A happy New Year to you all!
Have you been binge drinking over the festive season because, well, you just can?
Dry January has arrived, and this awareness month is not just to get the public to stop drinking, but to bring to your attention the effects of alcohol and the health benefits of cutting down on the drink.
A study published in 2018 conducted by the Royal Free Hospital found that a month of no alcohol lowers blood pressure, reduces diabetes risk, lowers cholesterol, and reduces levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood. During Dry January last year, statistics show 71% slept better and 58% lost weight.
Why do we drink?
Alcohol hits the neurochemical pathways in our brains and releases endorphins that make us feel good. A beer or a cocktail can temporarily provide a sense of ease and comfort, so no wonder so many of us gravitate to the drink to unwind.
Alcohol’s impact on your body starts from the moment you take your first sip. Below are some of the systems in the body alcohol influence:
Central Nervous System
One of the easiest ways to understand alcohol’s impact on your body is by looking at the central nervous system; slurred speech is a key sign that shows you have had too much to drink.
Alcohol can reduce communication between your brain and your body. This makes coordination more difficult.
Drinking also makes it difficult for your brain to create long-term memories. It also reduces your ability to think clearly and make rational choices. Over time, frontal lobe damage can occur. This area of the brain is responsible for emotional control, short-term memory, and judgement, in addition to other vital roles.
Alcohol can affect your heart and lungs. People who are chronic drinkers of alcohol have a higher risk of heart-related issues than people who do not drink. Circulatory system complications include high blood pressure, tachycardia, stroke, heart disease and heart failure.
Long-term alcohol use disrupts the liver to break down and remove harmful substances, including alcohol. It also increases your risk for chronic liver inflammation and liver disease; this can form scar tissue which can destroy the liver and make it difficult to remove toxic substances.
As well as liver function getting impaired, the pancreas may also get damaged, which can prevent the body from producing insulin, leading to high amounts of sugar in the blood.
The connection between alcohol consumption and your digestive system might not seem immediately clear, but 20% of it gets absorbed in the stomach and 80% in the small intestines, which can be a problem if you have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
Alcohol consumption can cause dysbiosis in the gut microbiome, reducing the number of friendly gut bacteria and increasing the unfriendly gut bacteria.
Drinking alcohol can have a profound effect on the gut and can influence what kind and how many bacteria live there. Even a single episode of drinking can damage the gut wall and can also lead to the malabsorption of essential vitamins and minerals. Heavy drinking can also cause bloating, higher levels of gas and irregular bowel movements.
Skeletal and muscle systems
Long-term alcohol use may prevent your body from keeping your bones strong. This habit may cause thinner bones and increase your risk for fractures if you fall. Drinking alcohol leads to muscle weakness, cramping, and eventually atrophy.
Drinking heavily reduces your body’s natural immune system. This makes it more difficult for your body to fight off invading germs and viruses.
How to dry Jan?
- Take vitamin B – after an alcohol-friendly December, our levels of vitamin B have probably depleted, which affects mood, energy and appetite.
- Eat regularly.
- Find alternatives to alcohol – drinks like kombucha sure do taste like lager, without ethanol, and as a bonus, they feed friendly gut bacteria!
- Stay hydrated – drink lots of water, add things like mint, lemon, cucumber or berries to add flavour, or drink herbal teas.
- Exercise – get out and release built-up toxins whilst producing feel-good hormones at the same time!
By the end of Dry January, you are likely to have reduced your calorie intake by 3,840 for the month if you used to drink six glasses of 175ml wine a week, or 4,320 calories over the month if you used to drink six pints of lager a week!
If this resonates with you then…
If you want to discuss dietary changes for your skin, take advantage of our 15-minute sessions with a Nutritionist or Functional Medicine Practitioner. Each session is designed to give you the support you need throughout your journey to optimal health.
This article was written by our team of specialist therapists at Perfect Balance Clinic. If you would like more specific advice about how our team can help you with this condition or symptoms you may be having, please complete the contact form below and one of the team will get back to you shortly.