1. Weight Loss and Improved Nutrition
Remember all those binge-eating sessions after a heavy night out––yes! Researchers suggest that the main culprit here is the pancreas, which produces extra insulin to help in the alcohol-breakdown process, but also causes intense cravings for… yes, you guessed it, carbs! Alcohol itself has empty calories that add to your daily recommended intake. Though a drink might only have between 100-200 calories, that adds up in the long term––if you consume 8-10 drinks a night, that is over 2,000+ calories!
Not only that, but according to research, drinking, particularly heavy drinking, can lead to malnutrition. Researcher Charles Lieber suggests that two factors are at play here: on the one hand, drinkers might ingest too little of the essential nutrients, and on the other, body functions are not able to properly digest, absorb and utilize any consumed nutrients4.
When you stop drinking, your body can properly manage the nutrients that you introduce to your body and help in maintaining a healthy weight. Any excess calories can then be expended through physical activity that you now have the energy to carry out.
2. Improved Sleep Cycle
A drink or two a week can throw a tailspin on your sleep schedule, and using alcohol to aid in sleep can be counterintuitive. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) suggests that alcohol disrupts the sleep cycle. They report that one spends more time in the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep––light sleep––rather than in the three stages of non-REM stage––deep sleep6.
NINDS reports that when you stop drinking, your sleep-wake homeostasis––which tracks your sleep needs––and circadian rhythms––which controls when you sleep––regains their ability to control and regulate when you sleep5. Because your body needs to continually monitor your alcohol consumption when drinking, other bodily functions are pushed to the background. Additionally, you’ll sleep better because your bladder will not be wanting a release in the middle of the night.
3. Improved Immune System and Heart Function
When you stop drinking, your body’s immune system strengthens in anticipation for infections that might come your way. Your body can now work correctly without the need to redivert to take care of the alcohol that is seeping through it.
It also reduces the risk of heart disease as the heart muscles remain strong to pump blood throughout your body. According to research, drinking can damage heart muscles––with women being at a higher risk compared to men. In a study carried by Urbano-Marquez et al., the researchers reported that the women in the study consumed 60% less alcohol in their lifetime compared to men. However, heart diseases like myopathy and cardiomyopathy were as common to women as for the men6.
4. Improved Mental Health
When you have had a long day, it is not uncommon to reach for a glass of wine or scotch to calm the nerves. However, because alcohol is a depressant, our thoughts, actions and feelings are inhibited.
According to Fulton et al., the researchers report that alcohol has a direct relationship to poor decision-making processes, characterized by ‘diminished control over behavior and difficulty avoiding negative consequences’7. Alcohol suppresses the serotonin hormone––a brain chemical which helps to regulate mood and reduce instances of anxiety and depression. Also, the CDC suggests that alcohol consumption has led to an increase in aggressive behavior, lowered inhibitions and increased suicide rates––more so in men than women8.
When you stop drinking, you can regain control of your behavior and apply better decision-making strategies. Serotonin can flow freely, which helps to control the ebbs-and-flows of human emotion.
5. Reduces Risk of Cancer
The National Toxicology Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that alcohol is a known human carcinogen. Because of this, individuals can develop several types of cancer, including bowel, breast, head and neck, esophageal, and most commonly liver cirrhosis9.
The risk of getting any of these types of cancers increases over time, and it depends on the amount of alcohol consumed. When you stop drinking, the risks reduce as you can maintain control over what you consume, and work towards ensuring that you lead a healthy lifestyle.