Although many have been doing it for years, there is a recent surge in the popularity of abandoning alcohol to begin the year. But is “dry” January really doing any good?
The short-term New Year’s resolution may actually offer some health benefits, particularly to heavy drinkers. Those who drink moderately, however, are unlikely to experience much benefit.
And, of course, if you do something for one month and then go back to previous behaviors, it won’t make a huge difference on overall long-term health.
But your liver still has something to gain by giving up, or at least reducing, alcohol consumption if you drink excessively.
Some noticeable benefits heavy drinkers may notice by giving up alcohol include better sleep, mental clarity, and weight loss. They may also be giving their liver a chance to recover.
Liver health isn’t something you actively notice. It’s a highly resilient organ that can endure years of abuse. However, abusing it with excessive alcohol leads to severe problems. And unfortunately, liver problems, like cirrhosis, are noticeable only when too late.
Liver damage doesn’t happen in a day. But for people who drink excessively, meaning more than two drinks per day for men and one for women, fatty deposits that lead to scarring can occur. This limits liver function and can lead to cirrhosis.
When drinking stops, two things happen. The first is that the absence of alcohol allows your liver to focus on, and optimize, its other jobs. It can better break down body toxins and metabolize fats and hormones.
The break also gives the liver a chance to repair itself.
So, the month off can do some good in the short term, but it is best to use the time to recalibrate alcohol consumption if you’re drinking excessively. Adjusting alcohol habits so you’re only drinking moderately can have a huge impact on the liver, and overall health.
What is moderate drinking? As mentioned, it is no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women. A “drink” is defined as:
- 12 ounces (341 millilitres) of 5% beer
- 5 ounces (142 ml) of 13-14% wine
- 3 ounces (86 ml) of sherry or port
- 5 ounces (43 ml) of liquor/spirits