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Here’s what happens to your mind and body when you stop drinking alcohol, according to a doctor

Here’s what happens to your mind and body when you stop drinking alcohol, according to a doctor

Some people go sober for October.

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Some people go sober for October.
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sebra/Shutterstock
  • In October, some people have decided to give up alcohol for 31 days.
  • It’s called Sober for October, and it could have some positive impacts on your mind and body.
  • Your sleep might improve, and you might feel healthier overall.
  • But you may experience withdrawal symptoms if you’re a heavy drinker.

Following a global report this year that there is no safe amount of alcohol, more people may be trying to cut back on booze. This month, many people are giving up alcohol for 31 days, in a campaign called Sober for October.

Fiona Sim, a former GP and medical advisor to Drinkaware, told The Evening Standard giving up alcohol for a month can have some noticeable impacts on your health and body.

For instance, your blood pressure might reduce, and your sleep pattern and quality may improve.

“Your liver will be helped too but how much will depend on how much damage has already been done due to alcohol,” she said.

man drinking at bar

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Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock

Also, the immediate positive effects may not be obvious for a very heavy drinker, as they may experience withdrawal symptoms like shaking, headaches, and nausea.

“If this is the case, you would probably find it better to cut down more slowly and steadily until you reach the low risk drinking guidelines or stop completely,” Sim said.

When trying Dry January one year, I found it completely messed with my sleeping pattern, despite being told the opposite would happen. Health experts I spoke to told me this could be a sign of withdrawal. Apparently, if your body is used to being put into a relaxed state by alcohol, it may struggle to get to that state for a while without being medicated.

The following year, I found I craved sugary food. Studies have shown sugar may actually be addictive, and the idea I could be making my body dependent on things that are bad for me put my drinking habits into perspective.

Despite the body sometimes taking a while to adjust, Sim said giving up alcohol for a while can be good for your mental health.

guys drinking beer

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Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

Alcohol is a depressant. So although you may feel good when you get the initial buzz, in the long term, it probably won’t make you feel great. Sim said it has also been linked with self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and memory impairment.

“After a heavy drinking session, you may not remember anything about the night before, but with long term drinking, that memory loss can be more serious,” she said.

“When you stop drinking, your risks are reduced but if the damage has already been done to your brain cells, not all the harm can be reversed.”

Any confidence alcohol gives you also probably won’t last long. Alcohol isn’t the aphrodisiac some people think it is, often reducing sensitivity meaning you enjoy sex less, Sim said.

“For both men and women, alcohol can reduce fertility, so particularly if you are both heavy drinkers, it may be more difficult to conceive,” she added.

“As far as relationships are concerned, drinking heavily can lead to bad mood swings and aggression, an important catalyst for domestic violence. So all in all, going sober has a lot to commend it in the realms of significant relationships.”

Other benefits of going sober for a while include better skin, decreased risk of obesity and certain cancers, fewer migraines, and the fact you can save money (potentially).

There’s also something to be said about waking up after seeing friends, and not worrying about anything that was said or done the night before.

When we drink heavily our brains miss out on the part of sleep that helps us process guilt – called REM sleep. So we’re more likely to wake up with “alcohol guilt” or the “beer fear.”

For whatever reason you’re considering going sober for a while, there are plenty of benefits you might see, both for yourself and those around you.

Gwyneth Paltrow said she drinks Japanese whisky in the bath every night — here’s why that might be a bad idea

Gwyneth Paltrow said she drinks Japanese whisky in the bath every night — here’s why that might be a bad idea

Gwyneth Paltrow is a 'seven-days-a-week drinker.'

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Gwyneth Paltrow is a ‘seven-days-a-week drinker.’
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Emma McIntyre / Getty
  • Gwyneth Paltrow told the Evening Standard she drinks every day of the week.
  • Her drink of choice is Japanese whisky, which she enjoys in the bath.
  • A few studies show apparent benefits of drinking in moderation.
  • But according to a large analysis recently published in the Lancet, there is no safe amount of alcohol.
  • The potential benefits of alcohol are not well understood yet, but what is clear is that drinking in excess can cause many health issues.

The dangers of alcohol are well documented. People are recommended to avoid drinking more than 14 units a week, and to have at least a few days out of seven going alcohol free.

In the short term, drinking heavily can increase your risk of accidents, and in the long term, it is linked with liver disease, pancreatitis, and several different cancers. But a few studies in recent years have shown apparent benefits of drinking in moderation, such as a reduced risk of stroke, or diabetes.

Gwyneth Paltrow may be one of the people who seeks such benefits. According to the Evening Standard, she is a “seven-days-a-week drinker,” because she always likes “to have a little something.”

Her tipple of choice is apparently Japanese whisky, which she drinks in the bath.

The Guardian reports that Japanese whisky has been shown to have high levels of the antioxidant ellagic acid. This could mean it helps protect the body against inflammation and cancers – but the evidence is limited. Also, these sorts of compounds are absorbed faster by the body when they come from whisky, rather than wine. But it’s unclear whether they actually have any medicinal effects.

Despite studies claiming drinking moderately may be the key to a longer life, may increase male fertility, and even make you call in to work sick less, government guidelines do not recommend drinking for the sake of any health benefits.

In fact, recent research, published in the Lancet, concluded there is no safe amount of alcohol. And even one extra glass of wine a week, according to another study, could shorten your life by 30 minutes.

As for whether Paltrow has her full glass of Japanese whisky for the potential health benefits, or she simply just likes the taste, who knows. But if you’re thinking of adding an extra night cap to your own daily routine, evidence suggests this might do you more harm than good.

Sorry, drinkers, there is no safe level of alcohol

Sorry, drinkers, there is no safe level of alcohol

IF you were thinking of meeting up with friends after work for happy hour, think again.

A new global study from the British journal The Lancet found that the safest level of drinking was none.

Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

The study, published in August 2018, analysed data from the 2016 Global Burden of Disease report to determine levels of alcohol use and its health effects in 195 countries for males and females ages 15 to 49 between 1990 to 2016.

Researchers found alcohol use was the leading risk factor for death and disability, and accounted for nearly 10% of annual global deaths – about 2.8 million annually.

It accounted for about 3% of deaths in women and 12% of deaths in men.

“This study is extremely important because it sheds light on the dangerous impact of alcohol – which is greatly minimised in our culture,” said Joseph Garbely, vice-president of medical services and medical director at Caron Treatment Centers in the United States.

“We’re in the midst of a raging opioid epidemic, and yet, the majority of our patients seek treatment for alcohol use disorders. Make no mistake – alcohol can be deadly and will affect your health over time.”

The study, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, contradicts other health guidelines – which espouse health benefits associated with consuming up to two drinks per day – saying any benefits were offset by the risks of developing 23 other alcohol-related diseases, specifically cancers or dying from alcohol-related accidents.

Moderation is defined as up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger, according to the Mayo Clinic.

One drink is considered 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.1 ounces of 80 proof spirits.

Based on the results, the researchers recommend that public health campaigns revise their message to include alcohol abstinence and focus on reducing overall drinking. – The Philadelphia Inquirer/Tribune News Service

When it comes to alcohol, take the middle road

When it comes to alcohol, take the middle road

Genetics, head injury and poor nutrition have all been linked to dementia. Scientists are now adding both heavy drinking and abstaining from alcohol to the list, according to a new report.

Researchers from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research based in France and the United Kingdom recently conducted a study, published in the British Medical Journal, to determine the relationship between midlife alcohol consumption and risk of dementia into early old age.

To do so, they observed more than 9,000 people, aged 35 to 55, taking part in the Whitehall II Study, which is examining the impact of social, behavioural and biological factors on long-term health.

The analysts assessed their alcohol consumption and dependence over the course of several years.

They then collected hospital records to review the number of participants hospitalised for alcohol-related chronic diseases and cases of dementia.

After analysing the results, they found both abstinence in midlife and drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week were both associated with higher risk of dementia, compared to just drinking one to 14 units weekly.

In fact, they discovered that heavy drinkers who up their consumption by seven units a week may have a 17% increase in dementia risk.

In the UK, 14 units of alcohol weekly is the recommended maximum limit, and a unit is approximately 8 grams of alcohol. A standard glass of wine is about 2 units of alcohol and a beer is about 1.75 units.

“(Our findings) strengthen the evidence that excessive alcohol consumption is a risk factor for dementia,” the authors said in a statement.

“(We) encourage use of lower thresholds of alcohol consumption in guidelines to promote cognitive health at older ages.”

They also added their results “should not motivate people who do not drink to start drinking, given the known detrimental effects of alcohol consumption for mortality, neuropsychiatric disorders, cirrhosis of the liver and cancer.”

They now hope for more studies that further explore the effects of light to moderate alcohol in relation to the memory loss condition. – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Tribune News Service

Tee-totalers are more likely to call in sick from work than moderate drinkers, according to a new study

Tee-totalers are more likely to call in sick from work than moderate drinkers, according to a new study

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Warner Brothers Pictures/YouTube
  • A new study has shown that moderate drinkers take fewer sick days than tee-totalers.
  • Meanwhile, people who drank over the moderate amount were more likely to be absent because of “injury or poisoning.”
  • It could be because people with existing health problems are more likely to avoid alcohol.
  • Or it could be because people who drink are seasoned pros at making it to the office with a hangover.

How many times have you been hungover at work this week? If you have a 9-5 job, and you like a drink, you’ll know the feeling well – a concoction of nausea, pain, and regret. Here’s a different question: How many times in the past year have you called into work sick because you drank too much?

Unless you’re superhuman, the answer is probably at least once. And by that logic, you’d probably assume people who drink take more sick days than those who don’t. But according to new research, this might not be true.

The new study, published in the journal Addiction, examined the drinking habits and absence from work of 47,000 people in Europe using various surveys. The researchers, who were from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, then grouped participants into five categories based on their drinking, ranging from those who never touched alcohol to heavy party animals.

Overall, people who reported being tee-total for several years were absent from work due to illness more often than those who drank moderately, defined as 11 units a week for women and 34 for men.

Non-drinkers had a higher risk of absence because of mental disorders, muscle and skeletal disorders, and respiratory and digestive diseases. Less surprisingly, those who drank over the moderate threshold were at an increased risk of absence due to injury or poisoning.

Lead author of the study, Jenni Ervasti from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, said the findings demonstrate the different types of illnesses tee-totalers and heavy drinkers are susceptible to.

“Some diseases, or their treatment, prevent alcohol use, which may explain the excess risks among abstainers,” she said. “Moreover, participants to whom at-risk drinking causes health problems may be selected out from the labor market, that is, if they retire early or become unemployed. Then, the adverse effects are not seen in absence from work due to illness.”

The study was limited as the surveys were self-reported, and people tend to not be entirely truthful about things like drinking, diet, and their sex lives. But the findings do seem to suggest moderate drinkers take fewer sick days. Whether that’s because they drink due to fewer health problems, have a higher alcohol tolerance, or have simply gotten really good at making it to work with a hangover is unclear.

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