When you quit drinking, the more obvious and immediate benefit is you are breaking a bad habit. However, over time the benefits of sobering up can really become more evident as you begin to feel better and notice significant positive changes.
Most people quit abusing alcohol because they recognize they have a problem or their life has become unmanageable because of their substance use. Not many people realize that there are multiple benefits to not drinking when they first decide to put the bottle down.
What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Drinking
When you stop ingesting alcohol, the body at first can go into shock causing alcohol withdrawal symptoms if you are not careful. The reason for this is because when someone has been heavily drinking or regularly drinking for an extended amount of time, the body becomes dependent on the chemicals from alcohol as it has made adjustments to the processes of the body to accommodate the added alcohol intake.
Perhaps taking a look backward will help demonstrate what areas of the body are affected by alcohol and thus when we quit drinking, how some of these processes will subtly start to return to normal.
Reviewing these effects will help us understand what is happening inside our bodies as we drink alcohol as most of the time when drinking, we don’t realize what is actually happening besides what we think is a “good time.”
Alcohol slows communication between the neurons and neurotransmitters, which is the command pathway for all major functions of the body such as breathing, thinking, speaking and moving. The cerebellum, cerebral cortex, brain tissue, and limbic system are each affected and can be severely damaged by alcohol consumption which leads to multiple issues such as decreased brain cells, depression, mood changes, poor sleep, and alcohol dependence.
Alcohol causes a weakened immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off illness, disease, and sickness. Alcohol makes white blood cells less effective at fighting off bad bacteria.
The liver is responsible for breaking down alcohol in our bodies, which throws off horrible toxins. Over time, the liver becomes overloaded with toxins and a build-up of fat, which leads to Steatosis or “fatty liver,” which is an early sign of liver disease. A fatty liver can lead to hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
By drinking alcohol, we damage our heart and weaken its muscles. This can lead to strokes, hypertension, heart arrhythmias, and heart disease.
Alcohol also severely affects antibodies that ward off tumor cells putting us at much higher risk for cancer. Alcohol causes 3.5% of U.S. cancer deaths, or about 20,000 cancer-related deaths each year. The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health. They also state, “Alcohol remains a major contributor to cancer mortality and years of potential life lost. Reducing alcohol consumption is an important and underemphasized cancer prevention strategy.”
Health Benefits of Giving Up Alcohol
There are many health benefits of becoming sober. It is important to understand how overall well-being is positively affected when you are no longer consuming alcohol. The benefits include:
- Better sleep
- More energy
- Clarity and less brain fog
- Clearer skin
- More hydration in the body
- Increased mental focus
- Better digestion
- Increased absorption of vitamins and minerals
- Weight loss due to less caloric intake
- Reduced sugar intake (as long as it is not replaced with sweets overload)
- Reduced risk of heart disease or breast cancer
- Better immune system
- Improved memory function
How Long Does It Take For Our Body To Reverse the Negative Effects of Drinking?
Besides dependency, alcohol’s effect on your health can be widespread and can lead to many diseases later in life. Drinking affects many major organs in the body, as we’ve seen, making the damage it does something to be highly considered. Some damage can be reversed, while some cannot. It’s important to know what effects can’t be reversed by time as well as the ones that can.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “Abstaining from alcohol over several months to a year may allow structural brain changes to partially correct. Abstinence also can help reverse negative effects on thinking skills, including problem-solving, memory and attention.”
Moreover, a study done by Merck Manuals shows that damage to the liver can be reversed under certain conditions stating, “Fatty liver completely resolves within 6 weeks. Fibrosis and cirrhosis cannot be reversed.”
The damage that has been done to the major organs of the body is sometimes irreversible. Everyone’s body is different and can repair to a certain degree. The main goal in abstaining from alcohol is to prevent any further damage from occurring.
Getting Help for Alcohol Dependence
If you or a loved one is trying to quit drinking please contact us today and we would be happy to go over the alcohol withdrawal timeline with you as well as explore treatment options and programs available for alcohol abuse.
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