Since quitting alcohol I've learned a lot about the devastating effects alcohol has on the body. Consistently drinking over many years can cause over 60 different diseases, including many forms of cancer, while even sporadic drinking causes a range of health issues. As soon as I gave up the booze, I felt healthier and happier than I had in years, and the improvement in my overall wellbeing was profound.
If you're contemplating quitting alcohol, here are just a few changes that will happen to your body from the moment you have your last drink.
You will sleep better
According to specialist sleep physician Dr David Cunnington, whether you've only had a few drinks or a skinful, drinking alcohol will disrupt your sleeping patterns. While you may be sleeping, your body certainly isn't at rest -- it is working overtime to rid your body of the toxins you've filled it with. Despite the number of hours of sleep you might get, you'll be tired the following day and lethargic for a few days afterwards as your body plays catch up.
Your chances of getting cancer decrease
Drinking alcohol is one of the biggest risk factors for cancer. Cancer Council Australia states that alcohol use plays a significant role in cancers, including mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, breast, bowel and liver. When you quit drinking, you'll also be less likely to have a stroke or contract diabetes, and your life expectancy will rise.
You'll lose some of the excess baggage
While going to the gym and exercising are important for your health and fitness, it's your diet that plays the biggest role in how much excess weight you carry. Alcohol is full of empty calories that you just don't need. Alcohol is "high in kilojoules, nutrient poor and can lead to weight gain". The carbs and sugars found in alcohol will spike insulin levels in the body, resulting in fat storage of calories that aren't used immediately. And, of course, what late night out is complete without a kebab on the way home and/or a trip to your favourite fast-food outlet the next day? Drinking alcohol impacts your waistline in more ways than one.
Your liver will thank you
Your liver performs an enormous number of bodily functions, including aiding the digestion process, breaking down glycogen for energy and cleaning your blood. When there is alcohol in your body, your liver stops performing all of these other vital functions until it deals with the ethanol in your system. The liver also produces a toxic substance called acetaldehyde when it is metabolising alcohol, and this substance destroys liver cells. Your liver is too important to your overall health to be punishing it with alcohol, and when you find out you have an issue with your liver, it's generally too late.
Your skin will glow
Alcohol is a diuretic, and this causes two big problems for your body. Firstly, it leaves you dehydrated, and secondly, it inhibits the production of your antidiuretic hormone, blocking your ability to rehydrate. Dehydration causes all sorts of problems internally, but it's your skin where the damage can be seen. Drinkwise Australia says poor skin texture and wrinkles are caused by dehydration, a guaranteed result of drinking too much alcohol. There will be ruddiness in your cheeks and nose caused by swollen capillaries, and your skin will be parched. However, the skin is an incredible organ, and within days of giving up the booze you'll see a significant improvement.
These are just a few of the many health benefits you'll enjoy when you give up alcohol. The beauty of sobriety is people tend to replace their bad habits with healthier choices, such as eating better and getting to the gym more often.
The indirect health benefits of quitting alcohol are just as significant as the direct benefits, and these knock-on effects will have a tremendous impact on your mind, body and spirit for the rest of your life.