5 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Stop Drinking
For many people, sipping on a bold glass of wine at the end of a long day or enjoying an ice-cold frothy brew while watching a sports game are habits that are simply part of their daily life. But regardless of whether you are an occasional wine sipper or a regular barfly, skipping the booze can lead to some pretty impressive health benefits.
Sure, enjoying a trendy cocktail at happy hour is a fun thing to do. But, opting for a mocktail may be a better choice if you are trying to manage your weight, feel more energized, or simply want to lead a healthier lifestyle.
Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that ingesting it can slow brain function. According to the CDC, heavy drinking over time can lead to some pretty severe outcomes, ranging from memory loss to heart disease, liver disease and the extreme outcome of death.
So, if you are ready to trade in your classic martini for a spirit-free version or a zero-ABV beer instead of your classic suds, read on to learn what may happen to your body if you make this simple change.
You May Lose Weight
When people want to lose weight, skipping their favorite sugary foods or hitting the gym a bit more is often the first step. But since alcohol provides 7 calories per gram, avoiding the booze can help reduce weight, mainly if your drink-of-choice contains a large volume of booze. And if your taste buds favor alcoholic drinks that include sugary mixers (we're looking at you, piña coladas), skipping these drinks can make a greater impact.
Alcohol can negatively impact our ability to feel satiated, affect our quality of sleep, amplify appetite and reduce motivation to exercise—all factors that could contribute to weight gain.
You May Sleep Better
Although alcohol can have a relaxing effect and increase a person's ability to fall asleep, it can also adversely affect sleep. According to a 2021 study published in Public Health Nutrition, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol increases your risk of suffering from poor sleep quality. It can even result in short sleep duration and snoring.
One reason this may occur is that alcohol can reduce melatonin secretion in the brain. Since melatonin is a hormone that plays a pivotal role in a person's sleep-wake cycle, also known as circadian rhythm, impacting its secretion can wreak havoc on a person's ability to get some quality shut-eye.
Another reason a person who's been drinking alcohol may fall asleep quickly and then be awake during the wee hours may be the alcohol's negative effect on the GABA neurotransmitter, per 2020 data published in Neuropsychopharmacology. GABA is a chemical naturally produced by the body that helps your mind relax and fall asleep. Finally, alcohol ingestion can negatively impact the action of dopamine—a neurotransmitter and hormone that also affects your sleep.
You May Better Support Your Immune System
Bumping up our vitamin C intake, washing our hands and getting quality sleep are all tried-and-true ways to help us stay cold and flu-free (although nothing is guaranteed). But less-known is that drinking too much alcohol isn't doing our immune system any favors and can actually reduce how well it functions.
Among the many ways that alcohol can suppress the immune system, booze can negatively impact the balance of the gut microbiota, according to data published in 2021 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. Poor gut health and microbiota imbalance can ultimately weaken one aspect of how our body protects us from illness.
You May Stay Better Hydrated
Alcohol consumption is known to increase our urine output, causing us to retain less fluid.
Drinking even small amounts of alcohol can have a temporary diuretic effect. "Alcohol causes antidiuretic hormone (ADH) levels to drop, and as a result, the kidneys produce more urine and retain less water," Sal Raichbach, Psy.D., LCSW, chief of clinical compliance at Ambrosia Treatment Center, said. "When you stop drinking alcohol, you restore ADH levels to their natural state, and your kidneys expel the appropriate amount of water." By retaining water and staying hydrated, your whole body will feel better.
"Our bodies are entirely dependent on water," Raichbach said. "Every cell in our body uses water in one way or another. It's essential for circulation, maintaining body temperature, and helps to get rid of waste. Without proper hydration, the heart must work harder to pump the same amount of blood, and your kidneys will eventually start to fail."
You May Have a Reduced Cancer Risk
Cancer risk can be increased because of several factors, some entirely out of our control, like genetics, per the American Cancer Society. But among the factors that are within our control, like diet and lifestyle choices, drinking alcohol may have a profound impact on our chances of developing cancer. Specifically, epidemiological data published in 2017 in Addiction show that consuming high amounts of alcohol may increase the risk of developing oropharynx, larynx, esophageal, liver, colon, rectal and breast cancers.
The Bottom Line
If you are jumping on the alcohol-free trend and are trading in your glass of merlot for a pomegranate juice or your mug of beer for a glass of kombucha, your body may reap some major benefits simply by making that small swap. From sleeping better to boosting your immune system, there are some significant impacts that your body may experience by embarking on a booze-free journey.
If you're not ready to completely give up your spirits, know that reducing your alcohol intake can also have major health benefits. In fact, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that, to support overall health, adults 21 years old and older who choose to drink should do so in moderation by sticking to no more than two daily drinks for males, or one drink per day for females.
So, have some fun trying out some mocktail recipes. From a booze-free mojito to a strawberry shrub mocktail, the options are endless. And who knows? You may just find a drink that you love even more than the go-to cocktail you've been drinking for years—and you may feel better after drinking it too!