Men's Health, Weight loss, Women's Health | June 29, 2018 | Author: Naturopath
With the month of July just around the corner, many people are once again going booze-free as part of the Dry July campaign to raise money for organisations that support cancer across Australia.
Whether you are a heavy drinker or an occasional social drinker, abstaining from alcohol for a month can be difficult. Alcohol is a social lubricant and has a sedative effect on the body, making you feel generally relaxed and used by many to relieve social anxiety. A regular and moderate wine consumption has been even recommended as part of a healthy Mediterranean diet.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of benefits in going ‘dry’ for a month and the experience can be very rewarding.
Long term drop in alcohol consumption. One month of abstinence can lead to lasting effects on drinking behaviour.
A study of participants in “Dry January” (a similar campaign to Dry July, in the UK) found that the majority of participants reduced their alcohol intake in the six months after completing the abstinence challenge.
Interestingly, even those who failed to complete the whole month alcohol-free reduced their alcohol consumption in the following six months.
Sense of achievement. 82% of the participants in the Dry January campaign reported felling a Sense of Accomplishment.
Healthier liver, reduced blood sugar and cholesterol levels. When you drink, your liver removes the alcohol from your blood and breaks it down, acting as a detoxifier. However, the liver cannot cope with excessive amounts of alcohol. As a result, alcohol accumulates in the liver, leading to a condition known as fatty liver, which is an early stage of alcoholic liver disease. In 2012, there were 1,204 deaths due to liver disease in Australia, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. An investigation by the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at University College London Medical School revealed that one month of abstinence results in a drop in liver fat by 15%-20%. Additionally, blood sugar has been shown to drop by an average of 16%, and total blood cholesterol reduces by almost 5%.
Better sleep and concentration. The same study also found that participants in the one-month alcohol abstinence reported enhanced sleep quality, concentration, and work performance.
Weight loss. People who participated in Dry January campaigns have reported a drop in weight. It is no surprise, as not only alcohol is loaded with calories, but also often we tend to eat more when we drink alcohol. Some researchers have suggested that alcohol stimulates appetite and increases hunger.
No hangover. Waking up with a hangover is not a pleasant experience. Pounding headache, dry mouth and nausea are just some of the symptoms people notice the morning after a night of drinking. Clearly, the best way to avoid a hangover is to take a break from drinking.
Save money. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that in 2009-2010, Australian households spent an average of AU$32 per week on alcoholic beverages. Giving up drinking for one month may save you more money than you think.
Fundraising for a charity. Giving up alcohol while raising money for a good cause can be incredibly rewarding. The Dry July Foundation has raised over $30 million in the last 10 years that benefited cancer patients in many ways.
Replace. There is no need to stop socialising just because you stopped drinking. Replace the alcohol with something else. There are many alcohol-free drinks that would allow you to participate without feeling deprived. Soda and lime, lemonade, ice tea, fruit punches and mocktails, are some examples.
Don’t walk alone. Going dry with others is much easier than alone. Enlist friends, family or work colleagues to join you.
Alternatively, join an online group. Having the support of your social network can help you abstain.
Avoid temptations. Clean out your alcohol supplies for the month – store it in your garage, top cupboard, or at a friend’s place.
Find other outlets. If you’re using alcohol as a means of coping, try and find another stress relieving activity. Exercise is known to produce endorphins that reduce stress. Alternative suggestions include listening to music, meditation, acupuncture, massage therapy, tai chi and yoga, deep breathing and reading a book.
Eat healthy and keep hydrated. You may experience some withdrawal symptoms, ranging from mild sugar cravings and headaches to more serious ones such as insomnia and anxiety. Healthy foods and plenty of water will reduce the severity of the symptoms and will keep you healthy physically and mentally.
Reward yourself. Treat yourself at the end of the month with the money you have saved.
Focus on the positives. Think about the health benefits and take a note of how much better you feel. It might not be evident in the first week, but you will definitely feel the rewards.
Abstaining from alcohol for a month does not mean excessive drinking for the other 11 months. Experts agree that it would be better to aim for two alcohol free days each week all year rather than a one-month abstinence. However, a month without alcohol can set you up for a lifetime of healthy habits, and you may even find that you do not miss it at all.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2017. Household Expenditure Survey, Australia: Summary of Results, 2015-16. Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/allprimarymainfeatures/45244540252D2FDDCA25710800769AD8?opendocument
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2015. Leading cause of premature mortality in Australia fact sheet: liver disease. Available at:. https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/a088f80f-fcdb-4c5d-aa00-ca776bd7f792/phe199-liver.pdf.aspx
Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials, 2016. 6 Surprising Ways Alcohol Affects Your Health — Not Just Your Liver. Available at: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/6-surprising-ways-alcohol-affects-health-not-just-liver/
Coghlan, A., 2014. Our liver vacation: Is a dry January really worth it? New Scientist, 2950, 6-7. Available at: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129502-600-our-liver-vacation-is-a-dry-january-really-worth-it/
de Visser, R.O., Robinson, E. & Bond, R., 2016. Voluntary temporary abstinence from alcohol during “Dry January” and subsequent alcohol use. Health Psychology, 35(3), pp.281–289. Available at: http://doi.apa.org/getdoi.cfm?doi=10.1037/hea0000297
Dry July Foundation. Available at: https://www.dryjuly.com/
The International Alliance for Responsible Drinking, 2017. Drinking and Obesity. Available at: http://www.iard.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/HR-Obesity1.pdf