Giving up the booze is tough, and if you’re anything like me, it could take you several years to stop drinking alcohol after you’ve actually made the decision to quit. The reason I decided to quit drinking alcohol was that I was sick of it. I’d literally had enough of feeling sick for a day or two after a big night out. I was sick of spending money on something I no longer really enjoyed, and I was really sick of feeling unhealthy. I don’t know about you, but after 20 years of drinking, the thought of poisoning my body, again and again, held absolutely no appeal to me anymore.
In the long term, consistent drinking over many years causes over 60 different diseases, including many different cancers, particularly of the heart, liver and pancreas. In the short term, even just a few drinks can cause sleeping problems, weight gain and increases in blood pressure. When I stopped drinking for good, it didn’t take long for me to start feeling much healthier, and by that stage, I didn’t drink that often anyway. I’d have a big night out with friends every couple of months, or maybe twice if I was feeling particularly festive, but even then the effects were telling. The good news is any damage caused by drinking alcohol can be reversed, with most repairs actually taking place very quickly.
So what does happen to your body from the moment you stop drinking alcohol?
You will sleep better
When you’re awake, but at rest, your brain has a certain wave pattern going on. When you’ve had a few drinks, this wave pattern continues into your sleep, causing you to have a night of disrupted sleep. It’s true alcohol may make you fall asleep quicker than you might normally, but the quality of your sleep will be seriously compromised. By getting a good quality night’s sleep, you’ll experience better concentration, an improved mood, and optimal mental performance.
You will decrease your risk of getting cancer
The big C is nasty and deadly. Behind cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption is the next biggest cause of cancer. Quitting alcohol decreases your likelihood of getting cancers of the mouth, liver, breast, colon and rectum. Not only that, but you’ll also decrease your chances of having a stroke and contracting diabetes, while also increasing your life expectancy. Given my fear of death and dream of living forever, if there’s a way I can give myself the best chance of living longer, I’ll grab it with both hands.
You will lose weight when you stop drinking alcohol
Drinking alcohol will considerably increase your calorie intake. That may sound obvious, but when we think about the number of calories we consume, we often ‘forget’ about the empty calories we add to our daily intake from the liquids we drink. Most alcoholic drinks are high in sugars and carbohydrates, and when just a few are consumed at any one time, insulin levels spike prompting the body to start producing and storing fat immediately. If you stop drinking, you won’t consume those additional nasty calories that cause you to put on weight, and you’ll notice your waistline starts to shrink.
The problem with alcohol and weight gain is not just confined to its direct link with producing fat. Ask yourself, what are your eating behaviours like after you’ve had a few drinks? No problem eating a large pizza with your friends, or grabbing a kebab on the way home from the pub? How about the next day? Most people don’t fancy preparing healthy and nutritious foods when they have a hangover, so a full day of takeaway and/or easy to prepare highly processed foods are the norm. If you stop drinking alcohol, you won’t be inclined to eat more than you need at meal times and this will be of great assistance to your waistline.
Your liver will be under less stress
While your liver is working overtime to process all of that alcohol coursing through your system, it isn’t doing it’s regular jobs as well as it should be. These include cleaning your blood of potentially poisonous toxins, helping the digestion process by producing bile to absorb fat into the bloodstream, and breaking down glycogen for your body to use as energy. Your liver is one of the hardest working organs in your body, and any obstacles that get in its way have serious effects on your inner systems. The issue with abusing your liver is when you find out you have a problem, it’s generally already very serious.
You will have clearer skin
Alcohol is a diuretic which means you go to the toilet more, leaving you dehydrated. Alcohol also decreases the body’s production of your antidiuretic hormone, inhibiting your ability to rehydrate. It’s a real double whammy!!! Serious dehydration effects almost every part of your body, but it’s your skin where the visible evidence, such as parched skin and ruddiness in your cheeks and nose caused by swollen capillaries, can be seen. Within days of giving up alcohol you’ll notice your skin clearing, and may also improve other problems such as rosacea, eczema and dandruff.
Whether the clear health benefits of not drinking alcohol anymore outweigh any benefits you believe you get from drinking is completely up to you. If you’re undecided about whether you should quit drinking, doing a cost-benefit analysis may help with your decision. Draw a line down the middle of a page and write down the costs of drinking on one side and the benefits on the other. Compare the two sides of the page and you’ll have a clearer picture of whether you want to continue drinking, or if the time is right to live an alcohol-free life. Either way, the decision is up to you and only you can make it.