There are many physiological benefits for ceasing alcohol consumption for one month. These include:
- Reduction of fat around the liver, which in return leads to lower risk of liver damage and cirrhosis.
- Reduction in the inflammatory cholesterol markers, which reduces risk of long-term cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
- Fat loss – particularly around your waist circumference due to improvements in your metabolism. Since alcohol is considered to be empty calories, the body breaks down alcohol first, so fats and sugars are burnt off slower and thus, may be stored as fat.
- Reduction in fasting blood glucose levels and insulin, which will reduce risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Better sleep – alcohol interferes with our circadian rhythm and thus the quality and quantity of sleep we get.
- Improved mental function – particularly improved memory, concentration and work productivity. Studies have shown that abstaining from alcohol can improve memory by improved function of the hippocampus (area of the brain that is responsible for making, storage and recall of memories)1.
- Improved gut function – as alcohol is an inflammatory agent, it causes inflammation to the lining of the gastrointestinal wall, which leads to symptoms such as diarrhoea, bloating, cramping, gas, reflux and even blood in the stool. By reducing inflammation in the gut, you improve all related symptoms.
- Improved immune system – consuming alcohol can inhibit the absorption of specific nutrients, which play a role in a healthy immune system such as vitamin A, C, D and E, thiamine, B12, folic acid and zinc.
- Increased libido – regular or heavy alcohol consumption interferes with sex hormone production and balance, which can lead to a decreased sex drive and stamina in the bed room.
What happens to brain health?
Regular or heavy use of alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, which in turn can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change your mood and behaviour, and make it harder for you to think clearly and alter the coordination of your body’s movements.
The areas of the brain that are most damaged in people who consume large quantities of alcohol include the frontal lobe – which plays a pivotal role in critical mental skills such as one’s ability to think logically and the ability to exert behavioural control. The other area of the brain affected is the cerebellum, which gives the brain its ability to control and coordinate muscle movements.
Studies have shown that by abstaining from alcohol, there are improvements in the volume of several key brain areas, including the frontal lobe and the cerebellum. Increases are seen in both the gray brain matter that contains active nerve cells and the white brain matter that helps pass the signals between the active nerve cells.2 As brain function and volume improves so too does clarity, concentration, productivity and memory.
Alcohol is also known as a depressant and thus interferes with the brain’s chemistry by altering levels of neurotransmitters – the chemical messengers that transmit signals throughout the body, responsible for controlling thought processes, behaviour and emotion. Alcohol suppresses the excitatory neurotransmitters and increases the inhibitory neurotransmitters resulting in a decrease and impairment of your thought, speech and movement.
What happens to skin and eye health?
Alcohol causes dehydration to your body generally, including the skin – your body’s largest organ. This dehydration can cause the vasodilation of the small blood vessels in your skin and cause rosacea, characterised by redness and flushing. As we know, drinking too much alcohol causes damage to the liver and decreased absorption of vital nutrients and vitamins important for skin health. Long-term, high frequency of alcohol may contribute to other, detrimental effects on your skin such as psoriasis.
In regards to your eyes, alcohol consumption can cause your eyes to become glassy and bloodshot due to a reduction in oxygen transport to your red blood cells, causing blood vessels to become inflamed and clump together. By abstaining from alcohol, oxygen transport is improved and inflammation of the tiny blood vessels in the sclera (white part of your eye) is reduced resulting in brighter and clearer eyes.
Does Panadol or pain killers really help a hangover?
Panadol is paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen, which is generally used to treat pain and fever. Although it may help ease the symptom of a headache, acetaminophen can cause great havoc on your liver if ingested while intoxicated. The reason being is that when your liver is busy metabolising alcohol, it processes the painkiller differently than it otherwise would. As a result, toxic compounds are produced that can cause inflammation and damage to the liver. It could also potentially increase the chance of bleeding in your stomach and gastrointestinal tract due to it already being inflamed from the alcohol. My advice is,unless you’ve got just a killer headache, you’re probably better off avoiding the Panadol and drinking lots of water and getting some rest.
How much water should you drink the morning after a night out?
As we know, alcohol is a diuretic that causes you to lose more fluid than you consume. Many of the effects of a hangover are related to dehydration. Water won’t necessarily cure a hangover, but it can help with some of the issues that contribute to it, such as dehydration. It’s challenging to say exactly how much water you need. It depends on how dehydrated you are and how severe the hangover is. It is a good idea, however, to drink some water before you go to bed so you can start the rehydrating process then. The following morning, you should aim to fill up a big cup or bottle of water and take a sip or two every few minutes. If your hangover is causing you to feel nauseous, gulping water might make you feel more nauseous and cause you to vomit. My best advice is for you to keep sipping water all day, even after your hangover is gone.
Can food help a hangover?
When people think of foods to cure a hangover, they instantly think of a greasy fry-up that may include sausages, bacon and hash browns. This may not be the best solution (especially if you’re nauseous or vomiting) because, while fatty foods will temporarily distract your stomach, you may not be providing your body with the nutrients it craves after a big night out.
However, there is some science behind the tradition of eggs, for the morning after. Egg yolks are rich in cysteine, an amino acid that scientists believe may break down acetaldehyde, a toxin that is produced when the liver processes alcohol, which is also responsible for some hangover symptoms.
A smarter way to feed a hangover is with lighter food like dry toast, boiled rice or pasta, plain yoghurt or stewed fruit and plenty of fluid. Freshly squeezed juices are a great way to increase fluid intake as well as providing vitamin C, which may assist the liver in flushing the toxins from the alcohol. Also, the fructose in the fruit helps to naturally boost the body’s energy and the fibre will also assist your body in breaking down and absorbing the remains of last night’s alcohol. Finally, since booze can have a diuretic effect, the fruit will restore the vitamins and nutrients that are lost from frequent urination and any associated diarrhoea and vomiting.
Bananas are another champion food since they are high in potassium, an electrolyte that is lost as a result of heavy drinking.