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Ask Dr. Nandi: Examining the health benefits of 'Dry January'

What too much alcohol can do to your health
Posted at 5:08 PM, Jan 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-02 17:08:15-05

(WXYZ) — One of the more popular New Year’s resolutions is to drink less alcohol. Each year, millions of people take part in “Dry January,” which challenges adults to voluntarily give up alcohol for the entire month.

We’re coming off the holiday season, a time when many of us overindulge in food and alcohol. Dry January was created in 2012 by a British charity as a way for people to ditch the hangover, reduce the waistline, and save some money. It represents a chance to start the New Year on a sober and healthier note.

You might ask what difference will it make to give up drinking for 31 days? Well, even a short break can have a positive impact on your health and well-being.

If you are a regular drinker, here are some of the benefits of going without a sip of wine, beer, or spirits for a month:

  • Studies have shown a rapid reduction in the chemical messengers in the blood that are associated with cancer progression . . .  
  • There were also improvements in weight, blood pressure, and insulin resistance. . . 
  • It also led to better sleep, more energy, and mental sharpness . . .   
  • And participants were less irritable and anxious. 

Dry January also gives you the opportunity to take a closer look at your overall alcohol intake and how important it is to you. If you can’t go a month without alcohol, ask yourself: Why not? What’s causing you to need alcohol? It could signal that it’s time for you to talk to your doctor.

Reducing alcohol intake does a body good, regardless of whether you’re male or female. But, women’s health is of particular concern right now. Statistics show alcohol use among women is increasing, while it is decreasing for men. We saw a large spike in the number of women drinking during the pandemic.

That’s troubling because women are at greater risk for some of the negative health effects of alcohol. A woman’s body absorbs more alcohol than a man’s and takes longer to break it down. As a result, women who drink have a higher risk of brain and heart damage, cirrhosis, and other alcohol-related liver diseases than men.

Also, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drinking liquor increases the risk of certain cancers in women, including breast cancer.

In fact, the CDC says limiting alcohol is one of the four “totally doable” New Year’s resolutions that will reduce the risk of breast cancer. The other three are:

  • Keep a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • and get enough sleep.

So, all of these reasons, plus the health benefits I mentioned earlier, are why I encourage you to try a “Dry January.”