The health benefits of dry January
Dry January increases in popularity every year, with more people looking to give themselves a break from alcohol after the busy festive period. But knowing how cutting alcohol from our diets can positively affect our health can be a great motivator to carry on the good work throughout the year.
We all know that excessive alcohol consumption can cause liver damage. Although the liver is remarkable in the fact that it has powers of regeneration and repair, prolonged exposure to high levels of alcohol (which is often the case for many of us during the festive period) can cause damage to the liver. After an indulgent Christmas and New Year, many of us may feel slightly guilty about the amount of alcohol we have consumed, and worry about the effect this has had on our liver.
Dry January is the annual movement through which many people give up alcohol for the month of January. For some, it’s a New Year’s resolution to drink less, while others use the first month of the year to ‘detox’ from excessive drinking over the Christmas break. Alcohol is linked to more than 60 different medical conditions. Long-term heavy drinking can increase the risk of various cancer types such as mouth, throat and bowel cancer. Alcohol is also capable of lowering the body’s white blood cell count, which weakens the immune system.
Dry January can bring about some great health benefits:
- Zero Hangovers
The most obvious benefit of giving up alcohol is that you spare yourself those wasted hangover days and instead of waking up groggy, you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start the day.
- Better Sleep
While it may seem that alcohol helps you fall asleep quickly, it actually wreaks havoc on sleep quality in the long-run. Drinking moderate or high amounts of alcohol decreases “restorative” REM sleep .
- More energy
With better quality sleep comes more energy and without the horrible hangover in the morning, you’re likely to feel much better in yourself.
- Weight Loss
Because alcohol is made from sugar or starch, alcoholic drinks are often high in empty calories, which can lead to excess weight gain. Did you know a pint of beer has roughly the same amount of calories as a large slice of pizza?  However, by cutting back on the amount of alcohol you drink, it can significantly help to reduce your calorie intake.
How’s your liver?
The liver is the largest internal organ and in small amounts, can break down alcohol. However, if the liver is exposed to high levels, it is not able to break it down quickly enough and the excess alcohol can cause damage to the liver.
It is difficult to know how your liver is doing, as the common signs of liver damage such as yellow skin (jaundice), itchiness and small burst blood vessels don’t often show until the liver is failing. Medichecks best selling Liver Check is an easy and convenient way to examine liver enzymes such as gamma GT (GGT) and alanine transferase (ALT) which can be raised if the liver is damaged. This test is ideal for those who want to find out if their lifestyle is damaging their liver. Cutting down on alcohol, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly are all ways to improve liver health.
Although yes, it is good to check the health of our liver after a period of heavy drinking, it is also necessary to see if our usual drinking habits are having a negative effect to allow us to make any necessary changes before things get worse.
For a comprehensive picture of your inner health, our Well Man Ultravit and Well Woman Ultravit tests are on offer for the whole of January. Both include a liver check along with many other tests including diabetes and heart disease risk, a cholesterol status and vitamins D, B12 and folate.
 Drinkaware.co.uk. (2019). Alcohol and Sleep. [online] Available at: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/effects-on-the-body/alcohol-and-sleep/ [Accessed 15 Jan. 2019].
 Drinkaware.co.uk. (2019). Calories in alcohol. [online] Available at: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/calories/calories-in-alcohol/ [Accessed 15 Jan. 2019].