How A Month Without Alcohol Can Benefit Your Health
With January almost halfway over, you may be focusing more on wellness goals, including Dry January. Of course, there are many ways a month without alcohol can benefit your health.
“For many people, having a glass of wine, beer, or a cocktail can be a part of a daily dining, social, or religious ritual,” Dr. Sherry A. Ross, women’s health expert and author of she-ology. The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period., tells Bustle. “But, unfortunately, this may be a toast for bad health consequences.” She says that abstaining from alcohol has several positive health benefits — even if you do so for part of January instead of the entire month.
To help keep motivated, some people join Facebook groups, too. For instance, life coach Hans Schumann runs one called Dry January Challenge 2019. “It is so much easier to stick to our goals when we are pursuing them with others and make ourselves accountable to a group,” he tells Bustle. “And there is a selfish angle too: I wanted to do Dry January myself and knew that if I committed to a group of clients, I would never breach that commitment. This commitment would not be as strong if I just made it to myself.”
So what happens when you eliminate alcohol? Experts weigh in below.
1. You May Experience Less Anxiety And Depression
Dr. Ross says that when you eliminate alcohol, you may experience less anxiety and depression. Alcohol is a depressant and has an effect on your physical and psychological activity.
“Drinking exacerbates mood changes, worsening depression and anxiety, she says. “Drinking can lead to embarrassing and regretful behaviors that you may or may not remember the next morning.”
Maya Feller, registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Maya Feller Nutrition, agrees. “Not drinking will improve your mental state,” she tells Bustle. “Alcohol can be a depressant, and removing it can help to boost your overall mood.”
2. Your Blood Sugar Levels Will Decrease
Sugar blood levels will improve by cutting out daily alcohol, Dr. Ross says. “There is a high sugar content in alcoholic beverages that you may not even realize,” she says. “Glucose or blood sugar levels during an alcohol-free month will be in better control.”
3. Your Blood Pressure And Cholesterol Levels Will Improve
According to the Mayo Clinic, your blood pressure can reach dangerous levels if you drink too much alcohol, particularly if you repeatedly binge drink. Plus, alcohol can make certain blood pressure medications less effective and increase said medication’s side effects.
“Studies have shown better blood pressure readings and cholesterol levels when alcohol is removed from a daily diet for a month,” Dr. Ross says.
4. You’ll Sleep Better
If you compare how you sleep after a night of drinking versus no drinking, you may discover that you sleep more soundly — and are less restless — after not drinking. Dr. Jennifer Caudle, family physician and associate professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, tells Bustle that alcohol is known for disrupting sleep. “Even though alcohol may make us feel sleepy and ready to ‘hit the sack,’ sleep is often interrupted and of poor quality when alcohol has been involved,” she says. “So an immediate benefit of not drinking might be feeling more rested and getting better sleep at night.”
5. Your Skin Complexion Will Improve
If your skin complexion is no longer as great as it used to be, it may be due to alcohol. In fact, several celebrities don’t drink alcohol for this very reason.
“Alcohol dehydrates the body, causing skin to look red, blotchy and bloated,” Dr. Joel Schlessinger, dermatologist and Real Self contributor, told Mic. “Drinking alcohol prevents the production of vasopressin, an anti-diuretic hormone that the body uses to absorb water.” He said this causes the kidneys to work twice as hard to remove excess water from your system, which leaves all of your organs, including your skin, dehydrated.
6. You Can Decrease Your Chance For Chronic Illnesses
Dr. Ross says that, when it comes to trying to prevent chronic diseases, alcohol is a great thing to eliminate from your life. “It should be removed for probably more than one month since it increases the risks of many chronic diseases,” she says.
She adds that alcohol also has a direct correlation to cancer. “The more alcohol you consume, the greater your risk of certain cancers: Cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon-rectum, liver, pancreas, and female breast are all associated with alcohol consumption,” she says. “We also know drinking alcohol increases your risk of heart disease, liver disease, and diabetes.”
7. You Will Be More Aware
Feller says that because alcohol can change your mental state, the feeling of being buzzed signals a change in your awareness. “Cutting alcohol out for the month can help you to be more aware of your choices and interactions,” she says.
As you can see, there are several health benefits from doing Dry January — or another month dry. And worst-case scenario, you try a month without alcohol and don’t do it all month. But at least you tried, and that counts for something.