What goes up when your alcohol consumption goes down?

What goes up when your alcohol consumption goes down?

Our relationship with alcohol is starting to change in Australia.

It’s becoming increasingly common for people to reduce, or stop, drinking alcohol – maybe for health reasons, as part of a lifestyle change or just out of curiosity.

Whatever your reason, the good news is there are great benefits to dialling back your alcohol consumption and many of them kick in within weeks.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the top benefits.

1 Improved sleep

When you cut down, or cut out, alcohol your sleep quality is one of the first things to improve.1

Although the sedative effects of alcohol can make you feel relaxed and sleepy, drinking alcohol – especially in excess (even occasional binge drinking) – disrupts your sleep.2

And poor sleep has a flow on effect on your mood and overall mental and physical health.

Falling asleep without alcohol means you won’t wake up so often and you’ll have a more restorative deep sleep. And, with that comes improved everyday functioning – mood, concentration, creativity, productivity, and mental performance.

2 More energy

This really follows on from improved sleep – if you sleep soundly then you’ll wake up feeling refreshed, with more energy for the day.

Even one drink during the afternoon or evening can interrupt your sleep, leaving you feeling tired and lethargic.3 That’s because alcohol is a diuretic – it removes fluid from your body – and one of the first signs of dehydration is fatigue.3

Half our body weight is made up of water, so we need proper hydration to thrive.

Remember, thirst is not your body’s first sign of dehydration – it’s usually fatigue, headaches, lack of strength and inability to focus.4

Keeping your liquid intake up ensures your body thrives. Reaching for a glass of water instead of a wine or beer can help you maintain your body’s fluid levels and in turn boost your energy.

3 Improved relationships

Most relationships, whether they are family, friends or romantic, can improve when you quit or cut back on alcohol.

Alcohol makes you more likely to argue, get into a fight – physical or verbal – and make poor choices.5 It also reduces your sex drive and your sexual performance.6,7

On the flip side, reduced alcohol can mean reduced tension, setting a good example for your kids, more quality time together and a better sex life.

Cutting back or quitting with a partner or friend can make it much easier too. You can find alternative things to do together that don’t involve alcohol, such as discovering amazing galleries and museums, spending time in nature or simply going to the movies.

For more ideas check out your local council ‘what’s on’ guide.

4 Better looking skin

Not only will cutting back on alcohol make you feel better – you’ll look better too.

Alcohol consumption is linked to inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema, broken capillaries on your face and nose, under-eye puffiness and dehydration (which can leave your skin looking dry and dull).

Quitting alcohol will allow your skin’s elasticity to return, lose the redness, and give you an overall healthier complexion.8,9

5 Healthier weight

Maintaining a healthy weight can be a lot easier when you cut down – or cut out – alcohol.

Alcohol not only interferes with your body’s ability to burn fat it also increases fat deposits, particularly around the abdomen.10 It also increases your appetite, particularly for high-fat foods – both immediately and the following day.11,12

Replacing the ‘empty’ calories in alcohol with nutrient-dense foods will help you feel better, eat less fatty foods and improve your body composition. 11,12

6 More money

One of the unexpected bonuses of drinking less is saving money.

In fact, based on what you drink, how much and how often, the savings can be significant.

In 2020, the average Australian household spent around $1,900 on alcohol ($32 per week).13 If you were to save this money each week, in five years you’d have almost $10,000 – enough for an overseas holiday!

Of course, you’ll also be saving the money you fork out for other incidental things like Uber and taxi rides, late-night takeaway food and those random, under-the-influence online purchases.

7 Improved memory

Although the initial effects of alcohol on the brain may feel good, making you seem happier, less stressed and more sociable, the long-term impact is not good.

Even drinking moderate amounts can cause shrinkage of the part of the brain (hippocampus) that controls memory and reasoning.14

The good news is this damage starts to reverse within six weeks of cutting out alcohol – the brain fog lifts and is replaced with improved focus, attention, learning and memory.15

8 Better immunity

There’s probably never been a better time to boost your immunity and reducing your alcohol intake is a great way to do this.

Alcohol reduces various immune responses, including lower white blood cell production which the body needs to fight bacteria and germs.16 It’s also associated with increased risk of contracting bacterial and viral lung infections.17

So, by giving up alcohol you’re also giving your body a chance to build up its natural defence against infections and viruses. And, you’ll speed-up recovery from infections, wounds or injuries.18

9 Improved overall physical and mental health

There are so many physical and mental health benefits from drinking less or quitting alcohol.

Many of us aren’t even aware of the subtle effects alcohol has on us until we cut back for a period of time or choose to give up alcohol altogether.

We’ve touched on a few of the benefits that start to kick in in the first days, weeks and months of reducing or stopping drinking.

There are plenty of longer-term benefits as well, including reducing your risk of stroke, heart attack, liver disease and cancer. And if you’re pregnant or planning on getting pregnant you’ll avoid serious health problems for your newborn too.

With better sleep, improved energy and clearer thinking your mental health will also get a boost when you give up alcohol. Giving up can also improve negative emotions such as anger, anxiety and moodiness, and common mental health conditions, which can be made worse by alcohol.19

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