Dry January is the concept of cutting out alcohol for the first month of the new year. However, it can be done at any time when you might feel that going dry is right for you. You may want to detox after the festive period or have it be a way to reduce how much you drink.
Unhealthy alcohol consumption is now the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States, and worldwide, alcohol is linked to approximately 3 million deaths per year. A group of liver specialists have found that abstaining from alcohol for a month improves liver function, blood pressure and markers associated with cancer. So it seems that dry January could actually do really great things for your health when approached correctly.
- You can improve your general health
Excessive drinking can lead to serious negative health outcomes, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even cancer. There's also the fact that more and more people are ending up in the emergency room from alcohol-related causes, which means that cutting back on alcohol (or cutting it out completely) can lower your risk of an acute health emergency as well. So, even though abstaining for one month won’t turn back the clock on long-term health issues, it likely couldn’t hurt as far as your health is concerned.
While we don't know exactly what effect dry January will have on your liver, we do know that alcohol puts metabolic stress on the liver and that about half of all liver disease deaths are from alcoholic liver disease. It's reasonable to assume that abstaining from drinking is generally good for your liver—as long as you don't use this hiatus as an excuse to drink however much you want the other 11 months of the year.
- You'll learn how your body feels without booze.
The biggest benefit is learning where your body is in relation to alcohol and what you want your relationship with it to be. If, for instance, you've been feeling not your best lately and you suspect that your regular (or excessive) drinking habits might be contributing to that, it could be helpful to see how you're feeling (mentally, physically, socially, etc.) when you don't drink for a month. For some people, it can be a great way to hit the reset button and get their systems back on track.
- You'll sleep better and feel more energized.
It may help you feel more clear headed and experience better sleep along with regular digestion. This can help you feel more energetic and stay motivated to get in your workouts and stick to overall healthy eating habits. And the sheer fact that you're not going out drinking most nights can lead to sleeping more and skipping fewer workouts. All of that can impact how productive you are, how focused you are at work, and how you feel overall.
- You will strengthen your immune system.
When it comes to your immune system, the snowball effect of positive health habits may be more influential than just abstaining from alcohol. Being intoxicated can acutely suppress immune function, making you more vulnerable to pathogens, while chronic drinking can lead to inflammatory reactions throughout the body. While there isn't data to suggest that ditching booze can protect you from the flu, it's reasonable to assume that drinking less, sleeping more, and exercising more can all have a positive influence on your immune system.
- You could lose some weight.
If you're having several drinks a week, one result of dry January could be a decrease in your overall caloric intake, since a standard drink typically has around 150 calories. If you're trying to lose weight or be mindful of how much you're consuming, cutting alcohol can be one way to approach it without compromising any of the fuel and nutrients your body needs. Alcohol contributes calories but doesn't make us feel more satisfied—it often amps up hunger. Since alcohol has a dehydrating effect, it can make you bloat and also impair your judgment, which may lead you to make food choices that can make you feel not so great.
- You can reevaluate your relationship with alcohol.
Once your dry month is over, check in with yourself to see how the experiment went and what that might mean for your drinking habits going forward. Do you feel better? Healthier? More productive? Have you saved money? Do you really miss being able to chat with colleagues or a date over a beer? Maybe you've found that you're more energized without all those hangovers, or you're less lethargic after a night of drinking. Or maybe you've found that you basically feel the same and just miss the social aspects of drinking with friends. All of these are helpful takeaways to consider after your experiment.
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