As the festive period draws to a close, many of us are likely reconsidering our alcohol intake. It's no wonder, then, that "Dry January" is so popular - a month where people chose not to drink any alcohol, either for their health, charity, or both. While alcohol can be tasty and have some pretty enjoyable side effects, it does have its downsides and they are well documented.
First off, there's the risk of alcoholism, not to mention the stupid decisions which the vast majority of people have made under the influence (and I'm not just talking about drunk texting your ex). But perhaps the most dangerous side effect that it has on our lives, even if we're moderate to light drinkers, is the effect that it's having on our bodies and subsequently our lifespan.
So, if you've just started dry January, or are looking to give up alcohol altogether, here are eight things that will happen to you.
1. You'll sleep better
While it may be easy to fall asleep after drinking, we all know how awful it is when we wake up, head throbbing, but are unable to go back to sleep. And it turns out that when you cut alcohol out of your life, you will sleep more soundly.
A recent study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research found that drinking before bed increases alpha wave patterns in the brain - a kind of cerebral activity that we're supposed to experience when awake, which results in disrupted sleep.
According to Dr. Raskin, some of the many byproducts of better sleep include improved mood, concentration, and mental performance.
2. You'll eat less
One of the biggest side effects of consuming alcohol, apart from the obvious poor decisions, is the effect it has on our appetite. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that it's one of the biggest driving forces behind overeating.
So, how does this work? Well, it's because alcohol heightens our senses, according to a new study published in the journal Obesity. Researchers discovered that when people were given an alcohol "infusion" they ate a whopping 30% more than those who had drunk none at all.
3. You could start to crave sugar...
Alcohol releases the feel-good chemical dopamine in the brain, which is why it's so addictive. So, if you give it up, you could find yourself looking for a replacement to get your "hit" elsewhere and that could come from sugary foods.
"Don't be surprised if you try to get that same enjoyment or rush you used to get after a drink from something sweet," Dr. Raskin says.
4. You'll lose weight
While you might find yourself craving more sugar when you give up alcohol, you're more than likely to lose weight at the same time - even if you give in to your cravings and have that extra donut. That's because alcohol is remarkably good at increasing our daily calorie intake. One margarita, for example, can contain up to 300 calories - most of which are from sugar.
5. Your skin will become clearer
If you've only just given up alcohol, hang in there. Within a few days, you're going to notice some serious improvements to your skin. This is because alcohol is a diuretic, which, according to Dr. Rankin, causes you to urinate more. In addition to this, it decreases the body's production of an antidiuretic hormone which helps us reabsorb water equating to dry-looking skin.
6. Your bank balance will grow
Losing weight is great in and of itself, but do you know what's better? Cold, hard cash, and you'll have a lot more of it when you stop drinking. Instead of frittering away your hard-earned money on a night you can't even remember, you'll be able to spend it making memories (like that trip to Europe you've always wanted to take) that you can treasure for years to come.
7. You might be less happy
Unfortunately, giving up alcohol does have its downsides too and one of them is that it can leave you feeling glum. Why? It's not because you're withdrawing, but because alcohol plays such a big role in socializing for most people. If you're the only sober person at a party, it's hard not to feel left out and therefore a little gloomy. But just think of the advantages!
8. Your risk of cancer falls, but your risk of heart disease could rise...
Another downside to giving up alcohol is that it could increase your risk of heart trouble as multiple studies have found that moderate alcohol consumption lowers it. But on the flip side, the National Cancer Institute has found that alcohol use is linked to various cancers of the mouth, liver, colon, and rectum. Every cloud has a silver lining and every silver lining has a cloud!
So there you have it - eight things which will happen when you give up alcohol. Now, I don't know about you, but I've got some ambitious travel plans for 2019, so this Dry January, I'm going to be saving up the money I would have spent on alcohol and use it for flights instead. Has this list inspired you to give it a go? Or give up completely? Let us know in the comments section.