Health first: why Dry January can be a step in the right direction

Dr Tony Rao | December 2019 | 7 minutes

In this blog, Dr Tony Rao sets out some of the ways in which Dry January can have a positive impact on your health.

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Dry January can have some amazing benefits to your everyday life. A study from the University of Sussex, during and after Dry January 2019, conducted three self-completed online surveys at the start of the challenge, at the end and 6 months later. The findings were revealing. Around two thirds reported generally improved health, slept better and had more energy. But there’s more. Over half had lost weight and could concentrate better.

It’s easy to take your health for granted, especially if you feel fine. Many of us drink to relax, socialise or celebrate. But before we know it, alcohol can become a part of our everyday lives in a way that it starts to harm our bodies. What starts off as a routine can become a habit. When this habit becomes a problem, other people such as our family, friends or our GP might notice it first. We could easily ignore it, but doing so might be dangerous.

"Many of us drink to relax, socialise or celebrate. But before we know it, alcohol can become a part of our everyday lives in a way that it starts to harm our bodies."

Drinking above the low risk level of 14 units a week can affect the body beyond the heart, liver or brain:

  • Drinking above the low risk level of 14 units of alcohol per week can lead to changes in the way that our body maintains a healthy blood pressure. A study that reviewed 36 trials with a total of 2865 people found that for people who drank three units of alcohol or more per day, a reduction in alcohol intake was associated with a significant healthy reduction in blood pressure. It was calculated that this amounted to the potential to prevent more than 7000 inpatient hospitalisations and 678 deaths from heart disease and stroke every year in the UK.
  • Drinking above low risk limits can also lead to changes in the way that body controls its blood sugar. This can change the way that the hormone insulin is able to maintain a steady blood sugar level. With prolonged levels of unhealthy drinking, the body can become resistant to insulin. This may result in the development of diabetes. But that’s not all.
  • Drinking at unhealthy levels may also stop fat being broken down and may even increase the amount of fat that our body produces. This fat is then stored in the liver and may be the early signs of alcohol related liver disease or “fatty liver”.
  • We may also notice changes to our skin such a eczema, psoriasis or general persistent itching.

It’s naturally worrying if your health is affected in these ways, but a month off alcohol has been scientifically proven to improve your overall health, particularly if you are drinking at levels that put your health at risk. Research conducted by the Royal Free Hospital followed up 141 people who were drinking an average of just over twice the weekly low risk guidelines. This amounted to around 30 units a week – just under 3 bottles of wine, or more than 14 pints of beer. Of these people, 94 completely gave up drinking for a month, while the remainder continued to drink as usual. Blood samples were taken at the start and end of the month from each of the participants, and these samples were then analysed. The findings were remarkable. Compared with those who continued to drink at the same levels, people who gave up alcohol for month showed improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, cancer related growth factors and growth factors implicated in the development of skin cancer.

If you feel better on the inside, you are bound to feel better on the outside. Giving up alcohol for month could mean a new you. Only you will know, so give it a try! After all, your health comes first.

Give your body a month-long break from alcohol to feel the benefits for yourself. Take part in Dry January!

Sign up here