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11 Reasons to Keep ‘Dry January’ Going

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Dry January is the trend of starting the new year by abstaining from alcohol for one month. Here are ten health benefits that continuing this practice throughout the year will bring, including decreasing cancer risk.

11 Ways Abstaining from Alcohol Improves Your Health

Abstaining from alcohol can offer numerous health benefits, both in the short and long term. Both short-term and long-term use of alcohol has been associated with many negative effects on the body, including sleep quality, energy reduction, weight gain, liver damage, and the risk of at least five types of cancer, and more.

Here are 11 advantages of choosing a lifestyle that avoids the consumption of alcoholic beverages — or at least keeping Dry January going a little longer:

1. Improved Liver Function

One of the most notable benefits of abstaining from alcohol is the positive impact on liver health. Alcohol is directly toxic to the liver. Chronic alcohol consumption can lead to liver diseases, and abstaining allows the liver to repair itself, improving its function.

Risks of alcohol consumption on the liver include fatty liver, enlarged liver, acute hepatitis, and cirrhosis. The liver has a strong regenerative capacity, and quitting alcohol can allow this organ to recover a significant portion of its original mass and function.

2. Enhanced Mental Clarity

Alcohol can harm the brain in many ways. It can disrupt brain communication, brain structure, brain function, and brain processing. Alcohol can also lead to chemical changes within the brain. These can increase anger, depression, anxiety, or negative feelings. Alcohol can harm cognition leading to memory loss, learning difficulties, dementia, and more.

Abstaining from alcohol contributes to better mental clarity, improved concentration, decision-making, and enhanced overall cognitive function.

Read More: 10 Ways to Keep Your Brain Young and Healthy

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3. Better Sleep Quality

While alcohol may initially induce sleep, even a single drink of alcohol can disrupt the sleep cycle and lead to poor-quality rest. 

There are many ways alcohol can negatively impact sleep:

  • Disruption of sleep-wake cycle.
  • Reduction of REM sleep.
  • Increased risk of insomnia.
  • Disruption of sleep stages.
  • Disruption of melatonin production.

Abstaining from alcohol is associated with improved sleep patterns and a more restful night’s sleep.

4. Weight Management

Alcoholic beverages are often high in calories, and excessive drinking can contribute to weight gain. There are four ways in which alcohol can cause weight gain:

  • Stops the body from burning fat.
  • Increases appetite.
  • Leads to cravings for salty and greasy foods.
  • High in calories.

Abstaining from alcohol can support weight management efforts and promote a healthier body weight.

5. Improved Immune Function

Medical experts have long observed an association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse immune-related health effects, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

Some of the ways alcohol can harm the body through decreased immune response are:

  • a higher susceptibility to pneumonia, RSV, ARDS
  • poor/slow wound healing
  • slower and less complete recovery from infection and physical trauma
  • disruption of communication with the intestinal immune system
  • damages epithelial cells, T cells, and neutrophils in the GI system
  • facilitating leakage of microbes into the circulation
  • interferes with the body’s immune defenses against cancer

Abstaining from alcohol supports a stronger immune system, enhancing the body’s ability to fight off infections and illness.

6. Better Hydration

Alcohol is a diuretic, leading to increased urine production and potential dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes your body to remove fluids from your blood through your kidneys, leading to increased urine production. This can lead to potential dehydration if you do not drink enough water with alcohol consumption.

Abstaining from alcohol helps maintain proper hydration levels, benefiting overall health and skin complexion.

7. Enhanced Cardiovascular Health

Alcohol can have significant effects on cardiovascular health even when consumed in small amounts. Effects on cardiovascular health from alcohol include:

High blood pressure. Consuming more than three drinks in one sitting temporarily raises blood pressure. Repeated binge drinking can lead to long-term high blood pressure (hypertension).

Narrowing of blood vessels. The more alcohol you drink the higher the risk of developing hypertension.

Heart attack or stroke. Regular alcohol consumption increases the risk of heart attack or stroke. Alcohol increases fat in the bloodstream, which can lead to plaque and clogged arteries.

Cardiomyopathy. Excessive drinking can affect the heart muscle.

Aerobic performance. Alcohol decreases the body’s blood sugar levels, builds up lactic acid, and causes dehydration. These can combine to reduce aerobic performance.

Abstaining from alcohol eliminates the risk of excessive drinking, which is linked to heart problems.

8. Lowered Risk of Mental Health Issues

There is a close link between alcohol and mental health issues. Alcohol is a depressant and can disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Regular heavy drinking has been linked to symptoms of depression, anxiety, and psychosis. Additionally, it may lead to actions such as self-harm, suicidal thoughts, or suicide attempts.

Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition characterized by an inability to control or stop alcohol use. It encompasses the conditions referred to as alcoholism, alcohol abuse, alcohol addiction, and alcohol dependence.

Abstaining from alcohol can contribute to better mental well-being, reducing the risk of developing or exacerbating mental health conditions.

Read More: Easy Ways to Reduce Anxiety Naturally

9. Improved Digestive Health

Alcohol can irritate the digestive system and contribute to issues such as acid reflux and gastritis. Alcohol can also trigger acid reflux, increase GERD symptoms, and damage the esophageal mucosa. According to the NIH, stopping alcohol use can, in many cases, allow GERD symptoms to be controlled.

In an article published by the NIH, researchers established a significant connection between alcohol and its disruption of the (GI) system. Alcohol can trigger inflammation, weaken immune function, and lead to some types of cancer.

Abstaining from alcohol allows the digestive system to function more efficiently and can alleviate gastrointestinal discomfort.

10. Reduced Risk of Accidents and Injuries

Alcohol impairs coordination and judgment, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries. 

Here are some of the ways alcohol can increase the risk of accidents and injuries:

  • Impaired coordination
  • blurred vision and slower visual reaction time
  • decreased motor skills and reflexes
  • impact or impair judgment

Some of the most common injuries associated with alcohol use include motor vehicle crashes, drownings, falls, fractures, facial injuries, head injuries, burns, and alcohol poisoning.

Abstaining from alcohol reduces the likelihood of being involved in accidents and promotes overall safety.

11. Decreased Risk of Some Forms of Cancer

New research from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), published in the New England Journal of Medicine, examined data from over 90 studies about cancers caused by alcohol. The researchers found significant evidence that people who stop alcohol consumption can lower the risk of developing certain cancers, including:

  • oral cancer
  • larynx cancer
  • esophageal cancer
  • colorectal cancer
  • female breast cancer