If you participated in Dry January, you may have noticed some significant differences when it comes to your physical and mental health. Your health can begin to improve after just one week of going alcohol-free. It’s no secret that alcohol isn’t exactly good for you, but what are the actual benefits of going without alcohol?
1. You sleep better
Sleeping better is one of the first improvements people tend to see. Moderate drinking reduces the amount of melatonin that your body produces, meaning that alcohol can seriously affect your sleep and make you feel restless during the night, which leads you to feel unrested in the morning. Although you may initially struggle to fall asleep, your quality of sleep will be much better without any alcohol in your system since alcohol interferes with your sleep cycle by suppressing your REM sleep (dream state). As a result of receiving higher quality sleep, your feelings of anxiety will likely be reduced, and you will have more energy throughout the day.
2. Healthier skin
Since it’s a diuretic, alcohol majorly dehydrates the skin, making it appear flaky or inflamed. Taking a break from alcohol can do wonderful things for your skin, including rehydration, reduced bags under your eyes, and making your skin look younger and healthier.
3. Stronger immune system
Alcohol stops your body from creating enough white blood cells to fight off harmful bacteria that can cause sickness. By removing alcohol from your diet, your body can start to reverse these effects, and start to build up a stronger immune system.
4. Improved memory function
Heavy drinking can shrink your hippocampus, but luckily, going alcohol-free for a few months can help reverse the negative cognitive effects. In the first couple weeks without alcohol, you may start to notice that you are able to think and remember things more clearly.
5. Balanced moods
Initially when you quit drinking, you may feel depressed or have mood swings due to the lack of dopamine that alcohol usually brings to your brain. However, over time, your dopamine levels begin to stabilize. Don’t forget that while alcohol may boost serotonin and make you feel happy when drinking, it is ultimately a depressant and causes a decrease of serotonin production, which is responsible for stabilizing your mood and feelings of well-being.
6. Decreased Liver Inflammation
It’s no secret that alcohol consumption can be detrimental to your liver. When you stop drinking alcohol (even just for a month), your liver can begin to heal, at least a little bit. Liver specialist, Jamile Wakim-Fleming, MD says, “It’s like you’re giving that wound a little bit of time to heal itself. It may not heal all of the way back if you’ve been drinking a lot before and your liver has been severely damaged by alcohol. But it will still help.” So, although the damage to your liver can’t be completely reversed, you can help keep the issue at bay by reducing your alcohol consumption, and the longer you go without alcohol, the greater these improvements will be.
7. Improved digestion
Alcohol can affect your gut microbiome, which is responsible for digesting food, and can impact your immune system and even your mental health. Over time, this leads to your body having a harder time breaking down and digesting alcohol. Alcoholic drinks can also irritate the stomach by producing too much gastric acid which can cause acid reflux and inflammation of the stomach lining. If you struggle with digestion issues, you should really consider taking a break from alcohol for about a month, and seeing if it makes a difference.
Going alcohol-free for a period of time can help you better understand your relationship with alcohol, and learn what triggers your desire to drink. If you are starting to see the difference in your health after one month without alcohol, why stop now? You can join thousands of others by turning Dry January into Dry February, and support a good cause while doing so. If you missed Dry January, don’t worry - you can take a break from alcohol at any point, for a period of time that feels right to you.
If you need support during this time, or want more tips on how to cut back on your alcohol consumption, we encourage you to reach out.