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8 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Stop Drinking Alcohol for a Month

Improvements in sleep, blood pressure, mood and more


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If you’ve made it through the Dry January challenge or are giving up alcohol for Lent, you’ve likely noticed some significant changes to your body. The good news is that you can give up drinking for at least a month any time and be surprised at the results.

“With a reduction of alcohol consumption, you have an opportunity to experience some important health benefits, which can serve as a starting point to meet your goals,” says Sandeep Kapoor, assistant vice president for emergency medicine addiction services at Northwell Health in New York. He says, however, if you drink every day, you should consult with a health professional before quitting cold turkey.

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In addition to the health benefits listed below, research has found that those who give up alcohol for a month — whether it be Dry January, Lent or any other month — tend to drink less alcohol long-term.

Here are eight things that happen to your body when you teetotal for a month.

1. You’ll sleep better

While it may initially make you drowsy and help you fall asleep faster, alcohol can also disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm, making it harder in the long run to fall asleep when you want to, says Manassa Hany, medical director of Mount Sinai West’s Outpatient Addiction Clinic in New York. It particularly disrupts REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is crucial for cognitive function, memory consolidation and overall restorative sleep. As your body metabolizes alcohol, it can cause you to wake up more frequently throughout the night, interrupting your sleep pattern and reducing overall sleep duration so you wake up feeling less rested.

Hany says that once you stop drinking, you may initially find it more difficult to fall asleep. Your sleep, he says, will be restored gradually during the first four weeks, but after that you’ll sleep more deeply and wake up more rested.

2. You’ll be more hydrated

As you eliminate alcohol, which causes dehydration, your body will begin to absorb more water, improving the functioning of every organ, including your skin and your brain. Gradually, as cell turnover increases, the damage alcohol may have done will begin to be reversed.

Because alcohol deprives your skin of nutrients, when you stop drinking you may notice that your skin has a healthier glow. You’ll also see fewer wrinkles, less puffiness and an elimination of red blotches. Premature skin aging will subside, and if you have dandruff or eczema, they too may disappear. Your mood and concentration should improve, because when your brain is well hydrated, it functions better.

3. You’ll have better liver function

The liver, your body’s largest internal organ, is a filter for everything you put into it. It aids in digestion, stores minerals and vitamins, regulates blood clotting and eliminates waste. It also helps fight infection, eliminates bacteria from the blood and maintains hormone balance.

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Hany says the ethanol from which alcohol is made is a toxin and too much can tax, damage and even destroy your liver cells by causing fat to accumulate. If the damage isn’t too great, though, a month-long break can allow your liver to recover.

 4. Inflammation will decrease

The ethanol in alcohol inflames your liver cells and causes the liver to swell, says Mohammad Alhabbal, the medical director at AdCare Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts. Because your liver is connected to your pancreas through biliary ducts, he says, your pancreas will begin to overproduce enzymes and become inflamed, as will your GI system, your esophagus and your stomach. Continual inflammation of the organs, he warns, can eventually lead to them shutting down and then shutting off.

A Month Without Drinking

Surveys of more than 1,000 people who tried giving up alcohol for a month found that:

  • 93 percent of participants had a sense of achievement
  • ​88 percent saved money​
  • 70 percent had generally improved health​
  • 71 percent slept better​
  • 67 percent had more energy ​
  • 58 percent lost weight​
  • 57 percent had better concentration​
  • 54 percent had better skin

​Source: University of Sussex

In a month’s time, says Alhabbal, inflammation will decrease significantly, and damage can be reversed.

5. You’ll likely lose weight

If you stop drinking alcohol, you may lose weight. Because alcohol slows down your metabolism, you can easily gain weight when drinking. When your metabolism slows, your body needs to work harder to process fats and sugars. On its own, alcohol is high in sugar and empty calories, and when you add mixers, you’re likely to substantially increase your calorie intake.

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Drinking alcohol tends to decrease your inhibitions, so it’s likely you’ll also eat more junk food. Alcohol enhances the taste of salt and fat. When you stop drinking, not only will you likely consume fewer calories, but you’ll have more energy and that may even increase your activity level.

6. Your immune system will work better

Your immune system keeps you healthy. Drinking alcohol weakens that system, making you more vulnerable to infections and diseases. You don’t have to be a regular heavy drinker for alcohol to affect your immune system. If you have 5-6 drinks in a single session, you can suppress your immune system for up to 24 hours, according to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation. If you drink regularly, alcohol can also prevent nutrients from feeding your immune system. It also reduces the white blood cells in your body, making it more difficult to fight off disease. In a month’s time, though, your immune system will have the ability to recover.

7. Your blood pressure will drop

Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. If you already have high blood pressure or hypertension, you might be well served to stop drinking. According to the American Heart Association, as you age, even one drink a day could raise your blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. 

8. Your mood will improve

Ethanol is the main ingredient in alcohol.  Initially, it tends to calm you, but eventually it leads to hangovers, mood swings, exhaustion and depression. Alcohol raises cortisol levels in your brain that increase stress. Ironically, the negative emotions you may have wanted to initially suppress when you drink may become heightened.  But when you stop using alcohol, you’ll find yourself being motivated and your mood will stabilize.

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