Post #38 Take a Break From Alcohol???
In Podcast Episode #34 Karen tells us what happens to our bodies when we stop drinking... for even a little while!
A Break from Alcohol?
As we start into the holiday season, let’s talk about alcohol! We’re all going to be attending those holiday parties where the drinks are flowing. Not to mention, it will be tempting to deal with some of the holiday stress by pouring yourself a glass of wine every night (or many glasses of wine!). We’re all familiar with what happens to your body when you drink, but what exactly happens to your body when you stop drinking? And I don’t mean stopping drinking forever, I’m talking about taking a break and maybe saving your drinking for the weekend or for a special occasion. Is it actually beneficial to take a break every once in a while? Does it really help or even make a difference?
**I’m talking about moderate drinking. Moderate drinking is described as one glass per day for women and two for men.
What Alcohol Does to Your Body
First, let’s talk about what alcohol does to your body. We all know what excessive drinking can cause. There are the obvious things such as DWI’s, car crashes, falls, blackouts, embarrassment, hangovers. There are also the long-term health consequences such as dependency, a higher risk for cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, and liver damage. According to Dr. Kelly Bay, a chiropractor and nutritionist, “Alcohol is a toxin and the second you drink it, it is converted to toxic substances such as acetaldehyde and distributed throughout your body through your bloodstream.” Alcohol is absorbed partially in the stomach, but mostly in the small intestine and then goes on to be processed by your liver and metabolized. The entire process can lead to oxidative stress which then leads to inflammation.
A few other things that alcohol does to your body:
• Throws off your electrolyte balance
• Decreases the diversity of your gut microbiomes which can then cause anxiety.
• Diminishes your quality of sleep by reducing your melatonin production
• Throws off your levels of neurotransmitters that regulate emotions, behavior, and control cognitive abilities
• Depletes your dopamine levels
What Happens When You Stop?
According to Hillary Cecere, RDN, a dietician and nutritionist, this is what happens after your last drink:
• After one hour: your liver is actively working to clear the alcohol from your bloodstream
• After 6-12 hours: headache and depressed mood may set in. AKA, a hangover
• After 18 hours: your blood glucose levels will begin to stabilize again.
• After 72 hours: you’ll see improvements to your mood and less disturbed sleep.
Yes, it takes about three days for your body to recover and the more you drink, the longer it will take your body to recover from the inflammation caused by alcohol. Even if you don’t feel hungover or feel any lasting side effects, your body still has to go through a recovery period. Also, it might get harder and harder for your gut microbiome to bounce back.
Will Saving Your Drinking for the Weekend Help?
Yes, it will. According to Dr. Bay, saving your drinking for the weekend will help a little bit. A five-day break during the work week can help decrease inflammation, normalize your electrolyte balance and give your body a chance to regenerate from the damage caused by drinking. The longer time off from drinking, the better chance of healing.
The Bottom Line:
No amount of alcohol is really considered safe. There’s a lot of conflicting information about whether or not moderate drinking is beneficial or not and recent studies have kind of debunked that. That being said, if you’re going to drink, it’s best to have your drinks with a meal and to drink a lot of water along with it. Taking a break from drinking, the longer the better, is definitely worth it. If you can restrict your drinking to the weekends and take five days off in between, it will really help your body to recover and repair. Also, don’t binge drink! It can take more than two weeks for your liver to recover!