Dry January is perfectly timed, with resolutions for a new, healthy year fresh on the mind and indulgent holidays in the past. A social movement for the “sober curious,” Dry January is a perfect chance to explore cutting alcohol intake and assessing its impact. The challenge: Give up alcohol for one month. For some, this may sound daunting. For others, it may be an exciting challenge to establish a deeper sense of alcohol awareness. With a bit of planning and plenty of support, the monthlong trial can improve health and mental clarity, even within the four-week timeline.
Exploring Dry January could help you feel better in the short-term, and if healthier drinking habits result from the challenge, your long-term wellbeing could benefit, too. The physical and mental health effects of drinking have been widely researched, and although some studies show that moderate alcohol intake may have slight health protective effects, the consensus is that drinking, even in moderation, contributes to health risks. The level of risk depends on factors like drinking frequency and dose, how one’s body metabolizes alcohol, genetics, diet and physical activity level and other environmental risks.
No matter what level you are currently engaging with alcohol, consider the following health gains should you give Dry January a try.
Benefits of Saying “Bye” to Booze
- Improved gut microbiome: Research shows that when light and heavy drinkers abstained from alcohol, their gut microbiome diversity improved. This can improve health since a balanced gut can lead to better immune system function, metabolism, weight maintenance, and levels of inflammation.
- Reduced consumption of empty calories: Gulp for gulp, alcohol contributes calories but not many nutrients, even more so when served with high-sugar mixers or heavy cream. Cutting booze means leaving room for calories that nourish the body, like those from whole grains, starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruits.
- Reduced inflammation: Chronic alcohol use can lead to oxidative stress and displace gut bacteria that causes inflammation in other areas of the body, ultimately contributing to inflammation. Refraining from moderate to heavy alcohol use, even for one month, can reduce systemic inflammation, which improves immune function, metabolism, sleep and overall disease risk.
- Improved skin: Drinking can cause blotchy redness and irritate eczema due to increased inflammation. Libations can also take the place of water, leading to dehydration which isn’t great for supple, healthy skin. Ditch the booze and assess how your skin changes over time.
- Improved blood pressure: Studies show that committing to one-month alcohol-free can result in reduced hypertension by 6 – 7 mm HG, a significant change for those aiming to maintain healthy blood pressure. In-range blood pressure can help you keep a healthy vascular system and benefit your eyes and kidneys.
- Better sleep patterns: Alcohol-free sleep is shown to produce more Rapids Eye Movement (REM) sleep cycles, leaving you feeling more rested and ready to tackle the day. Studies show that cutting alcohol could improve sleep quality by 9 – 39%.
As you commit to Dry January, first create a plan, ensuring to ask for support and engage in healthy replacement habits. There are many helpful strategies when it comes to rethinking alcohol consumption, and one that’s a lot of fun is to explore non-alcoholic beverages or mocktails, so you can raise a glass without raising your health risk. Check out these delicious recipes for mocktails and other non-alcoholic beverages!