If you drink, cutting out alcohol can promote significant health benefits. The changes that occur in your body when you quit drinking alcohol can vary, depending on how much of a change this is from your current behavior. Someone who drinks heavily may experience pronounced physical effects, which can include improved cardiovascular health, better sleep, a stronger immune system, and a lower risk of cancer. However, if you’re a heavy drinker, you should be aware that it may take time to see these benefits, and that you may first have to go through a period of withdrawal.
1. Healthier Heart
You may have heard that a regular glass of wine can be good for your heart. However, this applies only to people who have less than one drink per day. Heavy drinking is linked to numerous health issues, including heart problems. Excessive drinking can lead to diseases of the heart muscle, known as cardiomyopathy, which inhibits the heart’s ability to pump blood.
Alcohol consumption is also associated with high blood pressure, stroke, and an increased risk of heart failure.
2. Healthier Liver
Cirrhosis of the liver is common among people who drink excessively. The liver’s job is to filter out toxins, and alcohol is a toxin. Heavy drinking can lead to liver damage, including fatty liver disease and cirrhosis, which leads to scarring and liver failure.
The good news is, the liver can repair itself. When you quit drinking, eventually the liver can regain normal function. For some people, positive changes to the liver can occur within weeks of giving up alcohol. In addition, without alcohol to process, the liver can focus on other things, such as breaking down other toxins in the body, which can contribute to better health.
3. Weight Loss
Cutting out alcohol may help some people lose weight. Alcohol is high in calories, and many drinks have high sugar content. Heavy drinkers may see significant improvements in body weight, body composition, and triglycerides by giving up alcohol.
Even people who eat well, exercise, and practice other healthy lifestyle habits may have difficulty losing weight if they continue to drink alcohol. Some people, including women going through menopause, may be especially sensitive to the effects of alcohol on their weight.
4. Lower Risk of Cancer
Alcohol consumption has been linked to several different cancers, including cancer of the breast, mouth, larynx, and esophagus. The risk is highest among heavy drinkers and those who also smoke. Research shows that alcohol is a major contributor to cancer deaths and years of potential life lost.
5. Better Sleep
Although alcohol may make you feel sleepy, it actually impairs sleep quality. Drinking alcohol can cause you to wake up repeatedly throughout the night, preventing you from reaching the important REM stage of sleep. Lack of sleep has been linked to serious health consequences, including obesity, diabetes, depression, heart disease, and cancer, as well as an increased risk of accident or injury.
6. Better Memory and Mental Clarity
Alcohol use can interfere with brain development and cause memory loss. Over time, excessive drinking can slow and impair motor skills.
Some of these effects may be related to alcohol’s effects on sleep. REM sleep stimulates regions of the brain used for learning. Research shows that people who were taught a new skill and then deprived of REM sleep were unable to recall what they had learned. If alcohol is disrupting your sleep throughout the night, it may impair your brain’s ability to learn and retain new information.
7. Stronger Immune System
Alcohol can impair immune cells and make it harder for the body to fight off disease. Research shows that excessive drinking is linked to negative health effects such as greater susceptibility to pneumonia and respiratory conditions. Alcohol also impairs the body’s ability to heal itself after an injury or an operation. Quitting drinking may help the body ward off illness and prevent infections.
8. Withdrawal Symptoms
For someone who drinks in excess, cutting out alcohol can lead to withdrawal symptoms, which can include cold sweats, heart palpitations, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, seizures, and hallucinations. Roughly 5% of individuals with a history of alcohol abuse experience severe withdrawal symptoms known as delirium tremens, commonly referred to as DTs.
Delirium tremens can cause extreme confusion, shaking, sweating, and irregular heart rate. It usually occurs three days into the withdrawal period and can last for three days.
If you’re a heavy drinker, it’s recommended to undergo alcohol detox under the supervision of a doctor. Certain medications can help lessen withdrawal symptoms and help prevent delirium tremens.
At America’s Rehab Campuses, we specialize in medical detox programs designed to help people withdraw from substances with a lower risk of complications. We use a client-focused approach that allows us to meet the needs of everyone who comes into our care. Visit our website to learn more.