It’s no secret that alcohol isn’t exactly healthy for us, but did you know a recent study from The Lancet in 2018 debunked the age-old promise that a glass of wine a day is good for you?
According to the study, no amount of drinking improves your health and according to a 2021 study from Oxford University, no amount of alcohol consumption is even safe for your brain health.
This means anyone who drinks alcohol regularly—but especially those that binge drink occasionally—can benefit from taking a break from drinking, not just post-holidays during Dry January, but any time of year. According to the CDC, binge drinking is typically five or more drinks for men or four or more drinks for women in two hours.
The body is resilient, so even a short break from alcohol can provide benefits, and the longer your break, the more the benefits compound.
Here are six health benefits to taking a break from alcohol:
Better sleep quality
Though alcohol may help you fall asleep quickly because it has a sedative effect, it negatively impacts the quality of your sleep. As the body processes the alcohol consumed throughout the night, you may experience sleep disruptions and reduction in REM sleep, which is important for learning and memory. According to a 2018 study, high amounts of alcohol consumption (more than two servings per day for men and one for women) decreased sleep quality by 39.2 percent.
Reduced risk of breast cancer
According to Breastcancer.org, women who drink just three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15 percent higher risk of breast cancer than women who don’t drink at all. This risk continues to rise by 10 percent for each additional drink. This is because alcohol increases levels of estrogen and other hormones responsible for hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.
Alcoholic drinks can be high in empty calories, carbohydrates and sugar. For example, one IPA beer has between 180-200 or more calories, five ounces of wine has 123 calories and a large margarita can have more than 500 calories. This means removing alcohol from your diet, especially if you’re having more than one drink on a daily basis, can help you more easily create a caloric deficit needed for weight loss.
When we consume alcohol, a toxin our bodies aren’t built to process, our metabolism prioritizes removing the alcohol first ahead of nutrients like food or vitamins. This can result in both increased fat storage and vitamin deficiencies.
Anyone who’s woken up with a puffy face and dark circles under their eyes after a night of heavy drinking knows alcohol has a negative effect on their skin. Alcohol dehydrates the body and increases blood flow, causing blood vessels to dilate which can make skin look red and blotchy. It also breaks down collagen in the skin and depletes us of vitamins which slows down cell renewal and can give skin a dull, grey appearance.
Improved liver function
Drinking alcohol can cause fat to build up in the liver and over time, excessive alcohol intake can cause alcohol-related fatty liver disease. Long-term, fatty liver disease can lead to cirrhosis if excessive drinking continues, an irreversible form of liver damage. The good news is that the liver is a resilient organ and even just a few weeks’ break from alcohol can reduce the amount of fat in your liver.
Molly Ruggere is a freelance writer, Certified Life Coach, Alcohol Freedom Coach and Founder of Counterculture Club, a global alcohol-free social community based in Charlotte that offers private and group coaching, monthly membership and events for individuals who want to socialize and form authentic connections without alcohol.