The many health benefits of not drinking alcohol
If you’ve ever woken up with a terrible headache, feeling like your mouth was vacuumed out and then stuffed with cotton — and then spent some time cursing sunlight and fighting nausea — you know that drinking and feeling healthy and strong are usually not compatible. Obviously, if you stop drinking hangovers won’t be an issue. There are lots of additional reasons to stop drinking, though, either temporarily or for good.
Is moderate drinking actually good for you? Some point to studies that drinking moderately has health benefits as justification for continuing to drink, but that’s actually not true, as The New York Times reported in 2018. A long-term study (from 1990-2016) that analyzed data from 195 countries has shown that actually no amount of alcohol has proven health benefits – and more significantly, even drinking moderately has a negative effect on your health.
So aside from fewer hangovers, what other happy results will you likely experience if you stop consuming alcohol? Consider the following benefits of abstaining.
Your waistline will thank you
People who try to watch their weight and eat healthfully often disregard the fact that alcohol has calories and often added sugar (hello, wine). Additionally, drinking tends to lower one’s inhibitions, so drinkers may overeat after a few drinks, causing weight gain. Exercise may be harder to accomplish if you are drinking or hungover, resulting in a loss of fitness. So if you are taking in fewer calories (and not replacing them) and eating or drinking less sugar, you may notice weight loss after you stop drinking.
With reduced weight comes a reduced risk of getting diabetes. As reported by NPR, a recent study in Great Britain notes that among folks who abstained for a month, “Abstainers also saw their blood glucose levels — a key factor in determining diabetes risk — fall by an average of 16 percent.”
Sleeping will be more restful
The National Sleep Foundation explains that many issues appear when you drink before bed, including increased snoring and sleep apnea. Most disturbingly, brain wave activity suffers when a person drinks: “Drinking alcohol before bed is linked with more slow-wave sleep patterns called delta activity. That’s the kind of deep sleep that allows for memory formation and learning. At the same time, another type of brain pattern — alpha activity — is also turned on… Together the alpha and delta activity in the brain after drinking may inhibit restorative sleep.”
Alcohol may put you to sleep, but it actually interferes with deep sleep, so you wake feeling less rested in the morning. Furthermore, many kinds of alcohol (particularly beer) cause you to need to urinate more frequently. If you’re getting up multiple times in the night to urinate, sleep will not be as easy or restful.
You won’t get sick as often
Most people know that alcohol is bad for the liver, but did you know that drinking also compromises your immune system? If you drink every day you might notice yourself getting sick more often. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “If you drink every day or almost every day, you might notice that you catch colds, flu or other illnesses more frequently than people who don’t drink. This is because alcohol can weaken the immune system and make the body more susceptible to infections.” According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse, cirrhosis of the liver is not the only side effect of drinking. Alcohol abusers get pneumonia, HIV, tuberculosis, and other infections such as septicemia more often than nondrinkers.
Your liver will thank you
A healthy liver has many functions. It creates vitamin K, so your blood clots properly. It also metabolizes fat. A healthy liver breaks down carbohydrates and turns them into energy. A properly functioning liver stores vitamins and minerals and releases them when your body needs them.
The liver is also a really important organ because it gets toxins out of our system, synthesizes proteins, and helps us to digest food. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Abusing alcohol causes bacteria to grow in your gut, which can eventually migrate through the intestinal wall and into the liver, leading to liver damage.” Alcohol is a problem for livers everywhere. Medical News Today notes, “Alcohol abuse is one of the major causes of liver problems in the industrialized world.”
The more you drink, the greater your chances of getting liver disease. Dr. James Ferguson, a liver specialist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham England told NPR: “The main causes of excessive fat in the liver are obesity and excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol changes the way the liver processes fat, resulting in more fat cells that can cause inflammation, leading to liver disease.”
Evolution has caused the liver to be the only human organ that regenerates. So if you stop drinking, the compromised liver actually regenerates and goes back to normal functioning. The liver “can regenerate completely, as long as a minimum of 25 percent of the tissue remains. One of the most impressive aspects of this feat is that the liver can re-grow to its previous size and ability without any loss of function during the growth process” according to Medical News Today.
You will be less likely to actually die
Alcohol consumption accounts for a lot of deaths among adults, as reported by the New York Times. “Among people aged 15 to 49, alcohol use is the single most common risk factor for death and disability. In 2016, alcohol accounted for 6.8 percent of male and 2.2 percent of female deaths.” Further, “The  study, published in the Lancet, concluded that alcohol consumption is involved in 2.8 million deaths annually worldwide, making it the seventh leading risk factor for death and disability.”
So stopping drinking supports your immune system, helps you sleep better, may help you to lose that beer belly, and certainly eliminates hangovers. When you consider all those negative effects that alcohol has on the body, it’s hard to understand why anyone drinks at all.