For those embarking on Dry January, neuropsychologist, podcaster and Founder of UnBroken, Dr Rachel Taylor has this advice:
Abstinence is good for the brain and body
When you stop drinking alcohol it is extremely beneficial to the brain and body. There are not many studies though on the month abstinence model and long-term effects and what are there are quite small – however, one thing is really obvious as it was all participants within the small study, and that is that even moderate drinkers are compromising their liver so abstaining results in lower body weight, better glucose homeostasis, and reduced liver stiffness.
Abstaining also improves immune function as drinking alcohol reduces white blood cells in the body so leaving a person open to not being able to fight infection/diseases. Sleep quality and quantity improve a reduction in aggression and anger therefore an improvement in social relationships. The prefrontal cortex functionality is improved so better decision-making, thought processes, and memory recall/retention. Dopamine levels return to a normal baseline, which supports motivation to get things done. Serotonin production increases which lead to more balance in all body/brain systems.
Alcohol is a poison and there is no ‘average person’
Alcohol is a poison to the body in doses that are personal to the individual, so although there are ‘suggested guidelines for the average person’ there is no average person really and it is all about how you as an individual metabolise and respond to alcohol. The lifestyle that can go alongside even a moderate drinker can be so unhealthy and promote unwellness that it is the holistic effects that need to be looked at. I am not going to say a month of abstinence is bad, however, that month needs to be used to really examine and feel the positive changes, then it is less likely that alcohol will be consumed to the same degree post-dry January. People need to ask why they are using alcohol – it changes reality so why are you choosing to change your reality? Is it social? A coping strategy? A habit?
How to get the benefits of flavenoids without drinking red wine
For all those who have jumped onto the ‘red wine is good for you as it contains flavonoids,’ – yes – it does! However, if you are drinking a lot of red wine then the negative effects are going to far outweigh any benefits of the flavonoids. Flavonoids can be found in lots of different foods such as blackberries and blueberries (don’t worry if you can only get frozen ones as they will have been frozen when they were at their best) kale, red cabbage, over 85% dark chocolate (such as Food Thoughts cocoa or cacao nibs), black, green, white and oolong tea, all citrus fruits, soybeans (go organic) and sprinkle parsley on everything.
Use dry January to start noticing what your body and brain are telling you…. really connect with yourself to know from an individual and not a group level what is better for you and what is good for your brain/body.
Dr Rachel’s tips for social drinkers:
Have something ginger or lemon based when going out to soothe the liver and still socialise. Tonic water is also good for the body, not too calorific plus the carbon dioxide helps to increase cellular hydration.