Here’s What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Drinking Alcohol

Who hasn’t woken up on a Sunday morning (or afternoon, rather) and muttered the words, “I’m never drinking again”? Whether we completely mean it or not, the sentiment comes from a genuine place, as alcohol can have a significant impact on our lives and our bodies and no other time makes it as obvious as those mornings of regret. 


According to George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, heavy drinking can legitimate erase parts of your memory. “At roughly twice the legal limit, a blood alcohol content of .16, you become vulnerable for a blackout ― although this varies,” Koob said. “In a blackout, alcohol shuts down the ability of the brain to consolidate memories.”


“You set the stage for cancer, heart problems, liver problems, even permanent brain deficits,” Koob said. “Something everyone has to learn if they want to drink is their own limits.”


But what about the effects alcohol takes on our body when we aren’t coming off a night of binge drinking? Effects of alcohol on everything from weight to heart health and even brain health over the long term aren’t so obvious, but they’re just as significant. And to some, it’s all reason enough to give drinking up altogether. With that said, have you ever considered what happens to your body when you stop drinking? 


It Will Positively Affect Your Mood

While depression can put a person at a higher risk of developing a drinking problem, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the opposite is actually more common — depression often arises as a result of alcohol abuse. Again, it’s a cycle where one influences the other, perpetuating itself. In the case of alcoholism sparking depression, though, quitting drinking is actually a valid tactic for curing depression. It’s expected that depression symptoms will often dissipate after drinking has stopped, and according to a study published in ‘Addiction,’ individuals dealing with an alcohol use disorder or depression are at twice the risk of developing the other condition. The study concluded that depression is more likely to occur as a result of alcohol abuse rather than the other way around.


It Will Change Your Appetite

A 2015 study observed the afternoon eating habits of 24 healthy men who either drank orange juice or orange juice with vodka, always followed by cake. 


“Moderate alcohol consumption increased food intake during the ad libitum lunch by 11% (+338 kJ, P = 0.004). Alcohol specifically increased intake (+127 kJ, P <0.001) and explicit liking (P = 0.019) of high-fat savoury foods,” the study reads. “Moreover, moderate alcohol consumption increased implicit wanting for savoury (P = 0.013) and decreased implicit wanting for sweet (P = 0.017) before the meal. Explicit wanting of low-fat savoury foods only was higher after alcohol followed by no cake as compared to after alcohol followed by cake MSF (P = 0.009), but not as compared to alcohol followed by cake consumption (P = 0.082). Both cake MSF and cake consumption had no overall effect on behavioural indices of food reward. To conclude, moderate alcohol consumption increased subsequent food intake, specifically of high-fat savoury foods.” 


Translation: even moderate alcohol consumption will influence you to not only eat more food but eat foods you might otherwise avoid. 


Your Risks of Liver Damage and Diabetes Drop 

In 2013, 10 people gave up booze for just five weeks as part of an experimental study while four of their cohorts kept drinking. The group’s habits ranged from drinking as few as eight to as many as 64 12-ounce beers per week and in that five-week test, doctors found that certain unhealthy liver fats dropped anywhere from 15 to 20 percent while blood glucose levels dropped an average of 16 percent for the 10 people who’d abstained from drinking for just over a month. 


You’re Going to Sleep Better 

Booze messes with your sleep. This is a fact that contradicts the entire premise of the ubiquitous nightcap. While alcohol is a depressant that will calm you down and make you want to crawl into bed, it will only damage the quality of your sleep. 


A study from the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research found out why this is when they discovered that those nightcaps increase what are called alpha wave patterns, which completely disrupt the restorative phases of sleep. 


As the liver metabolizes the alcohol, your sleepiness starts to wear off to the point that you’ll likely find yourself wide awake by 4 am. And even if you do manage to get back to sleep before the sun comes back up, don’t expect to get back to into a deep sleep again as you’ll be uncomfortably tossing and turning, sweating as a result of the vasodilation caused by alcohol. This is a process in which your blood vessels widen, warming the skin and calling your sweat glands into action. It will effectively cool you down but it will also raise the odds of even more sleep disturbances.


Your Metabolism Will Get a Boost 

When you work out on an empty stomach first thing in the morning — a tactic known as fasted cardio — your body is more likely to jump straight into fat-burning mode as it’s low on glycogen. Alcohol disrupts this, though, as your body is forced to start using ethanol for energy as opposed to fat. Dropping booze essentially gets rid of an extra step in the fat-burning process.


You’ll Lower Your Risks of Cancer 

According to the National Cancer Society, alcohol has a link to increased risks of cancers of the mouth, liver, breasts, colon, and rectum. 


Your Body Stays Hydrated

Alcohol is a diuretic and even moderate levels of consistent drinking can impact how much water your body retains. It does this by increasing production of an antidiuretic hormone that absorbs water in the first place, meaning that even just a couple days without drinking will make a significant improvement in the appearance of skin as well as even things like dandruff, eczema, and rosacea will decrease. 


You’ll Have Lower Risks of Strokes 

Binge drinking specifically can lead to traumatic events like strokes. According to the American Heart Association, regular heavy drinking raises blood pressure and triggers irregular heartbeats. 


It Can Positively Impact Your Work Life 

According to a study in New Scientist, people who quit drinking for 30 days reported an 18 percent increase in their ability to concentrate and a 17 percent boost in performance at work.

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