Contributed by: Matthew Boyle
The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
If you’re one of the millions of American who enjoys the occasional alcoholic beverage, you may have also experienced some of the unintended side effects. For example, the dreaded hangover, the reviled muffin top, or even the boastful beer belly.
If you’ve ever had to deal with one or more of these, you’ve probably considered possibly taking a break from alcohol to get your health back on track. But is there really a benefit to taking a break from alcohol? Even if it’s just for a month? Whether you choose to take a week, month, or a year off from alcohol, there are certainly some positive health benefits to look forward to.
This one depends on how much you consume alcohol and how close to bedtime you do it. Booze is known for inducing heavy eyelids (it is a central nervous system depressant after all) but multiple studies on alcohol’s effect on sleep have shown that the substance can do more harm than good. Drinking any alcohol before bed increases the frequency of alpha wave patterns in the brain when you fall asleep. This translates to sleep that comes quicker, but does less to truly restore your brain function.
You’ll Eat less
This is the benefit that Taco Bell doesn’t want you to know about. Most drinkers are familiar with the gargantuan appetite you gain after a period of boozing, so it should be no surprise that cutting out the drinking can lead to fewer munchies and fewer calories consumed. One Dutch study found that consuming as much as a half a drink can make you hungrier than someone who abstains. According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, in a study on the drinking and eating habits of 22,000 Americans, alcohol causes people to eat an extra 384 calories daily. In one month that can translate to 11,500 calories not even including the calories from beer!
Reduced Chance of Heart Disease
According to the American Heart Association, regular heavy drinking can raise your blood pressure over time and cause irregular heartbeats. And if you’re also consuming more calories and sleeping less, you can increase the level of triglycerides and harmful fats in the bloodstream. Over time, this can lead to plaque build up in the arteries, which could eventually result in stroke or heart attack. In one study byHarvard, participants who quit alcohol found that their cholesterol fell by an average of 5% over a period of just one month!
If you’ve ever gone to the bathroom during a night of drinking, you likely noticed some excess fluid being dispelled. This is because alcohol is a diuretic, or in other words, a substance that causes you expel fluids. Much like tea and coffee, alcohol causes you to pee more, but unlike those two substances, alcohol also decreases the body’s production of hormones that help you reabsorb water. This translates to skin that is a little more pale and dry. It can also cause more dandruff or eczema. If you quit drinking for a month, it can make your skin look and feel more hydrated.
Lower Your Risk for Cancer
This one goes along with the consumption of extra foods while drinking. In fact, the National Cancer Institute has even linked drinking booze to increased risk for cancer of the mouth, liver, breast, and colon, with that risk going up the more you drink. Even just a few drinks a week is linked to increased risk of breast cancer in women. As such, the American Cancer Society recommends that people drink no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women, especially for anyone with a family history of cancer.
Alcohol can be a bit of a thief. It robs us of our inhibitions, our time, and as we’ve shown, it also robs us of our health! Living a longer, healthier life doesn’t mean you have to cut out the booze for good, but if you’re worried that it may causing more harm than good, than try something simple like Dry July or Sober October. P.S. you don’t have to limit yourself to a month that rhymes. If you’re concerned that you may have a problem with alcohol, don’t hesitate to reach out and talk to your doctor or a professional from a certified alcohol treatment center.
Matthew Boyle is the Chief Operating Officer of Landmark Recovery, a drug and alcohol recovery center. He has been working in the healthcare space for 7 years with a new emphasis on recovery. Before his ventures into healthcare, Matthew graduated from Duke University in 2011 Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After Duke Matthew went on to work for Boston Consulting Group before he realized where his true passion lied within Recovery. His vision is to save a million lives in 100 years with a unique approach to recovery that creates a supportive environment through trust, treatment, and intervention.