There is nothing worse than nursing a hangover, and after weeks of indulgence over the festive season, up to 2 million of us are expected to sign up for a ‘Dry January’ in a bid to sober up, lose weight, sleep better, and save money after what is generally the most expensive time of the year.
But for many of us, the festivities run well into the New Year, and so it is easy to pass the ‘Dry January’ deadline and feel that it is too late to sign up, but the good news is, it is never too late, and if you are yet to pledge your allegiance to this 31-Day alcohol free plan, now is the time to dispose of any temptation, and take the challenge to banish the booze from your daily routine.
The Effects of Hangovers on the Body
We’ve all done it, and while many of us head out with the good intentions of just having “one or two” drinks, a good night out can easily turn into an all-night session that leaves us feeling dreadful. A dry mouth, a throbbing headache, nausea, an upset stomach, and a general feeling of self-pity are common symptoms of a hangover, but the effects on the body can be more severe than one might think, and we could be causing long-term damage to our brain, liver, heart, and immune system each time we overindulge.
Despite huge amounts of scientific and medical research, scientists have yet to find a hangover ‘cure’, and so most of us rely on pain relief medicines and water to relieve the symptoms, but researchers have identified what effects hangovers have on the body, and the results are alarming.
Alcohol and the Brain
We know that hangovers result in headaches, but did you know that excessive alcohol consumption could potentially damage your brain? Scientists have found that alcohol can disrupt the function of brain neurotransmitters, reduce the size of brain cells, effectively causing the brain to shrink, and increase levels of serotonin, which makes us feel happy and relaxed while drinking, but depressed the following day. These disruptions in the brain also cause memory loss and black outs, which is why many people forget much of what happened then night before.
Alcohol and the Liver
One of the most serious conditions caused by alcohol consumption is cirrhosis of the liver, but there are many other common disorders such as Steatosis (fatty liver), Fibrosis, and Alcoholic Hepatitis that can cause all kinds of liver problems. The liver plays a vital role in alcohol detoxification, but lifestyle changes can help it regenerate, and alcohol abstinence is one of the easiest ways to restore the functionality of a healthy liver.
Alcohol and Heart
There are two sides when it comes to alcohol and the heart, with some medical professionals believing that moderate drinking (1-2 units per day) could actually be beneficial to the heart by lowering the risk of coronary heart disease. However, excessive and regular drinking could cause all kinds of complications such as hypertension, alcoholic cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, strokes, and even heart failure in extreme circumstances.
Alcohol and the Immune System
As the body’s natural defence system, a healthy immune system is vital to good health, but it can be weakened when we drink too much alcohol, and when we drink in excess, our immune system can become compromised and open to attacks from bacteria and viruses. When the immune system is suppressed, we are more likely to contract an infection, even life threatening infections such as HIV, and we become less capable of fighting off cancerous cells.
The good news is, the body is amazingly resilient, and by abstaining from alcohol, even for just 1 month, we can reverse much of the damage caused, so stay dry this January (or February), and start the New Year with a healthier you – inside and out!