Are you thinking of doing a detox, the Whole 30, or concerned about what alcohol can be doing to your body? Alcohol certainly plays a large role in the lives of American adults.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported in 2015 56% of Americans 18 or older have drunk alcohol in the past month and that 15.1 million adults have had alcohol dependence or AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder).
Even if you only drink socially or occasionally, you may wonder what the benefits are to giving up alcohol. What exactly happens to your body when you stop drinking alcohol?
The benefits can actually be seen in as little as an hour, and research has proved that not drinking alcohol for just one month has a positive effect on blood pressure, cholesterol, sleep, and weight loss, just to name a few.
The Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol
There are several benefits to not drinking alcohol, from increased energy to disease prevention.
Alcohol can have significant effects on the brain, from immediate to long-term. For occasional to moderate drinkers, alcohol causes memory impairment, blackouts, and impaired decision making. For heavier drinks, it’s much worse. Heavy alcohol drinkers can suffer from diminished brain size, loss of visuospatial abilities, and irreversible memory loss.
Besides impairing brain function, quitting alcohol can also lead to better mood. Alcohol is linked to depression, anxiety, and aggressive behavior. Alcohol affects the brain’s chemistry, and both self-harm and suicide are more common in those who suffer from alcohol abuse.
Since alcohol is a sedative, it is also linked with poor sleep, insomnia, and decreased energy. Quitting alcohol is accompanied by an increase in energy and is often very beneficial to weight loss.
When it comes to the havoc that alcohol can inflict on the body, diseases such as cancers are at the top of the list.
However, alcohol is a contributing factor in over 60 different diseases, including cardiovascular disease, dementia, seizures, nerve damage, and high blood pressure. Alcohol has been linked to several different cancers, including mouth, throat, breast, liver, and colon cancers. Since alcohol can damage the liver, it also leads to a variety of liver diseases.
Further on the list of health benefits of not drinking alcohol include increased fertility, a stronger immune system, improved metabolism, and better skin.
What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Drinking Alcohol?
The detox process starts immediately after quitting alcohol as the body begins to rid itself of toxins. Within 48 hours, blood sugar normalizes and after 72 hours all hangover side effects have subsided, including carb cravings.
After One Week
Several effects to quitting alcohol can be seen in as little as one week. Skin appearance and complexion improves after alcohol’s dehydrating effects diminish. Sleep also improves as the disruptive symptoms that alcohol has on sleep improve.
After One Month
A study conducted by New Scientist compared blood samples and ultrasounds between those who sustained from alcohol for five weeks and those who kept drinking normally.
The study found that those who gave up alcohol for five weeks had better sleep, concentration, and work performance. Medical tests also found that their cholesterol, glucose, and liver fat all decreased.
After One Year
Quitting drinking alcohol for a year leads to a decrease in cancer risk. Benefits associated with giving up alcohol for a year also include a significant loss of belly fat.
What to Expect When You Quit Drinking
For those who drink heavily, it is recommended to detox from alcohol under the care and supervision of a medical professional.
Withdrawal symptoms of alcohol include shakiness, sweating, heightened blood pressure, and insomnia. These symptoms usually peak at 72 hours after your last drink, and fortunately, do not last much longer than that.
If you are used to drinking alcohol, you will also experience alcohol cravings. Alcohol produces a surge of endorphins that our brain associates with its reward processing. Social “triggers,” such as parties or bars, can also make giving up alcohol more difficult.
Eating a balanced diet full of protein and complex carbs can also help with alcohol cravings. Often, alcohol cravings are associated with sugar cravings or low blood sugar, proving even further that a healthy diet is key.
Quitting Alcohol and Weight Loss
Another benefit often seen from quitting alcohol is weight loss. Alcohol is often very high in calories, with beers clocking in at around 200 calories per 12 oz bottle and a fruity margarita reaching up to over 400 calories. These are empty calories, as well, providing our bodies without any nutritional value and further strengthening sugar cravings.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, alcohol is one of the biggest contributing factors to overeating.
Several studies have concluded that on average, people have much unhealthier diets overall on days that they have been drinking. Besides the fact that quitting alcohol can save you calories in itself, it can also lead to making better food decisions.
Have you ever experienced quitting alcohol for an amount of time? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below.