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Dry January: 7 surprising health benefits of cutting down on alcohol

Feeling like you might need a break from the booze after a particularly tipsy festive period? Dry January could be the answer.

For those who aren’t in the know, Dry January encourages people to give up drinking alcohol for the whole of the month. In 2021, an estimated 6.5 million people gave it a go in the UK. According to our Instagram poll of Liz Earle Wellbeing Magazine readers, 38% of you drink alcohol regularly and almost half (42%) of you were planning to take part in Dry January 2022.

Research from Alcohol Change UK suggests that our drinking habits have changed since the start of the pandemic, with many of us looking to reduce our intake.

So, if you’re already deep into Dry January or are just looking to cut back, we reveal seven benefits of reducing your alcohol intake.

The benefits of cutting back on alcohol

Better sleep

Spend the night waking up every couple of hours after you’ve had a few drinks? That’s because research suggests alcohol can mess up our slumber by interfering ​​with how we handle the chemical adenosine, the body’s sleep regulator.

While you may feel like one or two drinks helps you to drift off at night, over time, alcohol can disrupt your sleep patterns and even cause insomnia.

As Drink Aware explains: “Regular drinking can affect the quality of your sleep making you feel tired and sluggish during the day. This is because drinking alcohol disrupts your sleep cycle.

“Although some people find drinking alcohol helps them get to sleep more quickly, the quality of sleep is affected. Alcohol disrupts the important Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep, which can leave you feeling tired the next day – no matter how long you stay in bed.”

Cutting back on alcohol can help you to sleep more soundly at night. This in turn will give you more energy. You may notice you feel less grouchy feel and improved sense of clarity.

Develop a healthier attitude towards alcohol

According to a study of 4,000 adults in the UK conducted by Drink Aware, 20% said they had started drinking more alcohol since the pandemic began in March 2020.

And, as per a poll of Liz Earle Wellbeing readers, 28% of you said you were unhappy with your drinking habits. If you would like to press reset on your drinking habits for the New Year and beyond, Dry January might just be the way to do that.

Research shows that people taking part in Dry Jan can go on to develop healthier attitudes towards alcohol once the month is over, provided they don’t fall back into old habits as soon as the clock strikes midnight on 1st February.

Plus, enjoying an evening with loved ones without alcohol helps to prove that you don’t need to have a tipple to have fun.

Brighter skin

It’s no secret that drinking wreaks havoc on your complexion as it’s a diuretic. This means it dehydrates you as your kidneys produce more urine. It takes away water from the body and makes it much harder to rehydrate your skin after a night on the sauce. Dry skin often makes any fine lines and wrinkles more visible.

Not only that, but alcohol can trigger rosacea and blotchiness, can also cause inflammation in the body leading to puffiness, and super sugary cocktails and white wine can also lead to breakouts (hello there, adult acne!).

In other words, alcohol is not your best friend if you want plump and peachy skin. By reducing alcohol, it’ll help your skin to brighten and may also reduce redness.

Weight management

Here at Liz Earle Wellbeing magazine, we’re all about balance and feeling comfortable in the skin you’re in. But, if you are struggling with your weight, then cutting down on alcohol may help you to progress towards your goals as boozy beverages are often high in calories.

While a slow and steady approach to weight loss is always more sustainable in the long run, research from the University of Sussex found that 58% of those taking part in Dry January lost weight.

Mental health benefits

In times of turmoil, stress or anxiety, many of us turn to alcohol to seemingly wash away our woes. According to a survey for alcohol awareness week, over half of people who drink (53%) said they had consumed booze for a mental health reason, such as feeling stressed, anxious or worried, boredom, trouble sleeping, or feeling sad or low, at least once in the past six months.

But if you are struggling, alcohol often only exacerbates the situation. The same study found that drinking worsened the mental health of 44% of drinkers.

Hangxiety is also real. Alcohol Change says: ‘Post-drinking hangovers can be particularly difficult, with the usual headache and nausea being accompanied by feelings of depression and/or anxiety.

‘Overuse of alcohol can contribute to the worsening of symptoms of many mental health problems. In particular, it can lead to low mood and anxiety.’

Therefore, bypassing boozy bubbles will give you a boost as your mood should be more stable.

Immune system boost

Reducing your alcohol intake may have a positive impact on your immune system too – something many of us have become growingly concerned about since the pandemic began.

Research suggests that drinking heavily or in excessive amounts may negatively impact your immune system and how your body fights off infections.

‘Clinicians have long observed an association between excessive alcohol consumption and the adverse immune-related effects such as susceptibility of pneumonia,’ according to a 2015 research review article.

While a month off alcohol won’t make you immune to all diseases, it may help give your body a bit of a break.

Save yourself money

According to Alcohol Change UK, 86% of those who have got involved in previous years have saved money through the month, helping your bank account look a little healthier. Win win, especially if you had a particularly expensive December buying presents.

While this isn’t technically a ‘health’ benefit in itself, it does in turn have some perks for your wellbeing. This includes feeling less stressed out and your cortisol levels spiking every time you look at your available balance.

While alcohol-free beverages aren’t free, they usually cost significantly less than a couple of large glasses of wine down your local. Every penny saved adds up.

Tips on how to stick to it

Motivated to take part? Buddying up with a friend or family member to hold you accountable on swerving tipples for the month can help you stick to your commitment. And, even if your loved ones aren’t taking part then ask them to support you through the month.

Picking up a new habit for January, like trying out a new exercise routine, can also help to fill in the gaps cutting out drinking has left behind.
Avoid the all or nothing tactic too. Even if you do slip up and have a glass of wine, get yourself back on track rather than writing off the rest of the month.

Opting for a non-alcoholic drink doesn’t always equal a lukewarm glass of tap water either. Choose something like our sparkling Organic Heritage Elderflower Sec, which not only looks pretty fancy, but it also tastes delicious and has loads of good gut benefits.

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