Benefits of Abstaining from alcohol

Dale Pinnock - The Medicinal Chef

24th February 2017

With high profile drives such as ‘Dry January’, stoptober etc, the benefits of abstaining from alcohol for periods of time have become more widely discussed. Just simply giving your body a bit of a break may have significant health benefits.

Liver: The first and most obvious health benefit is on our liver, whose job it is to process alcohol and turn it into substances that can be rapidly removed from the body. Excessive alcohol may cause inflammation of the liver, fatty deposits to accumulate, and if continually assaulted, eventually lead to scarring called cirrhosis that may be life threatening.

Cardiovascular System: Excessive alcohol consumption may also lead to increased LDL cholesterol levels and elevated blood pressure. This state of affairs long-term is almost a sure fire path towards heart disease.

Brain Health: Your brain will thank you for a break too. Long-term high alcohol intake has been associated with brain shrinkage and even brain damage, and has even been linked with early onset dementia. In the short-term alcohol may affect concentration (even when you aren’t drunk). Many participants in dry January for example report notable increases in concentration after a few days without a drink. This may be partially due to damaging effects on neurological function, but most likely closely linked with the final key point….

Dehydration: Everyone will be familiar with beer bladder, that mysterious phenomena where one pint transforms into ten when it hits the bladder. Alcohol switches off a hormone called vasopressin aka ‘antidiuretic hormone’. This is a hormone that regulates the rate and extent to which fluid leaves the body. Switch this off and dehydration is a couple of toilet trips away. Just a 10% drop in hydration is thought to lead to a 50% reduction in concentration, that’s considerable! Losing large amounts of fluid in a short space of time also leaches water-soluble nutrients from the body - These include vitamin C and B vitamins. When B vitamin levels in particular drop in the body, then our energy levels will plummet drastically. This is because the B vitamins, amongst other things, are vital for turning food into energy.

So, with the negative aspects associated with alcohol taken into consideration, having a break from it could be a good idea. Many health benefits have been associated with avoiding or reducing alcohol consumption. If you like a session or two each week, then considering a bit of a time out may really pay off.