Dry January has become a tradition for millions of people, who for their New Year’s resolution pledge to give up drinking alcohol for the entire month. Dry January, which is supported by the charity Alcohol Change UK, is just a recognition that alcohol drinking does have effects on us and gives us a chance to discover what those effects are – ironically by cutting alcohol out of our diet! But is Dry January beneficial for our health and if so, how?
Around 25% of English adults regularly exceed the Chief Medical Officer’s low-risk guidelines, which currently stand at a weekly tally of 14 units for men and women. The Chief Medical Officer also recommends that drinking should be spread over 3 or more days, to avoid binge drinking. Furthermore, according to the charity Alcohol Change UK, in the UK in 2016 alone there were more than 9,000 alcohol related deaths. So, with that in mind, let’s look at the potential health benefits of a Dry January.
• Alcohol is a known cause of many health problems, including various cancers and liver disease in particular. As it can take your liver up to six weeks to recover from a heavy session of alcohol, if you have indulged over the Festive Period, the Dry January will give your liver time to heal.
• Alcohol is packed with so called ‘empty calories’ which provide energy without offering any other nutritional benefits. For some people alcohol can account for up to 10% of their total calorie intake, with each unit containing around 50 calories, not to mention the other potential ingredients such as fruit juice, cream and so on. A standard glass of wine contains 150 calories while a pint of beer has 220. On top of this, alcohol stimulates your appetite which can lead to over eating during meals and snacking outside of mealtimes. So, if you lay off the booze during Dry January, you may find that you drop a few pounds. Furthermore, with a reduction in alcohol your diet may improve, so that you begin to look healthier, with brighter skin and eyes. In addition, eating healthy meals may help abate any craving you may have for alcohol, so it is a win-win.
• Alcohol is known to depress mood and affect sleep. So, a Dry January may leave you feeling well rested with more energy and in better form.
• Many people take part in Dry January in order to recalibrate their relationship with alcohol. The Dry January may help break a pattern of regular alcohol drinking and make drinkers more mindful of their alcohol consumption, especially if they feel better following abstinence for a month.
Ultimately Dry January could kick start a healthy new you. However, a warning: If you regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week, you may be alcohol dependent. This means that you should not suddenly stop drinking as you may experience withdrawal symptoms. If this is the case for you, you should seek medical advice before embarking on any reduction programme.
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