This Is What Actually Happens To Your Body When You Stop Drinking For A Month

More energy in our bodies, more cash in our wallets.
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As we recover from the festive season, many people are undertaking Dry January — a 31 day challenge to abstain from alcohol for “a total body and mind reset”.

While some people use this as an opportunity just to detox after a heavy drinking season, others use it to get started on a full-time sobriety journey. Last year, 175,000 people signed up for the official challenge and this year, they’re hoping to reach 200,000 people. (There’s even an app to help people stay on track.)

“Many people flock to dry January as part of this ‘new year, new me’ mentality,” Leigh Winters, a neuroscientist and holistic wellness expert, told HuffPost. “I presume that some people are coming off a drinking bender — feeling like they enjoyed a little too much wine or beer over the holiday season. And for those who don’t abuse alcohol, it seems like an obtainable and easy New Year’s resolution that can put you on the path to better health.”

But what does completing Dry January i.e. doing 31 days sober mean for your body? Let’s dive in.

Your skin will look and feel better

Alcohol dehydrates not only your body, but also your skin, said Debra Jaliman, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

If you’re an excessive drinker, you can develop a zinc deficiency, which can cause a histamine reaction that leads to facial redness and flushing, or rosacea, Jaliman said. Research shows that alcohol consumption is linked to a higher risk of rosacea in women. During Dry January, you may start to notice your skin looks and feels better ― but once you start drinking again, Jaliman said, alcohol will start to have a dehydrating effect within weeks.

If and when you do start to drink again, Jaliman suggests drinking clear liquor like vodka. “It won’t trigger rosacea,” she said.

You’ll get better Zs

No more nightcaps. “Cutting back or eliminating alcohol can dramatically improve your sleep,” said Marc Milstein, a brain health researcher whose work focuses on the science of sleep.

Milstein explained that alcohol destroys a brain stimulant called glutamate that helps keep you awake. However, when the brain notices this stimulant has been destroyed by alcohol, it starts making more.

“This usually happens in the middle of the night,” he said, “and that making of the glutamate stimulant then wakes you up and ruins your night’s sleep.”

You may have more energy

Sacha Cohen, founder of a Washington, D.C.-based public relations company, plans to participate in Dry January for the fourth year this month. The 48-year-old said the biggest benefit she’s experienced is weight loss, but she’s also noticed she has significantly more energy.

“In the mornings, I’m more apt to jump out of bed than slowly get up,” she said. “My focus is better. I just feel more upbeat.”

You might even feel like a “well-oiled machine”

Adriane Abraham, a certified personal trainer and CEO of a Florida fitness studio, considers alcohol consumption akin to not taking care of your car.

“Your body is your vehicle,” she explained. “Drinking is empty calories [and like] running your vehicle on a spare tire. You’re going to be slower in general. You’re not going to function like that well-oiled machine. Taking 30 days off of drinking is going to show a person that hasn’t done this how well they’re going to feel.”

And your mental health may improve

Sometimes, after a stressful day, it just seems natural to grab a beer or a glass of wine to take the edge off. But research shows that alcohol can actually exacerbate anxiety in some cases. In the short term, alcohol’s depressant effect can make you feel better. Long-term, however, heavy drinking can lead to a host of medical and psychological problems, according to the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. So giving up alcohol for a month ― or longer, in some cases ― may have some positive effects on your mental health.

And there’s more...

Research published in the British Medical Journal found that just a month off alcohol can lower blood pressure, reduce diabetes risk, lower cholesterol and reduces levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood.

Additionally, research conducted by the University of Sussex found that after Dry January, more than 70% of people who take on the challenge have a healthier relationship with alcohol altogether.

Alcohol Change UK says that this is because, “being alcohol-free for 31 days shows us that we don’t need alcohol to have fun, to relax, or to socialise. It helps us learn the skills we need to manage our drinking.

“That means that for the rest of the year we are better able to make decisions about when we drink and how much, so we can avoid slipping into drinking more than we really want to.”

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