It’s the talk of many friend groups and offices once we return from the festive break in January, ‘are you doing dry January?’ but apart from hoping on the annual trend what are the actual benefits to taking part in dry January.
What is Dry January?
Dry January is an annual challenge where participants abstain from drinking alcohol during the month of January that was started by Alcohol Change UK in 2011. This is often thought of to offset the excessive drinking that many of us take part in in December but has multiple health benefits.
For many Dry January can offer up the opportunity to review the relationship we have with alcohol. In Scotland we have historically had quite a poor relationship with drinking in excess. According to the 2021 Scottish Health Survey 23% of us had the prevalence of hazardous or harmful levels of weekly alcohol consumption. This has declined from 34% in 2003 but we still have a way to go. You can read more about this study here.
It’s clear we could benefit from considering our intake throughout the year but for those looking to try and cut back to experience what the benefits could be, Dry January is a really positive start. 8 million people took part in 2021 according to Alcohol Change UK
We have put a list of ways you can improve your health and well being by taking part.
Alcohol can prevent the body from burning fat which contributes to sugar and starch intakes which causes further cravings of foods higher in fat. This cycle can then contribute to weight gain so cutting out alcohol even just for a month can help cut cravings.
Abstaining from alcoholic drinks means you’re avoiding filling up on empty calories. Alcohol is high in calories and when drinking in excess it can be hard to track how many we’ve had and won’t fill us up in the same way gaining calories from more nutritious foods would. Studies have shown cutting out alcohol can impact not just weight loss but insulin resistance and cancer-related growth issues.
One of the quickest benefits you will start to experience is improved sleep. Specialists say you can notice better sleep within the first week of cutting out alcohol. Alcohol disrupts sleep as it reduces rapid eye movement sleep (REM). REM sleep is important as this is when you do the most dreaming, it plays an important role in emotional processing, memory, and healthy brain development.
Alcohol is also a diuretic meaning you will have to urinate more frequently if you drink in excess which can cause interruptions in the middle of the night. Better quality sleep improves energy levels, productivity, and focus.
Dehydration caused by alcohol consumption can dry skin quickly causing it to look dull and grey. As a result of drinking alcohol in excess skin condition flare ups are more likely. 90% of patients with conditions like as rosacea which includes redness, dilated blood vessels and pimples on the face, say cutting back on alcohol helps in reducing flare ups.
Alcohol can cause water retention which can appear in your face making it look bloated and puffy. Along with bloodshot eyes and thinning hair, regular alcohol consumption can have a massive effect on your complexion and self-confidence.
According to HSE alcohol causes 4 out of 5 deaths from liver disease. Drinking too much alcohol can overwhelm the liver function that breaks it down and regular abuse of the substance can lead to liver disease. Luckily the liver is largely regenerative and, except for severe damage, can recover quickly. The liver will begin to heal after a few days of drinking and can usually fully recover but if the damage is severe it can take several month to recover. Instances of this kind of damage are caused by excessive binge drinking.
Alcohol consumption can cause imbalance of the central nervous system, vasoconstrictors and the receptors that controls the brain and for this reason has been linked to bad blood pressure. The good news is blood pressure can improve significantly after just one month of no alcohol. Alcohol also contains calories and may cause weight gain which is a risk factor for high blood pressure.
The significant benefits of cutting out alcohol on your health and well being, even for just the month of January, are why this trend has gained so much momentum through the years. It allows the body and mind to reset and recover. What better way to start the year.
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