The pandemic drove many of us to drink. Whether it’s a little extra stress relief or an attempt to alleviate months of numb monotony, many of us add another cocktail, beer or glass of wine in the evening. Does it lead to sluggish, irritable mornings? Sometimes. But even if you do not notice the change, if you look at the science of what happens when you stop drinking, let’s just say you may have second thoughts about leaning into this habit.
In the first place, alcohol in moderation is mostly good and maybe even good for you, according to some research. The problem lies in the fact that it is surprisingly easy to exceed what the experts call “moderate” drinking. For men, consuming 15 or more drinks a week makes them a “heavy” or “problem” drinker. For women, it only takes 12 or more a week to enter the difficulty zone.
Now, drinking so many drinks over the course of seven days does not mean that you are an alcoholic (although it may put you at risk of developing an addiction). However, it does take a toll on your health. “Alcohol is non-discriminatory – it affects the whole body,” says Mita Johnson, an addiction educator and president of NAADAC, the Association of Addiction Professionals. “It slows down systems, causing them to work harder than they need to, and that’s what’s becoming problematic.”
Some of the disadvantages of heavy drinking are painfully obvious: low energy, morning headaches, a growing waist, to name a few. Others are more subtle but potentially more harmful, such as high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, liver damage, and increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and various cancers. “Just because you do not feel something does not mean that something is not happening in your body,” Johnson says.
The good news is that these negative effects are reversible. By eliminating alcohol, you can get more up-and-coming, more patience with your children, a brighter head and much better overall health – and it does not take long to reap the benefits. While each person’s experience will be unique, here’s a general timeline of what happens when heavy drinkers give it a break.
What happens if you stop drinking: Day 1
On your first day without a drink, do not expect to feel much different. Unlike an alcoholic, who will experience acute withdrawal symptoms and cravings within hours of quitting cold turkey, Johnson says that most heavy drinkers who quit will not notice the effects immediately, “because you do not constantly have as much alcohol in your system. do not have. .”
What you may notice is sugar or carbohydrate cravings, as your body does not get the empty calories it is used to from drinking. “When you stop using alcohol, your sweet tooth still kicks in, so be careful what foods and drinks you replace,” Johnson says.
What happens if you stop drinking: Day 2 and 3
Since you are probably not physically addicted to alcohol, it will not make much difference on a physiological level to go without it for a few days. Emotionally speaking, however, you may miss the release and relaxation you are accustomed to with wine, beer or mixed drinks. When a stressful situation arises, you may wish you had your go-to and feel slightly irritated that you can not concede. Just push through it. Good things are about to happen.
What happens if you stop drinking: Days 4 to 7
Subtle physiological changes begin to occur within 72 to 96 hours of no alcohol, Johnson says. The first big one that most people will notice is healthier slumber, as alcohol mainly messes with sleep cycles.
“When a problem drinker has alcohol in their system, two things happen: They have fewer REM cycles than normal, and they often do not sleep through the night,” Johnson explains. “The body breaks down alcohol into sugar before it is further broken down into vinegar and water so that the kidneys can remove it. To the point that it is sugar, it is a stimulant, and the effect is enough to wake you up at night. ” Although most people eventually fall asleep again, they often do not get deep sleep, which is the key to cell recovery and energy recovery.
After four or five consecutive days without alcohol in the system, Johnson says sleep cycles typically begin to normalize, and people begin to wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
What happens if you stop drinking: Week 2
With better quality sleep comes more day energy. Once quiet nights become a regular occurrence, tasks feel less difficult, work does not drag as much, and when your children ask you to play a board game, you are more likely to say yes.
At this point, you care to find you look also better. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes you pee more, flushes water out of the body and leads to dehydration. It hinders all systems, but it really points to the face. When skin cells have dried out, the face looks dull, dry, tired and old. With alcohol no longer saturating your cells with moisture, the reflection in the mirror may not scare you so much.
What happens if you stop drinking: Weeks 3 to 5
This is when the really good stuff starts to happen. After a few weeks to a month, Johnson says that the central nervous system is restored: “You start thinking more clearly, your memory is better and you can concentrate better.” Along with that, anxiety and depressive symptoms often decrease.
You will probably also notice fewer digestive problems. “When you drink regularly, your stomach is irritated because there is way too much acid present,” Johnson says. “It can cause pain, indigestion and acid reflux. For many people, it slows everything down and starts to turn around after a few weeks of not drinking.”
The liver and kidneys also become much healthier, which according to Johnson is a very big problem. “The liver is so important,” she says. “It is responsible for getting rid of toxins in the body and converting nutrients into substances that the body can use, such as vitamin K for blood clotting, which begins to build up back to normal levels. We see a reversal of alcohol-induced fatty liver issues, which can lead to liver cancer, when someone stops drinking. Cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, will stop. ”
The period of three to five weeks is also when sugar cravings caused by the lack of alcohol tend to subside, Johnson adds. And if you assume that you have not applied this loop in the past few weeks, you may find that your clothes fit a little looser. Johnson maintains it is impossible to place a timeline on weight loss as everyone’s diet, metabolism and activity levels differ. That said, it is common for people to lose a few pounds at this time.
What happens if you stop drinking: Months 1 to 3
After a few months of abstaining from alcohol, all the positive changes that come from abstinence contribute to significantly improved long-term health projections. “Within a month to a few months, we start to see a decrease in heart related issues like high cholesterol and blood pressure levels,” says Johnson. “Future cancer risks – such as throat, stomach and liver cancer – are also significantly reduced.” Cheers for that.