Dry January

Substance Abuse Treatment Centers in Wilmington NCDry January doesn’t mean there isn’t any rain or snow in the weather forecast - it’s a month of abstaining from alcohol. The health benefits from taking up this challenge are surprising. Not only can you lose weight from not consuming those extra calories, you could also see benefits such as lower blood glucose levels, which can decrease your risk of developing diabetes.

It’s a tradition that’s been around for a while. Some have family members who participate ever year. Some do it as part of their other New Year’s resolutions to get healthier.

In the U.K., the health organization Alcohol Concern runs a campaign every year asking if you can take a month off from drinking. By signing up, you agree to give up alcohol for 31 days while raising money for the organization. They aim to educate people about the harm caused by alcohol. Last year over 2 million people participated.

The magazine New Scientist asked some of its staff members to participate in a study to learn the effects of not drinking for a month. Ten of them gave up drinking and four had drinks as usual. They gave blood samples to analyze chemicals in their blood, and ultrasounds to see the amount of fat on their livers.  At the conclusion of the experiment, those that gave up drinking had changes in both.

Fat that accumulates on the liver is a precursor to liver damage, which is caused by drinking. Those that gave up drinking for a month had an average of 15 percent less fat on their livers.  Their blood glucose levels also dropped, which lowers the risk of developing diabetes. Total blood cholesterol also dropped, showing that not drinking can improve how the body manages cholesterol and glucose levels.

Participants also noted that they slept better and had better concentration during the day. The organization Alcohol Concern agrees, listing these other benefits on their website:

      - Increased energy
      - Clearer skin because alcohol tends to cause blood vessel to dilate
      - Weight loss
      - More time because of fewer hang overs
      - Financial savings

Alcohol Concern also believes that people who can give up alcohol for a month will have a better relationship with it because they know they are not dependent on it. However, experts note that it is better to cut back overall rather than taking one month off and overindulging the rest of the year.

One of the downfalls participants found by not drinking for a month was less social interaction. However, Alcohol Concern says that just because you give up alcohol doesn’t mean you have to give up the feeling of drinking. You can have nonalcoholic beverages or mocktails, especially in social situations. But part of the challenge is to see what else you can spend time doing other than drinking. It’s a great time to take up other activities you’ve always wanted to try, or take care of some of those things on your “to-do” list.

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