While a glass of wine or a bottle of beer can seem like the perfect way to unwind after a long week, or mark a special occasion, there’s a growing body of research that says alcohol isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
You don’t have to be a ‘binge drinker’ to be worried about the negative effects of alcohol on your physical and mental health either. Lately, even moderate drinking habits have been linked to an increasing list of health concerns – such as poor immunity, weight gain and cancer.
Here are 14 fantastic things that will happen your body when you go on the dry:
1. Lose Weight
One of the biggest benefits to quitting drinking is that you will drop pounds. It’s also one of the more immediate side effects which may just spur you on to keep going.
There are a few reasons why weight loss happens. Firstly, alcoholic drinks tend to be loaded with calories. A can of beer has around 154 calories, as does a rum and Coke. A Pina Colada has a whopping 425 calories per drink!
And because they are ‘empty calories’, devoid of nutrients, we still need to eat as much food as we normally would to get our full intake of vitamins and minerals.
Alcohol also tends to make us overeat – a lot! A study published in the American Journal of Nutrition highlights alcohol as one of the biggest factors behind excess food intake. Another study has shown that women who received the equivalent of two drinks in the form of an alcohol infusion ate 30% more than women who were given a saline solution.
The researchers suggest that this may be because alcohol heightens our senses. Of course, it also tends to lower our inhibitions!
2. Build Muscle
If you’re an avid gym bunny, then your hard work may be for nothing if you regularly treat yourself to Happy Hour with the girls.
Research from animal studies shows that alcohol reduces the synthesis of protein, which hinders the building of new muscle. The animals who were given more alcohol experienced decreases in both lean body mass and muscle weight.
Alcohol has also been shown to decrease the production of human growth hormone by up to 70%. This hormone is a key component in muscle growth and repair.
3. Lower Cholesterol
This benefit of quitting drinking isn’t so clear cut. If you recall from the post ‘18 Natural Ways To Lower Cholesterol Fast’, research shows that a glass of red wine daily for four weeks increases ‘good’ cholesterol by up to 16%.
However, if you drink more than a couple of glasses a day – or go over the weekly limit – then you could be doing your cholesterol levels more harm than good.
When mice were given the equivalent of two drinks a day, their levels of LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol fell by 40%. However, mice given the equivalent of seven drinks twice weekly experienced a 20% increase in LDL levels.
4. Balanced Blood Sugar
Maintaining balanced blood sugar levels is one of the biggest keys to unlocking better overall health.
Drinking alcohol – which is filled with sugar – can cause your blood glucose levels to become seriously out of whack.
As a result, you can expect cravings for carbohydrates and sweet things, headaches, dizziness, poor concentration and more. Sounds quite like a hangover doesn’t it? That’s not a coincidence. If this goes on long term, you can experience weight gain and put yourself at risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
Take a break from alcohol and see if you notice a difference to your mood and energy. Make sure to check out these tips to naturally balance your blood sugar too.
5. Healthier Liver
British research highlights the benefits of even one month on the dry!
When 102 relatively healthy men and women in their forties (who all drank more than government guidelines) abstained for four weeks, they displayed reduced ‘liver stiffness’ – an indication of disease – by 12.5%.
Their insulin resistance, a measurement of diabetes risk, had come down by 28% and they all reported a better overall sense of wellbeing.
Of course, drinking too much can take its toll on the liver in a variety of ways. But cutting down, you’ll be slashing your risk of fatty liver disease, liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Worried about the health of this vital organ? Here’s how to naturally detox your liver.
6. Risk of Disease Both Decreases and Increases!
Because red wine can lower cholesterol levels, and is one of the scientifically backed drinks for reducing blood pressure, many studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption may lower your odds of heart disease and stroke.
However, giving up alcohol means you’ll be less likely to develop cancers of the mouth, liver, breast, colon and rectum, according to the National Cancer Institute.
7. Better Sleep
Most people think that they sleep better after a nightcap. After all, that’s what they’re for, right?
Unfortunately not, according to years of research. Give up the alcohol and see for yourself – you’ll probably begin to sleep like a baby.
Even though alcohol helps us fall asleep quicker and enjoy a deep sleep for a while, a review of 27 studies says that alcohol consumption reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep – the truly deep restorative sleep that our bodies need to function properly.
While even one pre-bed drink can have an effect, the more you drink, the more REM sleep is disrupted.
Alcohol can also cause or exacerbate the serious medical condition sleep apnea, characterized by paused or shallow breathing during sleep.
A 1981 study found that men who don’t normally suffer from sleep apnea can experience it after drinking alcohol. What’s worse is that these men didn’t just suffer apneic events the night of drinking, they also suffered them the following night too.
Even more research that shows alcohol decreases the body’s melatonin levels – the hormone responsible for regulating the body’s internal clock and promoting sleepiness.
8. Increased Happiness
It’s no surprise to discover that alcohol and depression are closely linked. By cutting out booze, you may find yourself enjoying an improved mood and outlook on life – who doesn’t want that?
The misery experienced after one too many is likely caused by alcohol’s effect on serotonin levels – the neurotransmitter that helps us feel good.
A 1991 study looked at blood levels of serotonin 45 minutes after consuming alcohol. What they found was really surprising. Serotonin levels were significantly reduced and were at a similar level as the serotonin found in patients with depression!
And if you think it’s depression that causes you to hit the bottle, think again. Based on a 30-year study, the results of which were published in 2013, researchers believe that it’s more likely people are depressed because they drink heavily, rather than drinking in response to depression.
They also say that if you abstain from drinking, your depression is ‘very likely to disappear’.
9. Less Stress
What’s better than coming home after a hard day at the office and unwinding with a nice glass or two of wine? But, if overdone, drinking alcohol can actually cause more stress in the long run.
This is because it causes the body’s stress hormone – cortisol – to rise. Studies show a positive association between alcohol intake and cortisol levels, at least in older adults. For each additional unit of alcohol per week, there was a 3% increase in cortisol levels.
Stress is also linked to serotonin levels, which alcohol also affects. Low serotonin leaves us anxious and unhappy – compounding our stress.
Next time, give Happy Hour a miss and head out for a stress-relieving jog instead.
10. Improved Memory
If you’re getting forgetful, take note of your alcohol intake!
One study – which looked at the alcohol consumption patterns of over 5,000 middle-aged men and 2,000 women – discovered that heavy drinkers can experience a decline in memory, attention and reasoning skills up to six years sooner than those who drink less.
It’s not just those in middle age who are affected. Spanish researchers examined 122 university students, ranging from non-drinkers to binge drinkers.
Students were tested for logical memory, visual memory and verbal memory – with a clear association between binge drinking in healthy students and a lower ability to learn new verbal information.
The good news is that avoiding alcohol for several months to a year may reverse negative effects on thinking skills, including problem-solving, memory and attention.
11. Better Immunity
You may find, after quitting drinking, that you suddenly no longer come down with regular colds, sore throats and other infections.
That’s because alcohol has a profound and almost immediate effect on our immune system.
One recent study found that a single night of binge drinking affects the immune system within just 20 minutes of ingesting alcohol! Researchers saw an increase in total circulating levels of certain white blood cells and natural killer cells – both signs that the immune defenses are revving up.
Alcohol, when consumed in excess, also deprives the body of certain important nutrients and can reduce the ability of white blood cells to multiply – meaning they can’t fight bodily invaders like bacteria and viruses as quickly or efficiently.
12. Healthier Teeth and Gums
Alcohol contains a huge amount of sugar – the single worst thing you can consume for your oral hygiene. In fact, alcohol made our list as one of the 25 most surprising sources of hidden sugar!
In an analysis of different drinks, the worst offenders included cream-based liquors at 19.5g of sugar per 3.5oz, sherry at 9.5g per 3.3oz and cider at 20.5g per pint.
Ever notice how your mouth is completely parched the morning after a few drinks? That’s because alcohol reduces saliva production – one of your mouth’s main defenses against bacteria. Without enough saliva, we can suffer plaque build-up, bacteria and bad breath.
So cut out the wine and you may find you’re seeing your dentist less often!
13. Glowing Skin
Suffering from dry, itchy or blemished skin? Alcohol could be a possible cause, especially if you have psoriasis, eczema or rosacea.
Two out of three rosacea patients experienced a flare-up of facial redness and bumps after just one alcoholic drink.
Of course, all the sugar in alcohol is sure to do your skin no favors either. Once you’ve cut out alcohol, try some of these natural tips to boost your skin health.
14. Heightened Libido and Fertility
Alcohol affects men and women in different ways when it comes to libido but can impact both negatively in terms of future fertility.
Both chronic alcoholism and occasional excessive alcohol consumption ignite desire but impede performance in men. However, research says alcohol consumption increases sexual desire, arousal and pleasure in women.
For both sexes, alcohol can have a negative effect long term though. For men, sexual impotence due to erectile dysfunction after alcohol abuse can persist even after years of sobriety. The problem is also thought to be physical as opposed to psychological or hormonal, meaning the damage can be permanent.
For women, even drinking between one and five drinks a week (within the recommended guidelines) can reduce a women’s chances of conceiving, says Danish research.
Bottom line: if you want to start a family, sip white tea instead of white wine.