Below, one of our contributing doctors gives us some tips on how to do ‘Dry January’ the healthy way!
After a month of indulgence and flowing bubbles you may be thinking of making some important lifestyle changes for the new year. Many people might be participating in Dry January to give their liver a much needed break. But do we really know exactly how this impacts our health?
Dr Preethi Daniel from London Doctors Clinic will walk through what changes to expect to your body covering both the pros and cons of an alcohol detox.
Changes you should expect when going Dry this January
Difficulty Sleeping – If you were a regular moderate drinker you may initially find it difficult to fall asleep.
Hangover symptoms – Some people may experience hangover like symptoms, potentially from lack of hydration.
Sugar cravings & improved concentration – You may begin craving the sugar that you are no longer getting from alcohol. However, you are likely to start feeling sharper and should notice an improved concentration.
Improved Sleep – Your sleep will improve significantly, with a better pattern and more consistency. However, you may start experiencing increased vivid dreams.
Improved mood & increased energy – Your mood should improve and you should start feeling less lethargic and more energised.
The Benefits of an Alcohol Detox After Christmas
After Christmas and New Years collectively, all of that drinking can take its toll on your liver, however, taking a break can provide it with some much needed rest and recovery. If your liver has been slightly impacted, it generally takes around four to six weeks for it to return to normal, meaning Dry January can be the perfect detox time.
One of the first things that you may notice when you begin your alcohol detox is that your sleeping pattern will drastically improve and you will notice an increase in your energy levels. While many people find that alcohol can help them fall into a deeper sleep faster, this sleep is actually less restful as less time is spent in a ‘deep’ slumber. On the other hand, the days where you don’t drink can lead to a night of much better sleep, making it much easier to wake up in the mornings with less grogginess.
That’s right, consuming less alcohol can have a positive effect on your appearance. Alcohol can lead to dehydration as it makes you need to visit the bathroom more often. This has a knock-on effect on your skin and eyes, causing them to look dry, dull and lifeless. Therefore, going dry in January can impact your appearance positively – your skin should look more refreshed and your eyes will appear brighter. Also, a reduced intake means that more calories are entering the body from food, rather than drink, which means that you have a potentially higher vitamin intake. This can help your skin look healthier and youthful.
In addition, it can help you lose weight – in a recent study it was seen that participants of a one month break from alcohol lost on average 1-2kg of weight without significant changes to diet and exercise.
Improved Immune System
Alcohol has the potential to suppress your immune system, which could make you more susceptible to the cold and flu and reduce your ability to fight off illness. This could prevent you catching that cold that’s going around.
The Cons of an Alcohol Detox After Christmas
If you are a regular moderate to heavy drinker and suddenly stop drinking alcohol, you may experience negative effects to your health. This is due to withdrawal symptoms from alcohol dependency, some symptoms you may experience are; restlessness, tremors, hallucinations, nausea, insomnia, sweating, anxiety and depression. If you experience any of these symptoms the best course of action is to seek medical help, a doctor will be able to advise the best course of action to avoid these symptoms. In some cases, completely stopping alcohol consumption for the month may not be recommended.
Is there any point in not drinking alcohol just for a Month?
While taking a month off for alcohol can have its positive effects, returning to drinking heavily for the remainder of the year can potentially reverse the positive impact you have made on your body. The government recommends having at least two alcohol-free days per week, and this can actually be more beneficial than just having a whole month off, and can gradually reduce reliance on alcohol.
Dry January is often seen as a way for many to revisit their relationship with alcohol, with the objective of reducing their overall intake in the long term to help them feel better, rather than a quick fix. It also can help make you feel good if you’re doing it for charity!
Many find that after a month away from drinking they have a reduced tolerance to alcohol, so it is worth bearing this in mind when it comes to your first drink so that you don’t overdo it.
Steps to take to do Dry January Healthily
While there are many benefits to participating in dry January, if your body is used to the alcohol you may experience some withdrawal symptoms. Usually, these subside after the first couple of days, here are a few ways to ensure that you feel your best:
Many people may experience ‘hangover’ like symptoms for a few days after giving up alcohol. This is generally due to lack of hydration and ,therefore, one of the best courses of action is to keep yourself topped up with plenty of fluids. Before going to bed, it is worth having a big glass of water, and this will keep you feeling fresh the following morning!
It is also important to eat healthy and regular meals. Alcohol contains a very high number of calories, so when you stop drinking you are not only cutting your alcohol consumption but also sugar and calories. This may leave you with cravings. So it is important to have regular nutritious meals as well as healthy snacks to keep you fuller for longer, so you don’t find yourself opening another box of chocolates!
How to keep the momentum going this Dry January?
There are several tips to help you stay motivated:
Stock up on Alternatives
Keeping a variety of different drinks could also be a beneficial way to motivate yourself to keep away from alcohol. It is also worth drinking lots of lemon-infused drinks. Lemon has a detoxifying effect on the body and can help start cleaning out the liver sooner.
Out of sight, out of mind
If there is no alcohol around the house, you are less likely to consume any. If you have lots of drinks around the house , hide it so you feel less tempted.
The first few days may be the most difficult, so it is best to find ways to fill your time; make use of that gym membership, head out to the cinema! Try to do something to take your mind off Dry January. The less you think about it, the easier it’ll become!
It’s much easier to keep motivated if you have someone else doing Dry January challenge with you. Encourage friends and family to join you. You’ll keep each other on the right track, and it will feel more fun and less like a chore!
Dr. Preethi Daniel is Clinical director at the walk-in GP clinic, London Doctors Clinic part of the Doctors Clinic Group