One month alcohol-free - what's happening in your body?

Lauren Booker | January 2021 | 7 minutes

A month alcohol-free sees many people with more energy, a boosted mood and extra cash in their pocket - but there are lots of brilliant benefits under the surface too...

Soft, plump, peachy skin

A 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. A low tissue water content, courtesy of your daily tipple, is the sworn enemy of soft, plump, peachy skin. Booze is also one of the big triggers for rosacea, or facial redness. As if that wasn’t enough, a few weeks off the sauce should see the size of facial pores diminish too.

Blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol

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.* 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.

Your good ol’ liver

But what about your liver? Your poor old liver has to process booze into waste products along with the other 500 or so tasks it performs in your body. So giving it 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’.† Brilliant! Who wants a stiff liver?! (This stiffness is an early sign of liver disease, in case you were wondering.) And how about number twos? 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.

Immune system

Booze suppresses your body’s immune system, so when you’re free and clear of it for a few weeks 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.

Congratulations!

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.+

And finally...

Remember, some people will experience the benefits of going dry at different times, or not at all. This can be down to how much you were drinking before, other lifestyle changes or just the quirks of your particular body. That doesn’t mean your month off hasn’t done you good, and it doesn’t mean you won’t feel better over the longer term – so don’t give up! There are plenty of good things happening internally which you might not notice at first.

* 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.

† Mehta, G., et al., 2015, ‘Short term abstinence from alcohol improves insulin resistance and fatty liver phenotype in moderate drinkers’, Hepatology 62(1), 267A

+ 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.

This text was adapted from Try Dry: The Official Guide to a Month Off Booze. You can buy it in a shop near you, online, or download the ebook for just £1.99! If you’ve got a question about going alcohol-free for a month, this book has the answer.

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