Dry January: benefits for mind and body
During Dry January, millions of people give up alcohol each year for a month. But do periods of abstinence like these really help the body?
The official challenge is already complete for this year. The “Dry January” campaign was first launched in 2013 in the United Kingdom. Back then, a few thousand Brits took up the challenge for an alcohol-free start to the new year. Today, over four million people willingly gave up alcohol for a month. France followed suit – and now Switzerland has officially jumped on the band wagon, with around 4,000 people signing up in 2021 via the website dryjanuary.ch. The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is the main sponsor of “Dry January CH”. And with good reason. According to a study commissioned by the FOPH, alcohol abuse in Switzerland costs around 2.8 billion Swiss francs a year.
But does it make sense to abstain from alcohol for brief periods? And what happens in the body of occasional or regular drinkers? Below are the results of research conducted by the Forel Clinic, Switzerland’s leading clinic for the treatment of alcohol and drug dependency:
Better sleep quality and improved performance
Sleep often improves after about two weeks without alcohol. It becomes deeper and more restful. And taking a break from alcohol also reduces stress and increases productivity.
Lower blood pressure and clearer skin
After around four weeks of total abstinence from alcohol, blood pressure levels fall and the appearance of the skin improves. The skin looks fresher and the water balance of both the subcutaneous fatty tissue and the skin itself starts to normalise.
Blood and liver values normalise
After around four to six weeks the blood values start to normalise, particularly the liver values. This is an important indication that the liver is recovering. Stomach irritation or inflammation (gastritis) can also improve as less stomach acid is produced as a result of giving up alcohol.
Emotional stability and libido improve
After about three months there is a clear increase in mental performance as well as drive and motivation. Thoughts and actions become clearer. Generally speaking, people often find they regain their joie de vivre. And their sex drive improves. Overall, people feel better, more emotionally stable and more resilient to stress. And they often start to lose weight.
Of course, the extent and perception of all these effects vary from person to person, says Ralf Pelkowski, Medical Director of the Forel Clinic. “The results depend on their drinking habits beforehand.” For example, how much alcohol they drink per day and the period of time over which alcohol was consumed daily.
Pelkowski can say with certainty that abstaining from alcohol for longer than a month has a positive effect on body and health – the longer you give it up, the better. “In addition to improving physical and mental performance, the positive effect that giving up alcohol entirely has on the immune system and especially the liver reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.” Excessive alcohol consumption has been scientifically linked to tumours in the oral cavity and pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum and in the female breast.
About the Forel Clinic
The Forel Clinic is Switzerland’s longest-running and biggest clinic specialising in the treatment of alcohol and medication dependency. Leading the way in the field of sustainable medical treatment for addiction, the clinic is the first point of contact for those affected, specialists, doctors, companies and authorities. Offering a wide range of services, the clinic helps those who seek help to quickly assess their situation and get fast access to professional treatment.
The Sanitas health insurance foundation has set itself the goal of promoting the health of people in Switzerland. With this aim in mind, the foundation supports selected health promotion and prevention initiatives that run on a charitable basis and are accessible to all. One of the initiatives is staatslabor, a non-profit association for social innovation, that seeks to promote the mindful use of alcohol through the Mindful Drinking Switzerland (MINDS) platform.