Perhaps that’s why 1 in 5 of us are giving Dry January a go in 2021 – that’s double on last year – and attempting to curb our habits for at least 31 days.
We all have our reasons for giving up alcohol. It used to be that we were going out too many nights a week, spending too much money and rolling in too late on a school night.
Now, the problem is staying in. With alcohol delivery services, ample midnight snacks and a few extra hours in bed before the morning Zoom meeting, it’s almost too easy to pour another drink before bed.
What’s remarkable though, is just how much our bodies can benefit from a one-month detox, even if you don’t decide to stop drinking altogether in 2021.
To highlight exactly what happens to us when we detox, we asked a whole host of experts to break down the changes around the body – from our skin to our vital organs – and even chart the improvements week by week.
You’ll be amazed at what a difference a month makes.
1. Our skin
“Within a week, the skin will start to show signs of improvement,” says Dr Sophie Shotter, cosmetic and hormone doctor. “It will look dewier and healthier thanks to better hydration levels. You may still be getting breakouts as the skin’s barrier heals and purges any pore-cloggers but after a month your skin should also look more even in tone and be less puffy or breakout prone.
She adds: “In the long-term reducing your alcohol intake reduces sugar levels, which are very damaging to skin. Sugar accelerates collagen breakdown because as it’s metabolised there is free radical formation. These free radicals will attack our collagen, causing premature collagen degradation and an ageing appearance.”
Dr Susan Mayou, Consultant Dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic, adds: “Alcohol can also deprive skin of vitamins and nutrients that cause long-term damage. Heavy drinking is linked to inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea and can exacerbate eczema, psoriasis and acne and increase susceptibility to skin and systemic infections.
As for fine lines and wrinkles, excessive drinking can make our skin dry and tight from dehydration, making them more pronounced. It can also cause the face to become puffy as the body tries to retain as much water as possible. The complexion can become dull and for some people the facial skin may also flush, which is caused by the body having problems digesting the alcohol.
Giving up alcohol for a month can therefore have a dramatic improvement on the health of your skin.”
2. Our weight
General Practitioner Dr Ann Donnelly says: “On the inside and outside, the body will benefit hugely from stopping alcohol for a month. With rehydration comes more energy, therefore better physical performance and possibly more ability to stay active. Then there’s the reduced calories intake. For example, six pints of larger amounts to 1,080 calories, which is the equivalent of five chocolate bars.
“Noticeable weight loss will happen with time, alongside an improvement in your digestion. Acid reflux is reduced and heartburn stops after a fortnight, while there is a reduced risk of blood pressure associated with a reduction in weight, which decreases our chances of heart disease and stroke.”
3. The mind
“Expect to wake up feeling more rested,” Dr Sophie Shotter continues. “Which will mean you feel more productive, problem-solve more efficiently, and be more in control of your emotions. You may also have better appetite control, since better sleep will decrease your levels of ghrelin (which makes you feel hungry) and increases your levels of leptin (which makes you feel full). Even though alcohol pushes us more quickly into the deeper stages of sleep – which may mean we fall asleep more easily – our bodies don’t get essential REM sleep.
Headaches caused by the dehydrating properties of alcohol may improve rapidly because the dehydration can impacts your sodium and potassium levels, meaning your nerves and muscles don’t function as effectively, leaving you feeling more tired and nauseous.”
4. Vital organs
“The liver has a reputation for being able to regenerate itself, so many of us assume it’s a forgiving organ,” explains Professor William Alazawi, Consultant Hepatologist at the London Digestive Centre. “However, if the liver is damaged repeatedly or over a long period of time it can lead to liver scarring, which is harder to reverse.
Even if there is significant scarring, the liver can recover at least to some degree.
If you stop drinking for a month, it doesn’t guarantee that every last wisp of scar tissue or fat in the liver will go away completely, but cutting out alcohol can give your liver a rest and a chance to recover. It can also have a positive impact on mental health by providing you with the breathing space you need to re-assess your alcohol consumption, and the attitudes you have to your health in the long-term.”
One month without alcohol: What happens week-by-week
We asked Dr Ross Perry, GP Medical Director of Cosmedics, to break down exactly how the body changes in just one month without alcohol and you will be shocked at the transformation…
In the first few days, your body goes into detox mode. After your last drink the liver starts working overtime and the pancreas starts producing extra insulin so it’s important to drink lots of water to keep your skin and body hydrated.
Headaches and grogginess will subside and you will start to feel more refreshed, but it actually takes up to 72 hours before you mentally and physically feel back to normal.
After 5-7days, your sleep pattern becomes more regulated meaning you’ll wake up with more energy and skin looks clearer.
You’ll notice a change in your food choices and appetite. After drinking alcohol, the hormone that makes you feel hungry goes up which often leads to bingeing on the wrong foods. Eating a better diet will make us feel better overall, not forgetting all those alcohol calories. Waking up with a flatter tum in the first week instead of feeling bloated and lethargic will also be noticeable.
After two weeks you will notice a huge improvement in overall sleep pattern as your body becomes more regulated so you’ll observe better brain function.
Replacing alcohol with water will make skin appear clearer, less dry looking with reduced fine lines and eye bags. You may also see a drop in body weight and far less overall bloating around the stomach area.
Blood pressure will reduce because drinking every day and binge drinking can cause it to rise to dangerous levels. After 3 weeks, you will also notice a significant improvement in overall cognitive ability and increased energy levels.
Skin and eyes will look brighter and clearer. Skin that is irritated and normally dry will feel better due to rehydration in the body.
Liver fat reduces up to 15%, increasing its ability to flush out toxins. Overall, you will most certainly feel well-rested, with more energy, clearer skin, less bloating and have likely dropped a dress size. Brain function and productivity will have increased and you’ll generally feel better overall in yourself.