The Hidden Health Benefits of Dry January

We all know how it goes, we make a promise at the beginning of January to not consume alcohol for the whole month, it starts well, but once you get past the second week and the stresses of life get to you, it can be tempting to reach for a glass of wine after a long hard day. Especially this year, the added stress of the pandemic can be the one thing that tips us over the edge. But do not give up yet, we are here with wise words of encouragement to tell you how dry January is actually really good for your health.

You may be thinking, what is the point in one month off? Surely it will not make that much of a difference. Well, you could not be more wrong, alcohol is linked to more than 60 health conditions and the wellbeing benefits of a month without it go much further than you may think.

Research by The Royal Free Hospital showed that a month without alcohol could achieve health benefits such as lower blood pressure, reduced risk of developing diabetes, lower cholesterol, and reduced levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood. Excessive amounts of alcohol can also affect a number of body parts, beyond our liver, weight gain, cholesterol and blood pressure. It can also affect your eyesight, both in the short and long-term.

Dr Andy Hepworth from the UK’s leading corrective optical lens manufacturer, explains some of the more unknown health implications of excess alcohol:

“When you drink, your reactions naturally slow down and reflexes become slower. This affects your pupils too, making it more difficult to distinguish between objects based on lightness and darkness. You will also experience blurry vision because alcohol can cause a delay between the brain and the eyes.

“While symptoms like the above will usually disappear once you stop drinking, there are some more detrimental consequences to your eye health if you drink excessively in the long-term. In some cases, overconsumption can also be a contributing factor to increased cataract formation.

“Heavy drinking could affect the absorption of vitamins, leading to a vitamin deficiency which could, in turn, affect your eyesight.

“While the above symptoms are usually associated with regular heavy drinking over a long period of time, it’s still important to keep an eye on your alcohol intake and what effect it might be having on your body. Dry January can give you an opportunity to reset your health, including the health of your eyes.

“By reducing your alcohol intake, you may reduce blood pressure which is great for reducing your risk of a heart attack, but can also reduce your risk of hypertensive retinopathy; a condition that damages the blood vessels in your eye. Alcohol is a diuretic which means it can make you dehydrated. In some cases, dehydration can lead to dry eye syndrome.

“Giving up alcohol, if only for a month, can also have a positive impact on your sleep, your waistline and your wallet. It could change your drinking habits, even when the 31 days are over.”

Other health issues caused by drinking

Drinking too much alcohol can also cause abnormal activation of digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas. The buildup of these enzymes can lead to inflammation known as pancreatitis, which can become a long-term condition and cause serious complications.

The pancreas helps regulate your body’s insulin use and response to glucose. When your pancreas and liver aren’t functioning properly, there is a risk of experiencing low blood sugar. A damaged pancreas may also prevent the body from producing enough insulin to utilise sugar, which can lead to hyperglycemia or too much sugar in the blood.

Drinking heavily reduces your body’s natural immune system. This makes it more difficult for your body to fight off invading germs and viruses. This is so important right now, as you need your immune system to be fully intact to fight off Coronavirus if you are exposed to the virus.

Try to stick to dry January and avoid the alcohol, no matter how tempting it may be. You will be grateful that you did when you are happy and healthy. You may think that it will relieve your stress, but in the long run, it may be the cause of it.

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