Can You Give Up Booze for 31 Days? The Benefits Are Worth It
Experts Reveal How Dry January Can Hack Your Physical and Mental Wellbeing
Dry January, otherwise known as a month of abstaining from alcohol, has been picking up steam year over year, with more than one in five Americans participating as of 2019. But why are so many adults so quick to take a break from the hard stuff for a month? Abstaining from alcohol for a full 31 days can have many lasting benefits for moderate drinkers.
“People who choose not to drink for one month are less likely to suffer from alcohol-related health conditions, including high blood pressure, brain cell damage and memory loss, heart and liver disease, and even cancer,” explains Michael Ahearn, Certified Addiction Recovery Coach.
However, keep in mind that while Dry January is loaded with benefits for moderate drinkers, it may not be the best route for everyone. “It’s important to note that Dry January isn’t the right fit for people struggling with alcoholism,” explains Ahearn, “who can experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop drinking without the help of a medical professional.”
With that in mind, we reached out to a handful of health professionals to drill down the biggest benefits of participating in Dry January – and they may just make you pack away your bar cart for the month.
Time to Reevaluate Your Relationship with Alcohol
Have you ever cracked open another beer with the guys just to wonder if you actually enjoy drinking? Alcohol is so ingrained in our culture that, unless you’ve made the choice to be sober, having a beer at the end of the day is pretty much a given … but it doesn’t have to be. “I’ve never been a huge drinker, though I would drink socially, and after having a dry January I just kept it going, even in social situations,” says John Frigo, Digital Marketing Lead at MySupplementStore.Com. “I probably did have a couple glasses of wine over the course of the year and maybe a beer here or there, but alcohol to me isn’t that enjoyable in the first place.”
“People indulge in way too much of everything during the holiday season. A dry January lets you do a reset,” adds Caroline Madden, Ph.D., and a licensed marriage & family therapist. “You have a month to explore what triggers your drinking (hard day, the kids, socializing with a certain friend group). That benefits you because then you can better plan for your drinking in the future. You are then drinking by choice and not habit.”
Improved Energy and Digestion
“Removing alcohol from your diet for a short period, 30 days or less, could improve your energy and digestion,” explains Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and author of "The Candida Diet." “In the short term, alcohol has been shown to weaken the immune system, intensify mood swings, prevent restful sleep, and lower energy levels. If you’re already suffering from an energy-sapping digestive condition, like Candida overgrowth, that’s the last thing you need.”
Improved Liver Function
According to Richards, drinking alcohol has been shown to weaken liver function and prevent your liver from operating effectively. Removing alcohol for a short period can allow your liver to undergo a much-needed break, so January may even be a good time to do a detox – especially after all those holiday cocktail parties.
The stress that the body is under when it needs to process and digest alcohol limits its ability to lend energy to various other bodily processes, including the immune system. This is why people who drink alcohol to excess often become sick more regularly – the immune system isn't functioning at full capacity due to the body's need to distribute energy elsewhere to help process freshly consumed alcohol. According to Jamie Bacharach, licensed medical acupuncturist and health expert, Dry January can offer the immunity boost you need, thanks to increased bodily resources, to prevent your annual winter cold or seasonal flu.
A Better Night’s Sleep
Those nightcaps might feel like they’re helping you drift into a restful snooze, but they might actually be harming your chances of a good night’s sleep. “While alcohol may initially help you fall asleep, it then disrupts the REM cycle responsible for that restorative sleep that makes you wake up feeling refreshed and well-rested,” explains Richards. “Taking alcohol away for a month can allow you to catch up on restful sleep leading to greater energy.”
A Little Weight Loss
Aside from the mental benefits, participating in Dry January can make it even easier to reach your physical health and fitness goals as well, as you will be cutting out a major source of added calories that does not provide any real nutritional benefit. “Simply by cutting out alcohol, depending on how much you drink, you could be cutting hundreds, even thousands of calories out of your diet without having to change anything else!” says Emily Tills, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Coach.
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