Alcohol is a psychoactive, central nervous system depressant that works by slowing down vital functions in one’s body. Harvard Health explains that “alcohol directly influences the stomach, brain, heart, gallbladder, and liver. It affects levels of lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) and insulin in the blood, as well as inflammation and coagulation. It also alters mood, concentration, and coordination.” Hence, drinking too much alcohol can cause an array of unwanted physiological consequences. Similarly, there are a variety of ways your body heals after you stop drinking. Over time, your body can begin to recover from the influence of alcohol, and you can expect:
- Improved sleep: Alcohol interferes with the sleep-wake cycle, making it more difficult to fall and remain asleep. A 2014 University of Missouri-Columbia study specifically found that drinking alcohol as a method of getting to sleep disrupts the body’s sleep homeostasis or sleep regulator, and adversely affects one’s natural sleep cycles. Therefore, not drinking, can lead to significant improvements in your sleep and sleep quality.
- Balanced hormones: Alcohol can lower testosterone levels in men, and can increase testosterone and estradiol levels in women. The absence of alcohol can allow the body’s natural hormone levels to reach homeostasis.
- Better skin: Increased hormone levels can stimulate oil glands, and excess oil can lead to clogged pores and acne. Heavy alcohol consumption has also been linked to psoriasis, an inflammatory skin disease. When you stop drinking, your skin can gradually restore itself.
- Improved immunity: Alcohol interferes with the immune system by preventing it from producing enough white blood cells to fend off germs and bacteria. After you stop drinking, you will get sick less as your body will be better able to ward off illnesses.
- Decreased risk of cancers: Alcohol is a known carcinogen, which is a substance, organism, or agent capable of causing cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the more alcohol you consume, the greater your risk of developing certain types of cancer.
- Improved memory: Heavy drinking can cause the hippocampus (area of the brain critical to memory and learning) to shrink. Abstaining from alcohol can allow structural brain changes to partially correct and help to reverse negative effects related to memory.
- Decreased inflammation: Heavy alcohol use can lead to systemic inflammation, or prolonged inflammation throughout your entire body. After you stop drinking you become less susceptible to joint pain, headaches, and body aches.
- Reduced cardiovascular risk: A 2021 study involving 371,463 people found that alcohol use contributes to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Quitting alcohol may lower your blood pressure, levels of fat called triglycerides, and chances of heart failure.
- Increased mental clarity: Alcohol can cause long-term, negative impacts on the brain, including poor memory and slower reflexes. When you stop drinking your brain seems to be able to regain some of these abilities.
- Healthier liver function: Chronic and excessive alcohol consumption destroys liver cells, and the liver is integral to filtering out and detoxing our bodies of harmful substances. Research indicates that 90% of alcohol in the body is eliminated by the liver. Abstaining from alcohol can give the liver a chance to regenerate and recover a substantial portion of liver function.
- Shed excess weight: Alcohol is filled with sugar and empty calories, and excessive drinking can cause weight gain. Quitting alcohol can help you maintain a healthier weight.
- Enhanced nutrition: Drinking can deplete your body of vital nutrients and can interfere with the digestion, storage, utilization, and excretion of nutrients. When you stop drinking your body can begin to properly absorb the nutrients needed to function.
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