Sugar Dome Champion and 15,000 US Dollars. Not bad for a day’s work.

Each week the teams are comprised of a cake artist, a sugar artist and then an artist from a different artistic specialty. One week it may be pyrotechnicians, the next theatrical costumiers or grafiti artists.

It’s much more than a food show. It’s a show about teamwork, creativity, artistry, working under pressure and coping with stress.

At the beginning of the show, the teams are told what the theme is. They have six hours to create a masterpiece (which has to be edible) on that theme. And off they go.

What they don’t know is that in the six hours, three twists will be thrown at them unexpectedly. They can either rise to the challenge and adapt. Or fail and get destroyed.

And yes I am the host. I’m not my usual lovely self but a no-nonsense, almost harsh, and definitely theatrical ringmaster.

I’m the love-child of Ann Robinson (from the weakest link and Simon Cowell)…..

Seeing is believing.  And so if you haven’t seen…. here’s a taster of just how nasty I am…..

2012 in review

In Opinion Pieces on January 9, 2013 at 1:28 pm

My helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for my blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,400 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Sugar Dome blasts off on Food Network

In Opinion Pieces on November 24, 2012 at 6:08 pm

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So after what seems like an eternity to me… Sugar Dome blasts off tomorrow on US TV.

The season premiere airs at 8pm ET and 5pm PT on the Food Network.

It took just five weeks to shoot thirteen one hour episodes. It produced the most extraordinary scenes –  excitement, tears, emotion and hard work.

But as they say “the proof is in the pudding!” The result of those endeavours will be revealed tomorrow.

So what’s the show about?

Essentially I play a caricature of myself. I am a strict, no-nonsense, British host. I am direct, honest but not rude.

I actually feel I am the love-child of Ann Robinson and Simon Cowell ! (now there’s a thought!)

Each week, there is a diiferent theme.  Three teams comprised of a cake artist, a sugar artist and then an artist from a completely different discipline related to the subject, (eg a pyrotechnician, theatrical costumier, graphic designer) have six hours to create astonishing food art. They are competing for 15,000 dollars and the title of Sugar Dome champion!

But all is not what it seems. Along the way, I throw various spanners in the works. There are three twists which they know nothing about. They soon learn that when a twist is to announced, there is a blackout followed by my arrival. There is an audible groan as I completely change the ground rules. Well after all, they are meant to be the best in their profession, so they need to be tested!

The results are sensational. This has never been seen before! This show makes other cookery competiton shows look like a walk in the park!

I learnt very quickly that cake is heavy and gravity is a force to be reckoned with! The six hours produces genius but it also produces huge waves of differing emotions for the contestants.

But this isn’t just about food. It’s about leadership, teamwork, working under pressure and excelling.

Only the best will walk away with the prize. The others must leave the sugar dome with nothing.

I warned you I’m tough. The show is tough. And the contestants have to be tough to win.

Sugar Dome airs on Food Network Sunday 25th November at 8pm ET and 5pm PT

Hangover Hell…….

In Opinion Pieces on October 19, 2012 at 3:48 pm

What is alcohol and how does it work?

Alcohol has been drunk for millennia. It’s the world’s most widespread recreational drug. Gin, my favourite tipple, has been made from juniper berries since before the middle ages. It’s been used as a remedy for the black death (not very effectively), as a calming tonic in battle, (probably not terribly useful), used in the British colonies to mask the bitter taste of quinine and was held responsible for the downfall of women, so-called “mother’s ruin”.

Alcohol is made by the fermentation of sugar using yeast. It’s an organic compound with the chemical composition C2H5OH.  Once drunk, it is easily absorbed through the stomach lining and enters the blood stream. From here, it travels around the body affecting various organs, the most noticeable one being the effect it has on the brain and nervous system. It’s broken down or metabolized by the liver. In small amounts alcohol is good for you. This means fewer than 20units a week for men and fewer than 15 units a week for women.

 

 

What effect does alcohol have on the brain?

The chemical composition of alcohol means that it can easily cross the blood brain barrier. The alcohol causes intoxication by affecting the chemical messengers of the brain. This happens when alcohol is absorbed faster than it can be metabolized.

It is dose dependent. So the more you drink, the greater effect it has. You can only metabolize about one unit an hour so if you drink more than this then you will be intoxicated.

 

Why do you feel better when drinking it?

As the alcohol affects the brain, it causes a sense of euphoria and reduces social inhibitions, which can land you in a lot of trouble! But as you begin to drink more, it starts to cause other effects. The more you drink the worse it gets.

  • Slurred speech
  • Decrease in balance
  • Difficulty walking in a straight line
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Tremor, confusion, fits, hallucinations
  • Coma
  • Death – a third of these are due to accidents whilst intoxicated.

Alcohol affects almost every system in the body. Long-term use can affect

Liver

  • Changes to the liver structure including fatty liver, hepatitis and cirrhosis
  • Decrease in liver function

Brain and Nervous System

  • Decreased memory and lack of concentration
  • Fits and falls
  • Encephalopathy (brain damage)

Stomach and Intestines

  • Obesity
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrheoa
  • Stomach ulcers, bleeding
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancer

Blood

  • Anaemia
  • Bleeding

Heart

  • Arrhythmias
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Sudden death

What is bad alcohol?

There are different purities of alcohol. The purer it is, the fewer the side-effects. Also if that wasn’t bad enough, it’s not just alcohol that the body has to deal with. Many drinks have other things mixed with them including a lot of coloured, sugary additives.

We now know that clear pure alcohol causes far fewer symptoms than sweet sugary cocktails made with inferior alcohol. It is also dose dependent, so the less you drink, the fewer the side-effects.

 

Why does alcohol affect different people differently?

Alcohol does affect people differently. This is partly due to our genetic make-up. Some of us can process alcohol better than others. For example, some East Asians have a mutation of their Alcohol Dehydrogenase enzyme (the enzyme that breaks down alcohol) which means that they get drunk very quickly as they can’t process it. Also as you get older, we have less of the enzyme and so can’t break the alcohol down as quickly as we could when we were younger. Interestingly about 25-30% of people may be resistant to getting hangovers – lucky them!

 

What gives you a hangover?

It’s all to do with the way alcohol is broken down by the body.

Alcohol is converted by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase into a by-product called acetaldehyde. This is 10-30 times more toxic to the body than alcohol itself. The acetaldehyde is then further converted into acetic acid. This compound stops the body from producing glucose so the blood glucose falls. In addition, any additives to the drinks (like sugars, different compounds etc) produce by-products or congeners like methanol (this is also produced by poor distillation). This is converted to a very toxic chemical called formaldehyde which causes ketoacidosis (the body becomes very acidic). The more you drink, the more of these toxic chemicals you produce. Alcohol also affects the kidneys causing dehydration. A combination of all of these cause the symptoms.

 

What is a hangover?

Symptoms of a hangover include

  • Headache
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Intolerance of bright light and noise
  • Sluggishness and lethargy
  • Thirst and dehydration
  • Tremor and shaking
  • Depression, anxiety
  • Raised heart rate and body temperature
  • Decreased sleeping, lack of coordination, smelly breath

 

Do old wives tales work?

Some do and some don’t.

The best way to target a hangover is to treat the causes one by one.

  1. Dehydration : Make sure you rehydrate well. Drink lots of fluids
  2. Electrolytes : These are severely depleted so drinking sports drinks,    dioraylte or  coconut water will help
  3. Eggs : These contain a chemical called cysteine. Helps to restore normal function
  4. Alcohol :This blocks the production of the toxic chemical formaldehyde so many people swear by “hair of the dog”
  5. Milk Thistle : This seems to reduce nausea and may help to regenerate the liver cells. It seems more effective when coupled with exposure to the sun (which makes vitamin D). Hence why some people say they don’t get hungover on holiday
  6. Brewers Yeast : This contains vitamin B6
  7. N-Acetyl-Cysteine : This reduces the level of the toxic product Acetaldehyde. Its best when combined with Vitamin B1
  8. Ginger/Tolfenamic Acid : This reduces nausea and the stomach upset
  9. Acetyl Leucine:  This may reduce the vertigo
  10. Cannabis : Legal in some parts of the US – the active ingredient THC reduces the nausea and headache. It also increases the appetite so that you eat which counteracts the low blood sugar.

Interestingly a number of studies have been done to find the best hangover cure. There is no conclusive proof that any of these work. The only proven way to stop hangovers is not to drink in the first place. Sorry!

A brief encounter…..

In Opinion Pieces on July 20, 2012 at 8:31 pm

No not that type! Honestly!……

Sometimes in life you are reminded how important our interaction with other people really is.

I met a  young lady in a brief encounter many years ago. As usual I’d been filming late on location in the UK and when we heard the director yell “It’s a wrap”, there was only one decision to be made…. Which bar should we frequent..?  The answer invariably was the one nearest to the shoddy hotel the broadcaster had put us up in..

Full of anticipation of that first gulp of ice-cold nectar freshly squeezed from the tap, I raced to the aforementioned bar.  Like many establishments in major cities there was a door policy – you know the usual – no riff-raff, trainers, jeans, guys on their own, undesirables and so on.

Anyway I passed the test……

The  young lady on the door was actually extremely pleasant but I couldn’t help but notice that she really didn’t look at all well.

Instead of going into the venue and quaffing my victual, I stopped and spent time with her. They say that 90% of the diagnosis is in the history. That means you should pretty much know what’s wrong with someone by talking to them without putting your grubby hands on them.

And after a short time with her I realised I didn’t like what I heard one bit.  I was extremely insistent that she should ignore the medical opinion that she had been given and she must seek another opinion immediately.

And that’s all I knew of that encounter …… until a few weeks ago when I received an email from her. It speaks for itself. Having read it I was so moved i had to have a sit down and a cup of tea.  So here it is….

I am watching (you on TV this week) and it reminded me I really should write to you to say a huge thanks.
I was working on the door of a Bar in Leicester a few years ago, when you came in for a drink. You noticed I wasn’t looking very well and spoke to me.
I explained that I was waiting for treatment of an ovarian cyst (I had been waiting for around two years for an operation) and because you took the time to speak to me, and strongly urged me to get a second opinion asap you saved my life.
 

The following day I went to the Emergency department of another hospital and they rushed me to surgery. They spent 7 hours trying to keep me alive on the table.   It turns out the cyst was a huge dermoid and contained a gland that was producing lots of cortisol and in effect slowly killing me.

 
The moment the cyst was out I started to get better.
 
I read my notes while I was in bed ( I know naughty) but I came across a letter from my first consultation at Leicester detailing how I was a drug addict-anorexic- alcoholic who had had several suicide attempts. 
I was so confused I have never had any of those issues, I don’t even drink!  Then I read the patient details and realised it wasnt about me and had been put in the my file by mistake. 
That letter had gone to my GP and in a nutshell that’s why they didn’t help me.
 
I reported the error and the letter was removed and they apologised.
To be honest it totally rocked my confidence in the NHS I changed my GP who had known me for ten years who should have spotted the mistake.
However its Medical professionals like you that give people hope. You wanted a quiet drink probably after a long day at work but yet you noticed something was wrong and not only took the time to speak to me, persuaded me to take action that saved my life I’m so grateful, words can’t express.
It was a wonderful thing you did for me and your diligence and conviction in your knowledge led to me being alive today.
 
8 years later I’m still at endocrinology being monitored.
Although I am very well and not on any medication, my endocrine system went really crazy but has finally settled down.

 
I really want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for recognizing the signs that something was very wrong because if you hadn’t
taken the time to speak to me I just wouldn’t be here xxx  


All the best for the future xx
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It’s an encounter that changed her life. But it also changed mine.