What happens to your body and mind when you reduce your alcohol intake

Alcohol and greasy food
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by AN-4Health

Cutting back on the amount of alcohol you drink can benefit your mind and body in many ways. We listed some of those benefits below:

Stomach

Even a little bit of alcohol can irritate your digestive system directly and cause acid reflux. At the top of our stomachs is a sphincter that acts like a “drawstring purse”.  Alcohol can relax that muscle and let the acid come up and burn the oesophagus.

If you cut down your drinking, your symptoms of reflux can immediately recover, but it might take inflammation about a week to settle down.

Liver

The process of breaking down alcohol in the liver can damage the organ. That’s because one of the key breakdown products of booze, called acetaldehyde, can cause oxidative stress and trigger the body to attack its own cells in the liver. But here we’re talking about six or more standard drinks a day or people who have a holiday binge, someone drinking within the guidelines shouldn’t have issues with this.

The good news is that if the damage isn’t severe, the liver is usually quick to heal. If there’s not permanent damage or scarring, even over two weeks your liver enzymes can come halfway back to normal.

Weight

Alcoholic drinks contain more energy than many realise. It varies, but a serving of beer or wine can contain 400-500 kilojoules. It’s not insignificant when you consider the average adult should have 8700 total kilojoules in a day.

The influence on weight is not just thought to be the energy in booze itself, but also the behavioural effects of alcohol: it can make you more impulsive and more tempted by junk food.

For some people, even one or two drinks, that bit of disinhibition can cause them to take on behaviours that affect their health, from unhealthy food to illicit drugs to cigarettes. So curbing your alcohol also helps you live the way you want to live.

Not to mention, when you drink more have higher rates of depression, anxiety and other mental health problems.

Mental wellbeing

After about a month of lightened drinking, your mood will be improved, as should symptoms of anxiety and depression. Part of that is to do with getting more sleep and generally feeling healthier, and part of it is that alcohol reduces your ability to recognise and regulate your feelings because it hampers chemical messaging in the brain.

We know that people who rink less you’re more likely to engage in healthier behaviours. Saturday morning exercise classes become less of a problem.

Every time the brain releases the feel-good neurochemicals, dopamine and serotonin, it takes time to build up those stores again. But because alcohol releases a lot more dopamine and serotonin than usual, your stores are more quickly emptied and you can be left feeling flat or depressed.

So while some people drink to relax or quieten unpleasant feelings, it can trigger a vicious cycle of exacerbated depression or anxiety and self-medicating with alcohol.

When people reduce their alcohol, most find their thinking is much clearer, they can manage stress better, they feel less anxious and things are less likely to get them down.
The change in your well being can be quite striking.

Blood pressure

Alcohol can lower your blood pressure at the time of drinking, then raise it 12 hours later. There are several factors thought to explain why, from alcohol’s effects on the kidneys, the nervous system, cortisol levels and body weight. If you regularly drink heavily, it can lead to sustained high blood pressure, or hypertension, which is linked to heart attack and stroke. Thankfully this is very reversible and can improve within about a month of decreasing the booze.

Other aspects of your cardiovascular system can also improve, including heart palpitations, heart rate and, in severe cases, heart muscle function.

Social life

We often consider drinking to be a social activity, but because it’s so disinhibiting, there’s a risk you’ll say or do something you might regret. By scaling back your alcohol, your social skills improve and your bonds can strengthen.

Actually your social interactions are going to be much more in control and more deliberate. It might at first feel strange to be catching up with a group of mates without a beer in hand, but you need to look past any simmering worry that you won’t be interesting or articulate enough.

You’ll usually find you just ease into it and you are actually capable of more than you realise and you don’t need alcohol.

Plus, if you’re drinking less, you’re less tired and stressed, and therefore more tolerant of loved ones.

Heavier drinkers who cut down often notice major changes to their relationships. You will be much more present for your kids, more patient, clearer thinking at work. It all just comes down to becoming more successful, happier humans.

Cancer risk

Some of the most important health benefits from easing your alcohol intake are long-term. Your risk of getting cancer, in particular of the bowel and breast, rises with each standard drink you consume per day. It isn’t just heavy drinkers who are at risk.

It’s quite dramatic and that’s the chief reason for the guidelines.

Other cancers frequently linked to alcohol are liver, stomach and pancreas, as well as oesophagus, mouth and throat, which are six times more common in drinkers than non-drinkers.

a drunk man

 

Also See:  Tips to Reduce Drinking

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