(First published on ChangeExchange.co.za)
More than just a lifestyle choice, consuming alcohol affects your body in many ways…
Here’s what will happen if you decide to kick the habit.
1. Your heart gets stronger
Quitting alcohol doesn’t just lower your blood pressure and triglyceride levels; it also improves the physical functionality of your heart as a hardworking muscle. All in all, this means you’re less likely to suffer from a heart condition or stroke.
2. Your brain works better
Research shows that regular alcohol consumption can shrink the prefrontal cortex – which is linked to planning and decision-making – as well as certain parts of the cerebellum, which is responsible for balance and motor control. The result? A reduced ability to perform many functions, from thinking clearly and multitasking to moving in a coordinated manner and accessing short-term memories. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, quitting for a few months or longer will improve your problem-solving skills and reverse the negative effects of alcohol on memory and attention. Even your mood is likely to improve!
3. Your liver recovers
After just a month of sobriety, your liver fat decreases by an average of 15%. This makes your liver much healthier and improves its ability to detoxify your body effectively – and that in itself will have a host of knock-on health benefits.
4. You lose weight
Alcoholic beverages may be adding hundreds of empty calories to your diet, especially when they’re combined with high-sugar mixers like fruit juice or tonic water. Research has shown that alcohol consumption also increases your appetite for unhealthy, high-calorie foods – so it’s no surprise that cutting consumption will reduce belly fat and bloating, and help you to get (and stay) in shape.
5. You sleep better
A few drinks may make falling asleep easier, but they’re also likely to disrupt your sleep patterns and cause you to wake you up in the middle of the night. Quitting will allow you to sleep more deeply and wake up more easily the next morning, feeling refreshed, well-rested and ready for the day.
6. Your skin glows
Say goodbye to puffiness and blotchiness. After just a week of sobriety, your skin will begin to look smoother and more youthful as hydration increases and inflammation settles down. It’s like an internal makeover – and it actually saves you money!
7. Your eyes sparkle
Dehydration can make your eyes appear dull and lifeless, which – coupled with the bags under your eyes from poor sleep – can give you the appearance of someone who is constantly tired and unfocused. Reversing this will have a profound effect on your ability to make a good first impression, and look as energised as you feel.
8. Your risk of mouth, liver, oesophageal and breast cancer drops
According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2012, alcohol is responsible for 3.5% of US cancer deaths. When you drink, your body converts the alcohol into acetaldehyde, which is a chemical that damages DNA. When your DNA sequence is damaged, your cells may begin to divide when they shouldn’t, and this is how a tumour is formed. No wonder the 2012 study suggests that, “Reducing alcohol consumption is an important and underemphasized cancer prevention strategy.”
9. Your immune system strengthens
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking can weaken your immune system and leave you more vulnerable to diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis. Even one bout of excessive drinking can reduce your body’s ability to fight infections for up to 24 hours.
10. Your digestion improves
Not only does alcohol damage your pancreas and liver, but it also has a negative impact on nutrient and vitamin absorption by the small intestines. When you quit, your body becomes significantly better at eliminating toxins and utilising all the nutrients it needs to perform at its best – and allow you to perform at yours.