This month marks “Dry January”— a growing movement to practice a month of alcohol abstinence after the excess of the holidays. Since its founding in 2012 by the British organization, Alcohol Change UK, Dry January has exploded in popularity. Last year, four million people reportedly took part in the challenge, which has also caught on in the U.S. A report by NBC’s Today explained why, noting that women’s health in particular may benefit from alcohol abstinence.
The Health Benefits of Not Drinking
What, then, are the health benefits of eliminating alcohol from your lifestyle? A study in the British Medical Journal found that regular drinkers who quit drinking for only one month saw improvements in weight, insulin resistance, blood pressure, and the level of chemical messengers in the blood associated with a risk for cancer.
But the case for cutting back on booze or quitting it altogether does not end there. According to the same Today article cited above, the main benefits of eliminating alcohol from one’s lifestyle include:
- Better sleep
- More energy
- Weight loss
- Healthier skin
These were the positive effects of kicking booze for just one month, according to a University of Sussex survey of people who took part in Dry January last year: 71 percent (almost three fourths of those who stopped drinking) reported they slept better; 67 percent said they had more energy; 58 percent reportedly lost weight; and 54 percent said they had better skin.
But there are still other health benefits of an alcohol-free lifestyle worth considering. Dr. James C. Garbutt, a psychiatry professor at the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at the University of North Carolina, told Today that heavy drinkers who quit their habit may also experience less anxiety, irritability, headaches, heartburn and acid reflux.
The Health Dangers of Alcohol Use
Another potential health benefit of abstinence from alcohol: protection from alcohol-related health dangers, including:
- Increased risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast
- Increased risk of brain and heart damage
- Increased risk of cirrhosis and other liver diseases
- Lower life expectancy (with five or more drinks weekly)
Such factors help to explain why recent research has concluded that the risks of drinking may in fact outweigh the benefits— despite the widely disseminated and widely believed notion that drinking red wine is good for you.
Problem Drinking – Another Reason for Abstaining from Alcohol
And, with rates of problem drinking having risen by almost 50 percent, for a growing proportion of Americans—as many as one in eight, by a recent estimate—alcohol is nothing other than an addiction that is slowly killing them. The reality is that alcoholism and alcohol use disorders in this country are often a hidden form of suffering that can go undiagnosed until it’s too late. In these cases, the serious health effects of an addiction are only one dimension of alcohol’s devastating impact on individuals and families.
For these reasons, and in the spirit of Dry January, it’s never too late to try cutting back on alcohol or eliminating it altogether.Have you tried to quit drinking but can’t? Get help detoxing today.