Beyond the Liver: Lesser known health benefits to quitting drinking

Most of us know that drinking alcohol in excess has negative consequences to our health. Namely, we know that our liver processes alcohol, and when we drink too much, our liver has difficulty processing the toxins and flushing them from our system. In fact, the liver can only process one ounce of liquor (or one standard drink) in one hour.

Consuming more than that saturates your system, and the additional alcohol will accumulate in the blood and body tissues until it can be metabolized. Consistent alcohol over-consumption, which is also known as alcohol use disorder or AUD, can ultimately lead to complications such as fatty liver disease or worse, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, that can become irreversible. Reducing drinking before this happens can help ensure your liver stays healthy.

But there are a myriad of other health benefits we can enjoy when we reduce our alcohol intake over time—some more obvious and others more subtle. Some of these benefits lead to additional positive consequences, including better mental clarity and quality of sleep, which in turn lead to more productivity, ability to accomplish goals and relief from other symptoms such as anxiety or depression. Here are four big health benefits you will enjoy when you drink less.

Your heart will thank you

Drinking can be very bad for the heart and the pulmonary system. Particularly in people who may be prone to pulmonary conditions, as consistent overuse of alcohol can increase the risk of heart disease. Alcohol increases the amount of fat in the bloodstream. Specifically, it raises the number of triglycerides, which produce higher cholesterol levels. Fatty blood slows down the speed at which blood moves through the body making your heart work harder to pump blood. Over time, high cholesterol may result in heart failure and a number of other conditions. One of the greatest benefits of quitting alcohol, therefore, is a healthier heart and a longer life.

You will look better

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it dehydrates you. Chronically dehydrating your system from alcohol overuse will cause your skin to dry out and be less elastic, and that can cause you to look older. Alcohol also causes inflammation. If you have ever seen anyone get a red flush in their skin when they drink, you have witnessed inflammation from alcohol. Even though the red flush goes away in people who don’t overuse alcohol, constant inflammation can cause damage to the skin.

Research also suggests that drinking can age the body’s cells, which means it cuts short the lifespan of the cells in the heart, liver, skin, and other organs. Overtime, your skin can show this deterioration.

You will find weight loss much easier

Alcohol is full of empty calories. In other words, it can cause you to pack on extra pounds by introducing extra calories that have little or no nutritional value or vitamins and minerals. The body processes and then stores alcohol as sugar. Too much extra sugar can ultimately convert to fat. In fact, in many studies, people who overuse alcohol are more likely to carry extra weight. Reducing drinking is an immediate way to reduce extra calories and shed weight.

Additionally, when you drink less, you are more likely to want to be active. You might trade drinks after work for a long walk in the park or a trip to the gym. Waking up without a hangover makes it that much easier to want to go for a morning run. Of course, it is important not to trade the alcohol in for other unhealthy food choices, and exercise is also important to maintaining a healthy weight. But, if a person is looking to lose some weight, they should start by not drinking. Weight loss is a great benefit of giving up alcohol.

You will sleep better

Most people don’t realize how much drinking affects their sleep habits. But, it does. According to the Sleep Foundation, alcohol triggers “delta activity” in the brain. Delta activity is a type of deep sleep that helps with learning and memory restoration.

But, alcohol also triggers “alpha activity”, which is brain activity that usually only occurs when someone is awake. These two opposing brain activities, when they happen at the same time, fight against each other, so to speak, making it impossible to enter into a deep sleep cycle. This means people who overuse alcohol are less rested than they can be, even though alcohol can make you fall asleep more easily. Once someone quits alcohol and their body adjusts, they usually find that they gain significant benefits from higher quality sleep, including sharper mental clarity, more energy and overall improved mood.

If you want to improve your health, but find that AUD is preventing you from drinking less, we can help you with a proven approach to ending AUD using the Sinclair Method—all delivered via a supportive, confidential telemedicine platform. Get started today at alcure.me.

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