You’d Never Guess What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Drinking Alcohol
Dedicate a night to drinking and you’ll morph from an insecure, average person into a more outgoing, hilarious version of you — but only for a short while. While you may feel like a better you in the moment, your body would respectfully disagree. That’s because when you make it your mission to get wasted, you’re literally going to war with your body. While you focus on throwing back that third cocktail, your organs are banding together to get rid of it. As if they didn’t already have enough to do …
So, what happens when alcohol is taken out of the equation and your body can focus on its daily functions rather than having to clean up the results of a booze overload? Curious? Here’s a peek inside the body of your sober self.
The accumulation of fat in the liver decreases
A healthy liver can process about half an ounce of pure alcohol an hour. That translates to roughly one beer or one glass of wine, but when you’re out with your friends, you likely drink more than that in a shorter amount of time. As alcohol flows into the liver, the organ reacts by producing a toxic enzyme called acetaldehyde, which can damage liver cells and cause permanent scarring. While some of that scarring, also known as cirrhosis, may remain, your liver will quickly clean itself out when you stop drinking and follow a healthy vegetable and fruit-heavy diet.
In one study, the accumulation of fat in the liver — a precursor to liver damage — was decreased by an average of 15% over a month of abstaining from alcohol.
Your risk for heart disease goes down
When you drink more than the half ounce of pure alcohol that your liver can handle, the remaining substance flows onto your heart. The alcohol reduces the force with which your heart muscle contracts. In response, your heart will pump less blood, your body’s blood vessels will relax, and your blood pressure will drop. This unnatural state will last for as long as 30 minutes before returning back to normal.
If you drink too much regularly or find yourself binge drinking often, you can hurt your heart and cause heart disease. In addition, binge drinking can cause irregular heart rhythms called arrhythmias. By abstaining from alcohol, you allow your heart to function normally to avoid any heart diseases associated with alcohol.
Your blood sugar levels even out
Your body is constantly working to maintain your blood sugar levels, but it stops this necessary chore when alcohol enters your system. Studies have shown that alcohol interferes with all three sources of glucose in the body and the hormones that are needed to maintain healthy glucose levels. By drinking alcohol, you impair your body’s ability to manage your blood sugar, which can lead to insulin resistances and diabetes.
When you cut out alcohol, your blood glucose levels will even out, and studies report an average reduction in blood glucose of 16%.
You may lose weight
Think about the last time you went all out. You probably consumed several drinks and maybe even participated in a late-night pizza binge. Alcohol subdues your will power and lowers your inhibitions, which translates to wanting unhealthy fatty foods. To top it off, when you’re drinking, your body will prioritize digesting the toxic substance before getting to work on any food you consume, so anything you eat while drinking will be stored as fat in your body.
Plus, beer adds empty calories to your diet. When you stop drinking, weight loss may be one of the first things you notice.
Your mind works better
Alcohol is a sedative, so when it reaches your brain, it slows the transmission of impulses between nerve cells that control your ability to think and move. This is why drunk people slur their words, can’t see clearly, and experience impaired judgment. This is also why it is so important that you don’t drink and drive.
Alcohol’s effect on the brain doesn’t end when you leave the bar. Alcohol hampers your memory and information retention. New Scientist found during a small scale study of 14 people that your concentration levels can increase by an average of 18% and your work performance can improve by an additional 17% by not drinking for one month.
Your immune system improves
Your immune system consists of both an adaptive system and an innate system. Alcohol suppresses both of these systems. It reduces the function of white blood cells, making it more difficult for them to get rid of harmful bacteria. This makes heavy drinkers more vulnerable to serious infections like pneumonia and tuberculosis. If you stop drinking and fill your diet with immune-boosting foods like fruits and vegetables, you’ll lower your risk of contracting a bacterial infection because your body will have a better chance of fighting it off.
It lowers your chance of developing an anxiety disorder
People often use alcohol as a way to relax and unwind. The problem is that when alcohol breaks down, it actually causes feelings of relaxation to reverse and cause more anxiety. Studies have shown that too much alcohol causes the brain to rewire, and when that happens, the potential for anxiety issues emerges. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America noted that 20% of those suffering from social anxiety have some sort of alcohol abuse disorder.
By cutting alcohol out of your daily routine, you don’t give your brain that ability to rewire, which lessens your chance of developing an alcohol-related anxiety disorder.
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