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Considering a Dry January? Here are some of the benefits and risks

Pouring red wine into the glass
Posted at 10:15 AM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 10:18:09-05

CLEVELAND — The new year is in full swing and so are many New Year’s resolutions.

Alcohol use in the United States increased across the board since the start of the pandemic, with women exceeding recommended amounts more than men.

A study published in the Public Library of Science Medical Journal found hard liquor sales jumped by nearly 115% from March to June 2020.

If you’re thinking about taking part in Dry January this year, wellness director Dr. Roy Bushinsky, of University Hospitals, said there are great health benefits, but it’s all about establishing a baseline for your intake.

“The idea of dry January is sort of a good idea to sort of help our bodies sort of recover from some of the overindulging,” Buchinsky said. “It allows our bodies to sort of really take stock of kind of what is our normal baseline without the effect of alcohol in our bodies.”

Buchinsky said some of the first things his patients report noticing are improved sleep and mental health. While many people think a drink can help you relax to sleep, consuming alcohol before bed has been found to interrupt REM sleep.

“Ninety-nine percent of patients will tell you that they don't realize how much alcohol can actually affect your sleep,” Buchinsky said. “Because they sleep better, they have more energy and because they have more energy, they are more prone to feel better and to and to be more active in their lives.”

Removing alcohol also reduces weight and can slim up your waistline. The FDA states that men and women 21-years and older can potentially consume 2-3,000 calories a day. A USDA database finds most drinks are under 200 calories apiece, but they can add up quickly, especially if mixes like soda or juice are added.

“It's all about the waist reduction and trying to get you to not just to look better and to feel better, but to actually be able to reduce certain diseases,” he said. “It's not so much, just the liquid calories that you get, but it's what do you do that goes with the liquid calories.”

Cutting out alcohol can also help reduce other health issues and diseases like diabetes, liver, and heart disease. Alcohol also dehydrates you quickly if you don’t drink enough water, which can make any digestive or other ongoing health issues worse.

Heavy drinkers should proceed with caution and could encounter serious health risks when quitting alcohol abruptly. Stopping cold turkey could lead to severe withdrawals, seizures, and even death.

“We have to be very cautious when we recommend going toward dry January that we understand that not everybody should or could go cold turkey off alcohol because there is that risk of withdrawal,” said Buchinsky. “I'm not saying that everybody has to participate in a dry January to its perfection, but you can have what I call a dry-ish January where you cut back on your normal intake.”

The main takeaway: start small and make sure your goals are within reach.

“Make something specific and make it doable and achievable so that you can actually measure that success,” Buchinsky said.

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