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How Quitting Drinking Affects the Body

Alcohol consumption can be harmless to some, with the occasional beer or cocktail on the weekend or on game nights; but for others, it is considered an addiction. Alcohol is the most abused substance in Canada and it affects a significant percentage of the population.

When an individual decides to quit drinking, there will be changes in the body, and withdrawal symptoms that range from mild to severe will occur.

Let’s take a closer look at how quitting alcohol affects the body, depending on the level of alcohol consumption. 

How Does Quitting Drinking Affect Moderate Drinkers? 

Social or moderate drinkers consume one drink per day for females and two drinks for males, according to dietary guidelines. When moderate drinkers decide to stop drinking alcohol, there will be positive changes in the body. Changes depend from person-to-person, and can also vary on several factors, such as diet, medical history, and drinking history. 

Quitting drinking for social and moderate drinkers can affect the body in mild ways, such as:

A Sense of Control Over Health 

Controlled alcohol consumption may not mean that it is necessarily alarming. Nevertheless, once moderate drinkers decide to stop drinking, they may feel like they have accomplished something that’s beneficial for their health. This feeling is solidified by weight loss, which is bound to happen once alcohol is removed from the body. 

When a moderate drinker decides to take a break from alcohol, it gives them a chance to evaluate their relationship with the substance. Adding to that, it gives them a chance to find alternative ways to relax, socialize, and cope with stress. 

Positive Sense of Well-Being 

Research suggests that once social drinkers quit drinking, they experienced positive changes in mental well-being. As alcohol depresses the central nervous system, it can increase feelings of anxiety and stress. When alcohol is taken out of the body and if the central nervous system can fully adapt, these worrying feelings tend to decrease. This allows individuals to engage in more emotional and mental stability. 

A woman stretching

Improved Sleep Patterns 

A study conducted in 2016 based on the trend “Dry January,” where the participants voluntarily abstained from alcohol for the entire month, showed that 62% of respondents reported improved sleeping patterns. The participants completed a baseline questionnaire, which was followed by more check-ins after one month and six months.

The benefits from quitting drinking are all positive effects, but it can be a different case for heavy drinkers. Let’s look at the changes that may happen to the body once alcohol consumption is stopped. 

How Does Quitting Drinking Affect Heavy Drinkers? 

Heaving drinking, or binge drinking, is classified as having more than five drinks on one occasion. Dr. Amitava Dasgupta, Ph.D., author of the book, The Science of Drinking, agrees that heavy drinkers who are quitting alcohol can expect a range of physiological changes. 

Better Liver Health 

The liver is the organ most affected by heavy drinking, and cirrhosis of the liver (liver scarring) can develop over time for those who engage in excessive alcohol consumption. While it doesn’t happen overnight, fatty changes in the liver occur. For moderate drinkers, the changes are reversible.  

The liver is a tolerant organ, and positive changes can happen within one to two weeks of abstinence. When the liver is rid of alcohol, it can focus on its other functions, such as breaking down other toxins produced by the body, metabolizing fats and excess hormones that need to be broken down. 

Improved Heart Health 

Quitting drinking doesn’t only do the liver well, it also decreases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. When consumed, alcohol is processed and metabolized by the liver and an enzyme called dehydrogenases. Excessive drinking causes the enzyme to get saturated and metabolized by a different enzyme. When alcohol is metabolized in a different pathway, it produces free radicals which are known to oxidize bad cholesterol called low-density lipoprotein (LDL). 

When the LDL is oxidized, it ends up on the carotid arteries, hence forming blockages. Drinking in moderation doesn’t have any harmful effects on the LDL, but when done excessively, alcohol consumption increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. This is the reason why quitting drinking can drastically improve heart health. Doctors recommend exercise to further rid the body of harmful cholesterol. 

Lesser Risk of Developing Cancer 

Alcohol has been classified as a known human carcinogen, according to the Report on Carcinogens by the National Toxicology Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The report states that the more alcohol a person consumes, the more likely they will develop alcohol-associated cancer. Links have been identified between excessive alcohol intake and the development of the following types of cancer:

  • Breast
  • Colorectal (colon)
  • Esophagus
  • Head and neck
  • Liver

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, alcohol is one of the top three causes of cancer deaths. In 2015, more than 10,700 Canadians were diagnosed with cancer in relation to their excessive alcohol intake. Quitting drinking can not only bear significant positive changes in the body, but it can actually save your life. 

For binge drinkers, alcohol withdrawal symptoms may occur in the first few weeks of going sober. While some symptoms can be severe and worrying, these are temporary and can be treated by medical professionals and by entering a facility with medically-assisted detox programs. 

The Next Step After Quitting Drinking 

If you consider yourself a heavy alcohol consumer and if you are debating quitting drinking, we are here to help. Our alcohol addiction treatment and detox programs ensure the highest level of care and assistance in a serene, nurturing environment. Our programs are aided by medical professionals and therapists to provide all forms of treatments and counselling for those struggling to overcome the habit. 

For more information about our alcohol addiction treatments, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. A member of our team will get back to you shortly. Contact us today!

 

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