To drink or not to drink: That is the pregnant question.

health, Wine Blog, wine news

Last weekend was a dry one. I visited my sister in San Diego to celebrate the future arrival of her newest family member. Preggo and proud, she was just short of waddling at seven months and looking radiant as ever. I never got to see her the last time she was pregnant. But it’s true… she had that ‘glow.’

And I? I was happily spending a few days free of toxins. A break is always refreshing. But writing this now, I recall how great that first sip was with dinner the night I returned.

My sister and I touched upon the topic a bit during the visit: the controversial decision of whether or not to drink during the pregnancy. She has always had a wild strand spiraling throughout her DNA, making it hard for me to imagine that she could ever keep from a glass here and there. And she admitted she had maybe two once she well into her second trimester. But for the most part, she just didn’t want to risk it. It was a decision her and her hubby made together, so he too would abstain.

It was a sobering thought. What would I do in that situation? Take a hiatus for nine months? I certainly couldn’t imagine that, and I was immediately interested in researching the topic. Getting loaded is one thing, but a few occasional sips here and there (if you even crave it) has always seemed relatively harmless and possibly, dare I say, beneficial, if at certain moments it has the ability to calm the carrier or simply enrich a meal.

Latest research largely confirms my own biased suspicion. In fact, it was only last October that Discovery News released an article put out by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health that followed nearly 12,000 children over a five year period of time and found that not only was it fine to have a glass or even two a week during pregnancy, there was evidence that those children actually performed better on cognitive and behavioral testing than those who were children of moms who abstained (leave it to the British to research this topic so thoroughly). One must keep in mind, however, that the nondrinkers and those who held back only during pregnancy made up 66% of the subjects, while those who were labeled ‘light’ drinkers (one to two drinks per week) only made up 26%. They didn’t make mention of it, but I am guessing a few bad eggs in the first bunch (or a few exceptionally advanced eggs in the latter) are enough to pull the averages overall. Better to have even percentages for accurate representations.

Obviously, heavy drinking is another category altogether. No one benefits from that–pregnant or not.

Although no one is bold enough to declare that occasional alcohol intake is truly better for the fetus, this finding certainly leaves the light drinker feeling a little less guilty. It is a choice every mom must make, and it is a very personal choice.

Though it seems my choice has already been made, it really hasn’t. A million thoughts run through one’s mind when carrying another human being in your being. It is no longer about you. From the very beginning, you must share your body and decision-making with a little helpless human. You are their first contact with the world. So I leave this on a very open-ended note. Know your body and be comfortable with the decisions you make for your body. Keep in moderation everything regardless whether wine, beer, ice cream, pickles, coffee, fish, cheese, etc. Research constantly changes, so you sometimes have to just trust in your instincts.

*Sites used:

Sulfites: My newfound nemesis.

Biodynamic, health, organic wine, sulfites, Wine Blog, wine news

January has long since been my least favorite month of the year. In fact, I begin to fear its arrival just as I am clearing my Christmas dinner plate into the garbage. My stomach notes that familiar drop, that uneasy turn… then memories begin to flood.

I have come to associate January with loss, having seen the closest people in my life slip from me this cold, dark month. And no matter how much I set my mind to embrace this wintry month each year–booking plans, dinners and parties sure to get me through–the other shoe always manages to drop.

Today I said goodbye to my cat. I know. It’s just a cat. He didn’t even die. But I learned recently that I have developed some intense allergy-induced asthma. Sure enough, she was a constant component.

How, you might wonder, does this tie into wine? Well, I shall tell you. In just a week, I have learned more than I ever thought I would about this annoying disease. For one, allergens are the enemy.

I wasn’t quick to turn myself in to the doctor’s office. For about ten months, I have been enduring many sleepless nights up coughing, sniffling and sometimes drugging myself to sleep with Benadryl. I reviewed the control factor in my life, realizing the only daily control factors were my cat… and my wine. Neither of which I wanted them to confirm.

And then there’s that one night… the night every asthmatic can relate to, when you are sitting straight up, coughing without stop, literally gasping for oxygen and wheezing with every inhalation. The thought dawns on you that you are actually scared to fall asleep, for what if you don’t get up? You swear you will see the doctor if some force beyond this world will let you wake up. You make a deal. You fall asleep. You wake up and keep that promise, and call the doctor.

I got my answer pretty quickly: ragweed and cat. I asked about wine, and they reassured me that I wasn’t allergic. However, the next part intrigued me. Though I wasn’t allergic to wine, sulfites are a well-known allergen and asthma irritant. Like scented candles, chemical cleanign products and dust, I am not ‘allergic’ so to speak, but I am sensitive to a plethora of allergens now.

I began to panic. How does one carry on a career with wine? Will it get worse? What does it mean to be reactive to sulfites? Suddenly, it occurred to me how many customers constantly came in and told me they were ‘allergic’ to sulfites. I didn’t believe so many people could possibly share that intolerance. When people asked me if I had sulfite-free wine, I simply said few if any exist… and of the rare wines that see no sulfites added, they’re not all that exciting.

So call it karmic retribution, I am now forced to research it more. And what I am learning is fascinating.

Perhaps a definition is needed first. Sulfites are compounds that are naturally produced from yeast during fermentation, but they can also be added to arrest fermentation and more importantly preserve the wine (it is, after all, a living fruit that will spoil) and its aromatics. Most winemakers also add sulfites to prevent oxidization and insure some degree of ageability without the threat of turning the wine into vinegar or promoting bacterial growth. Aside from ‘organic’ wine, which does not see added sulfites, most wine gets a dose.

What people don’t realize is that the levels are relatively low at roughly 10 mg per glass. Compare this to 2 oz of many dried fruits at a concentrated 112 mg per serving. White wines actually contain slightly more than red, another interesting fact I learned. Also, while sulfites are linked with headaches, this is still not proven so. In fact, it is almost certain to be a urban wine legend. However, what is true is that some people are sensitive, even allergic to, sulfites. Actually, I discovered that women are significantly more reactive to sulfites (definitely true with my customers, as no man has EVER had this issue).

It has also been noted that steroid dependency (inhalers, oral tablets, shots), also increases one’s sensitivity to sulfites. In fact, most people who struggle with sulfites also use a steroid of some sort regularly. Another reason I really want to try and kick this naturally.

When sulfites are ingested, sulfur dioxide is formed in the airways, triggering bronchospasm. Sulfites are found in so many foods: condiments, jams, dried fruits & vegetables, hard cider, soup mixes, and of course wine. Sensitivity does not always mean stop altogether. From what I have learned it means to choose your battles. Minimize overall intake and if you have to have that glass, just cut back on that days’ other sources of sulfites. Some people do, however, have dangerous reactions, even fatal, and must know their limits. See a doctor if you fear you are one of the 5-10% that has a severe allergy.

This has been a lot to take in, however, I am learning that there are so many things, even outside of sulfite ingestion that I can do to treat asthma drug-free. First things first, remove known allergens. Sadly, that was my buddy– a big, chubby Siamese cat. Got a sneak peak at her new home today, and I think she’ll have a good life with her new siblings– another cat and dog. I also turned my apartment upside down and cleaned like mad today, which is critical for keeping allergens low. I am buying an air purifier tomorrow, taking a ton of Vitamin C and trying to cut down to ice cream only once or twice a week (from about five days), in order to keep to mucous down. This goes for all dairy… even cheese (sniffle). I have also turned to dark side and bought, yes… a neti pot. I have yet to really figure it out. I swear I keep getting salt water stuck in my head. But the theory is that it will keep my sinuses clear, prevent post nasal, minimize coughing, but most importantly, allow me to analyse wine better with a healthy, clear nose.

Am I nervous this could develop into a more serious problem? You bet. But I’m not only an optimist, I have never been one to beat those kind of odds. Luckily, I am pretty average. I mean, heck, 20 million people are reported to suffer from asthma. And that’s just who is reported. So of course I have it. Only 5-10% of those, however, are really allergic to sulfites. The day I make those odds is the day I guess I’ll need to seek out my other hidden talents.

Until then, Salud! And thank God for February…

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And the many people I know who deal with it daily and have found many natural ways to cope just fine.

champagne: it really does go to your head.

Bubbles, health, Wine Blog, Wine Education, wine news

Billie Holiday may have meant tipsy when she wrote about bubbles in a glass of Champagne going to her head, but I’ll have you know those  little carbonated beads of perfection do more for your head than you might think.  Red isn’t the only color of wine that provides health benefits.  Recent studies have revealed that the occasional glass of champagne actually works to protect the brain in particular.

A well-known antioxidant called polyphenols are responsible for this benefit.  The highest concentration may be in red wine, but bubbly isn’t far behind.  Polyphenols keep cells alive with oxidative stress.  Plus, sparkling wine contains other phenolic compounds like tyrosol and caffeic acid.  Both work as anti-inflammatory substances (preventing response to injury) as well as detoxifiers.  One writer described them as “cellular mops, essentially cleaning up and removing hazardous chemicals from the body.”

When tested in mice who were set up to stroke out (so sad), the ones who were ‘penetrated with Champagne extract’ were able to fight off damage significantly and, in fact, completely restored their brain cells with time.  Those who didn’t get a little boozy…vanished.

Not that I needed another excuse…but how great are these findings?!  Now there are more reasons to celebrate when raising a glass.


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