Benefits of Dry January, and when you can expect to see them

December 2019 | 8 minutes

So, you’re keen to try a month without alcohol but what’s in it for you? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot! In this blog we talk through some of the main benefits from Dry January, and when you can expect to see them.

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In the first week

In the first week you may already start to notice some changes. You may find that you have more energy and better concentration. Even if you toss and turn a bit at first, when you do drop off you’ll get better-quality sleep and probably wake feeling more refreshed the next day.

In the second week

During the second week, things get even better. You might experience what lots of people describe as ‘the fog lifting’. This is another way of saying clearer thinking and more energy. You may also notice a reduction in acid reflux, a burning sensation in the throat also known as heartburn.

Another thing you may find around the two-week mark is that you’re much more in tune with how much water your body needs - you’re going to be better hydrated! You’re also going to see gym gains quicker.

In the third week

You may be noticing the pounds dropping off as you cut out the booze - especially if you're using your newfound free time to get exercising. As the average pint can rack up 200 plus calories and a large glass of wine about the same it’s easy to see why you might find your waistband loosening after a couple of weeks.

By now, you might also start to notice improvements in your memory, particularly your short-term memory. You might find that you can retain information for longer, you’re less forgetful or that you’re more able to focus your attention.

After one month

After one month of no alcohol, your risk of developing certain cancers, including two of the most common worldwide – breast and colorectal – is diminishing. According to a 2018 report in the Lancet, by reducing your drinking, you also reduce your risk of strokes, heart disease and hypertensive disease and could increase your life expectancy [1].

Another lovely side effect of no booze might start to appear around this time: your skin starting to look amazing. Alcohol reduces the production of anti-diuretic hormone, so you lose water and sodium more quickly. This is the sworn enemy of soft, plump, peachy skin. Booze is also one of the big triggers for rosacea, or facial redness. A few weeks off alcohol should lead to a reduction in facial redness, and see the size of facial pores diminish too!

If you’ve got high blood pressure, there’s a good chance it’ll start to come down by the end of your challenge. Research has found that just four weeks without a drink can be enough to start lowering both blood pressure and heart rate [2]. And your risk of type 2 diabetes has already started to reduce (in one study insulin resistance came down by an average of 28 per cent), and your cholesterol levels should be starting to lower.

Giving your liver a little holiday means that it can focus on its other jobs. One research study found that just four weeks without a drink can substantially reduce liver ‘stiffness’ [3]. Brilliant! Who wants a stiff liver?! (This stiffness is an early sign of liver disease, in case you were wondering.) On top of this, if you’ve been experiencing bloating, wind and either diarrhoea or constipation, you’ve probably noticed a reduction in symptoms by now. Relief all round.

A few weeks without alcohol is also great for your immune system. You’ll notice that you are less likely to succumb to every little cold virus that hits the office, and even if you do come down with something, your recovery time will be reduced. There. Hope you’re feeling better already.

The above is a guide, not a strict timetable. Some people will experience these benefits at different times, or not at all. This can be down to how much you were drinking before, other lifestyle changes (if you’re ditching your nightcap for an espresso, you’re not likely to have better sleep) or just the quirks of your particular body. That doesn’t mean a month off won’t do you any good, and it doesn’t mean you won’t feel better over the longer term – so don’t give up if you’re not experiencing these effects exactly as they’re laid out above. And keep an eye out for benefits not mentioned above!

A great way to keep track of improvements on the inside and out during the month is to keep a diary. Look back on it when the month is up so you can see just how far you’ve come!

References

[1] Wood, A. M., et al., 2018, ‘Risk thresholds for alcohol consumption: Combined analysis of individual-participant data for 599,912 current drinkers in 83 prospective studies’, Lancet 391(10 129), 1513–23.
[2] Teresa Aguilera, M., de la Sierra, A., Coca, Antonio, Estruch, Ramon, Fernández-Solà, Joaquim, Urbano-Márquez, A., 1999, ‘Effect of alcohol abstinence on blood pressure: Assessment by 24-Hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring’, Hypertension 33, 653-7.
[3] Mehta, G., et al., 2015, ‘Short term abstinence from alcohol improves insulin resistance and fatty liver phenotype in moderate drinkers’, Hepatology 62(1), 267A