Do you regularly enjoy a glass of wine, beer, champagne or other alcoholic beverage? Don’t feel guilty – we all like a bit of indulgence!
As it’s Dry July this month, we’re shedding light on the health benefits of giving up alcohol for a month.
You may think to yourself ‘oh, I’m not an alcoholic and so it doesn’t apply to me’. Well, here’s the thing: you don’t have to be an alcoholic to benefit from less drinking!
Let’s have a look at the figures for Australia’s alcohol habits:
- 1.9 million of Australians drink more than 6 standard drinks per day!
- $32.25 per week is what an Australian household spends on alcohol on average. Over a year, that’s a pretty nice holiday to the Gold Coast for a family of four!
- 17% of Australians are drinking at levels that put them at risk of alcohol-related diseases.
What are the risks of drinking too much?
Alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation, but drinking too much has negative impacts on your short-term and long-term wellbeing.
- Reduced concentration
- Poor sleep quality
- Intense moods (aggression, elation, depression)
- Slower reflexes
- Irreversible liver, brain or nervous system damage
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Increased chance of a number of cancers
- Alcohol-related disease, illness or injuries
So, how much is too much?
Men and women should not have more than two standard drinks per day.
Good-bye isn’t forever!
A number of therapists and health experts have promoted the idea of quitting alcohol for a year. This allows your body to regenerate itself, and for the mind to be rid of its need for alcohol. It’s likely, at the end of the year, you won’t want to drink anymore.
A year sounds too much right away? Let’s start with a month and work from there…
What does an alcohol-free month do for your body?
According to a study from the University of Sussex in the UK, participants reported higher energy levels and healthier body weight after giving up alcohol for a month. They also felt less need to drink alcohol, even several months after participating in this initiative.
More specifically the study showed that:
- 93% of participants reported experiencing a sense of achievement at the end of the alcohol-free month
- 88% had saved money that they would otherwise have spent on drinking
- 71% said that they enjoyed better sleep
- 70% reported better overall health
- 67% had higher energy levels
- 58% of participants lost weight
- 57% reported improved concentration
- 54% said that they noticed better skin health
Let’s have a closer look at some of these benefits…
Your mental health could improve, as alcohol can trigger or worsen existing symptoms of anxiety.
Alcohol is very high in empty calories, which means they don’t offer any nutritional value. The body processes and stores alcohol as sugar, which eventually converts to fat.
People who drink excessively usually carry more weight than those who don’t. In fact, some research shows that excessive alcohol consumption is closely tied to obesity.
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it dehydrates the body and your skin. Without proper hydration, the skin dries out and becomes less elastic. Abstaining from alcohol will leave you with hydrated healthier-looking skin.
It also causes body tissue inflammation. This is why we see some people get flush in the face when they drink. That red flush is their skin becoming inflamed. The redness usually goes away once the alcohol leaves their system. But over time, constant inflammation will damage the skin.
Research also suggests that drinking ages the body’s cells. It reduces the lifespan of the cells in the heart, liver, skin, and other organs. If our body is unable to produce new cells or slow to produce new cells, the aging process becomes apparent; our skin and other organs will start to deteriorate much faster.
Your liver works hard every day to help filter your blood and metabolises fat and carbohydrates from your food. An unhealthy liver can lead to many debilitating diseases including Type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
Your liver constantly works to regenerate itself. It generates new cells with the intention of fixing any problems that pop up. Alcohol, however, throws a wrench into the regeneration system. When the liver is soaked in booze, it has a more difficult time producing new cells. Over time, its ability to regenerate itself starts to slow and eventually fail.
When you give up alcohol, your liver starts to flush out all of the leftover by-products that were produced over time. This process can take several weeks under normal circumstances. In extreme cases, it can take a few years. After the by-products have been flushed out, the liver returns to its normal functions.
Now it should be noted that some liver damage is irreparable. In most cases, though, people who quit drinking will feel the benefits within a few months.
Does Dry July sound like a good idea now that you understand the health benefits vs the cost? Give it go, and let us know what benefits, or maybe issues, that you notice after 30 days!