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Dry January: How banning booze affects your body

If you drink alcohol, you’ve probably had your fair share in December. Thinking of all the mulled wine leading up towards Christmas, the celebratory cocktails on New Year’s Eve and everything in between, it all adds up. If you’re feeling the effects, you may have signed up for Dry January – the UK’s one-month booze-free challenge. Last year, 71 percent of participants had better sleep, 67 percent had more energy and 58 percent lost weight. According to alcoholchange.org.uk, it only takes three weeks to break a habit, so this could lead to happier, healthier drinking habits in the long term. Here’s why Dry January is a rewarding way to start the year. 

It only takes three weeks to break a habit, so this could lead to healthier long-term drinking habits

Better sleep 

Anyone who is partial to a glass of wine, a pint of lager or a gin and tonic will have experienced drowsiness due to alcohol. As a depressant, alcohol makes you fall asleep quicker, but the idea that it improves sleep is a total myth. It actually leads to poor quality sleep in the long run. Waking up in the middle of the night is often a response to alcohol interrupting your circadian rhythm. As a diuretic which causes increased passing of urine, drinking alcohol can lead to more bathroom trips overnight too. And, it can also aggravate breathing problems and snoring which might make it even tougher to drift off. You only have one or two cycles of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep when you’ve been drinking, and you may enjoy an extra five to six cycles if you go dry for a month. 

More energy 

Linked to sleep, giving up alcohol will make you more productive, with a greater ability to concentrate. Excessive alcohol consumption leads to splitting headaches, sickness, dizziness and dehydration – symptoms which make up a hangover and cause energy levels to plummet. Perhaps the worst is dehydration, as drinking six glasses of wine means losing 19–24 glasses of water. Along with this, salt and potassium levels fall which impacts normal muscle function and causes fatigue and nausea. So, Dry January could be the key to keeping you hydrated and ready to take on everything the day throws at you. If you complete the four weeks, the water absorbed into your body may also lead to healthier-looking skin. 

Dry January could keep you hydrated and ready to take on everything the day throws at you

Losing weight 

Many people will sign up to Dry January as part of their New Year weight-loss plan. It’s true that staying sober for a month could lead to a slimmer figure, whatever your usual tipple is. If you gave up drinking six glasses of wine a week, you’d save 960 calories. If you stopped drinking six pints of lager a week, you’d be saving 1080 calories. But this isn’t the only way that abstaining from alcohol helps you shed the pounds. After drinking, ghrelin, the hormone that makes you feel hungry goes up, and leptin, the hormone that makes you feel full goes down. Dry January will therefore give you more control of your food intake, allowing you to crack down on unnecessary snacking.  

If you stopped drinking six pints of lager a week, you’d be saving 1080 calories

Reduced risk of cancer and diseases 

High alcohol consumption is linked to more than 60 health conditions, including liver disease, high blood pressure, depression and seven types of cancer. According to alcoholchange.org.uk, alcohol is the biggest cause of death for people aged between 15 and 49 in the UK. Therefore, cutting back on alcohol reduces your risk of developing life-limiting conditions. For more information on your own cardiovascular disease and cancer risk factors, our CardiacQlu and CancerQlu genetic tests provide you with all the information you need. Our detailed reports can help with early detection and reducing the risks through simple changes to your current lifestyle. 

Alcohol is the biggest cause of death for people aged between 15 and 49 in the UK

After a whole month without alcohol, you’ll be sleeping better, completing day-to-day tasks with more energy and managing your weight more. Dry January will also improve liver function, improving your body’s ability to remove impurities and store minerals and vitamins. Being alcohol-free for 31 days will also prove that it’s not needed to socialise, have fun or relax, so those participating are usually more willing to control their drinking habits more throughout the year. According to drinkaware.co.uk, people who quit alcohol for a month are 72 percent likely to be mindful about reducing their levels of harmful drinking for six months. See if you can extend that to a whole 12 months for a healthier and more fulfilled 2019! 


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