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What happens when you stop drinking alcohol?

By Georgina Lavan

 

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Source: Simpson’s Wiki

The silly season is in full swing and we’re celebrating with family, friends and work colleagues. Come January 1st, we’ll make the pact to do something different for 2017, and quite often, most of our resolutions revolve around alcohol.

So what happens when someone gives up alcohol?

Improvements in sleep quality:

Whilst you may find it easier to fall asleep after a night of drinking, the overall quality of sleep is poor when compared to an alcohol free night’s sleep. Drinking alcohol has been found to increase alpha wave patterns in the brain, which are experienced during times of wakefulness. Melatonin levels are also affected when consuming alcohol. A disturbed night’s sleep can therefore have a flow on effect on the following day, affecting concentration, mood and cognitive performance.

Decreases in liver fat:

Accumulating fat around your liver is a common symptom from excessive drinking. Cutting out alcohol can reduce the size of your liver and reduce the likelihood of developing cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), which if diagnosed, is irreversible.

A decrease in blood glucose levels:

Drinking alcoholic beverages containing sugar can put pressure on the pancreas, resulting in a spike in your blood sugar levels. By removing alcohol, you’re removing any forgotten sugars in your diet from alcoholic mixers, reducing the fluctuations in blood sugar levels. This in turn is also reducing the risk of developing type II diabetes.

A decrease in cholesterol levels:

Our drinking culture in Australia means that more of us may experience increased cholesterol levels and heart disease, one of the leading causes of death. By removing beer (containing carbs) and margarita’s (containing sugar) from your diet, you’re reducing triglyceride levels in your system, meaning there is less fat found in your bloodstream.

Cancer reduction:

Alcohol has been linked to the likes of liver, breast, colon and mouth cancer. Those who drink more than 50 grams of alcohol per day, the equivalent of three standard drinks, were two to three times more likely to develop cancer compared to non-drinkers (Baan, Robert, Kurt Straif, Yann Grosse, Béatrice Secretan, Fatiha El Ghissassi, Véronique Bouvard, Andrea Altieri, Vincent Cogliano, and WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer Monograph Working Group, 2007). In particular, women who drank more than 45 grams of alcohol per day were 1.5 times more likely to develop breast cancer compared to non-drinkers (Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer, 2002).

Improvements in your skin:

Alcohol acts as a diuretic, meaning you’re required to urinate more frequently when you drink. This results in the loss of hydration in your skin, but more importantly, reduces the absorption of many vitamins as your organs focus on excreting the alcohol from your system. Whilst this has an effect on all parts of your body, your skin shows the most obvious signs of dehydration. Cutting alcohol out of your life can reverse dehydrated skin within a few days.

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol abuse, visit Alcoholics Anonymous for more information.

References

Baan, R., Straif, K., Grosse, Y., Secretan, B., El Ghissassi, F., Bouvard, V., … & WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer Monograph Working Group. (2007). Carcinogenicity of alcoholic beverages. The lancet oncology,8(4), 292-293.

Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. (2002). Alcohol, tobacco and breast cancer–collaborative reanalysis of individual data from 53 epidemiological studies, including 58,515 women with breast cancer and 95,067 women without the disease. British journal of cancer87(11), 1234-45.

Talking alcohol. (2016). Alcoholism. Retrieved 6 July, 2016, from http://www.talkingalcohol.com.au/files/factsheets/body_alcoholandthebody.pdf

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