Last Updated on November 21, 2020 by Dr. Ronaye Calvert-Conley
Have you been trying to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink, or maybe wish to eliminate it from your life completely? Have you ever wondered what happens to your body when you stop drinking?
Alcohol is a highly addictive substance and even a minor addiction can result in withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop drinking. Obviously, it can be even more difficult if you’re struggling with full-blown addiction and alcoholism.
Fortunately, there’s something you can do daily that can help: reflect on the benefits.
Every day, especially when you feel alcohol’s pull on you, think about what happens when you stop drinking. Think about what happens to your body when you stop drinking, what will happen to your relationships, as well as what will happen to your self-esteem and confidence.
Constant reflection on the benefits of quitting drinking can have a profound effect on seeing your goal to fruition.
What Happens When You Stop Drinking: 13 Ways Your Body Heals After Cutting Alcohol
While alcohol might not be considered one of the most dangerous drugs, it is one of the most addictive. Because of that, there is some danger in the overconsumption of alcohol. Alcohol addiction can increase the risk of:
- Car accidents (if a person drives under the influence)
- Accidents in general, some of which are fatal
- Birth defects
- Certain types of cancer
- Sleep disorders
- Anxiety and depression
- Liver disease
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
Thankfully, reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption completely has a plethora of benefits. These benefits range from enhanced interpersonal relationships and job performance to improved mental and physical health.
Do you want to find out more about what happens when you stop drinking? Read on to learn more about the benefits of quitting drinking.
1. Better Immune Function
What happens to your body when you stop drinking? For one thing, you improve your immune function. How does alcohol impact your immune response?
Alcohol inhibits certain cells from doing their job, namely, the macrophages, whose job is to destroy harmful bacteria that enter the body.
Alcohol can also reduce the body’s inflammatory response, something that, in essence, stuns certain microbes so they can’t progress through the body. Increased inflammation, in this instance, gives the microphages a chance to catch up to the microbes and destroy them.
2. Weight Loss
Another benefit of quitting drinking is weight loss. While this might not seem like the most important benefit on this list, weight loss is about way more than vanity.
Yes, getting rid of excess weight can make people look great – healthy, glowing, and fit. Beyond that, though, weight loss can help improve your overall health.
When you lose weight, you reduce your risk of certain diseases closely related to your lifestyle choices, including:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Sleep apnea
- Certain types of cancers
- Fatty liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Pregnancy complications
Why does the body release excess weight when you quit drinking alcohol?
For one thing, you’re consuming fewer empty calories. Also, quitting drinking can reduce certain cravings, which means you’re less likely to overeat. Finally, the overconsumption of alcohol can mess up your metabolism. When you stop drinking, your metabolism is regulated and you’re able to convert calories into energy, instead of storing them as fat.
3. Better Digestion
Do you deal with indigestion or other digestive issues? The problem could be your alcohol consumption.
The crazy thing about alcohol is that it can adversely affect every single part of your digestive tract.
- Impair muscle function in the stomach and esophagus, resulting in heartburn
- Damage the lining of the esophagus, resulting in a higher risk of esophageal cancer
- Impair the muscle function in the small and large intestines, resulting in diarrhea
- Inhibit the absorption of much-needed nutrients
- Increase the passage of toxins out of the intestines and into vital organs like the liver, resulting in alcohol-related liver damage (as well as damage to other organs)
- Stain teeth, lead to tooth decay and contribute to gum disease
- Increase your risk of mouth and throat cancer.
What happens when you quit drinking? You can start feeling better overall due to fewer instances of heartburn and because your body is now able to absorb nutrients that are vital to your health and wellness.
4. Improved Sleep
You might think that alcohol improves sleep since it can make you feel drowsy after consumption. The reality, though, is that drinking alcohol can lead to sleep disorders and disturbances.
Drinking alcohol can cause the brain to go into delta and alpha activity. Delta activity is the memory function necessary for learning and memory function, while alpha is necessary for quiet relaxation – but not for sleep.
When your brain is in these modes, it makes falling asleep – and staying asleep – tremendously difficult. If this goes on night after night, you’re setting yourself up for a massive increase in the number of nights you experience insomnia.
Additionally, alcohol inhibits circadian rhythms and REM sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, alcohol can also exacerbate breathing issues, making snoring and sleep apnea even worse.
One of the benefits of quitting drinking is better sleep each night, which has a positive effect on your mood as well as your health.
5. Fewer Symptoms of Dehydration
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases the rate at which water is expelled from your body. (Yet another reason you might have trouble sleeping – constant trips to the bathroom!)
Alcohol causes ADH levels to drop, a hormone released by the brain that lets your kidneys know when it’s time to hold onto water. The result: your hormones make more urine and retain less water. Over time, this leads to dehydration.
Symptoms of dehydration include:
- Dry mouth, which is not only uncomfortable but can also contribute to dental decay
- Feeling excessively tired
When you reduce alcohol and increase your water intake, you’ll increase hydration. When you’re hydrated, you have more energy to get through your day and more fortitude to say yes or no to activities that promote new goals and habits, like consuming less alcohol.
6. Healthier, Younger-Looking Skin
The skin is the body’s largest organ. When you eat or drink something that’s not good for the body, the results are quickly seen in the skin.
Alcohol is a substance that can have a profoundly negative effect on your skin because it affects it on multiple different levels.
First is the toxic effect. When alcohol makes its way to the liver, the liver releases a byproduct called acetaldehyde, which is toxic to the skin. Acetaldehyde dehydrates the skin, which can lead to skin dryness and wrinkles.
Alcohol also causes an inflammatory response within the skin, leading to redness (from broken capillaries) and puffiness. Unfortunately, this effect can be a compounded one, meaning that after years of redness caused by drinking, the skin will, ultimately, stay that way.
Additionally, alcohol leads to the dilation of your pores, which can lead to blackheads, whiteheads, and even cystic acne, a very painful condition.
What happens when you quit drinking? Your pores return to normal, skin redness reduces, and you’re less likely to get wrinkles from dehydration. In other words, you’re more likely to end up with glowing, healthy, gorgeous-looking skin.
7. You’ll Feel Less Anxious
When you think about the reasons people start drinking, anxiety is at the top of the list. Most people turn to alcohol when they’re feeling stressed out, particularly after dealing with a bad day. Alcohol is a relaxant – but only to a certain extent. It can relax the muscles, but it can also take the brain into anxiety overdrive.
After prolonged alcohol use, especially overdrinking, the brain and body start reacting differently to alcohol. Alcohol interferes with certain neurotransmitters in the brain, and that can lead to anxiety.
If a person already struggles with high anxiety levels, alcohol can worsen the condition.
However, when you quit drinking alcohol, anxiety levels tend to go down, confidence increases, and the overall mental quality of life improves.
8. Improved Heart Health
People who love alcohol were excited to hear the news that alcohol can benefit the heart. While that can be true, it’s not in all cases. Drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol is bad for the heart.
Those who struggle with alcohol are at risk for heart disease. In fact, people suffering from any of the following conditions should stay away from alcoholic beverages completely:
- Heart failure
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- High triglycerides
What happens to your heart when you stop drinking? It stays healthy! Or, if you have a history of heart disease and have aggravated things with excessive drinking, you might be able to get back to what normal is for you.
9. You’ll Improve Your Chances of Having a Healthy Liver
When people think about alcohol and how it affects the body, the first thing that comes to mind is liver health. It’s true – the liver is one of the organs that is majorly impacted by alcohol consumption.
When you drink alcohol, the liver breaks it down so that it can be released from the body. During that process, toxic byproducts that can damage liver tissue are created.
The first stage of alcohol-related liver disease is called fatty liver, or steatosis. Fat builds up within the liver, limiting its functionality. If not addressed, this condition can lead to other liver issues, notably hepatitis – an inflammation of the liver.
As liver damage progresses, you could end up with acute alcoholic hepatitis, a serious, life-threatening inflammation of the liver, the result of which can be liver failure and death.
Another condition caused by excessive alcohol use is cirrhosis (or scarring of the liver). The scar tissue builds up and inhibits the production of new, healthy liver cells, as well as the ability of existing healthy liver cells to do their job. Cirrhosis, if not addressed, can also lead to liver failure and death.
What happens when you stop drinking? This depends on the extent of the damage. Thankfully, the liver is resilient. If caught early, the liver can repair itself and function normally.
10. Possibly Reduce Your Risk of Certain Cancers
Who doesn’t want to reduce their risk of cancer? Most people would jump on the bandwagon if they’re told they can reduce their cancer risk – especially if they’re already at risk for certain cancers.
Fortunately, one of the benefits of quitting drinking is that you reduce your cancer risk for a variety of cancers, including:
- Breast cancer
- Oral cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Throat cancer
- Bowel cancer
- Liver cancer.
Some cancers can develop in some people with just a small amount of alcohol. That is why it is important to know your risk factors (like family history) and reduce the amount of alcohol you consume as needed. In some cases, it might be a good idea to eliminate your alcohol consumption completely, especially if you’re at a higher risk for certain cancers, as well as alcohol addiction.
11. Improved Libido and Sexual Performance
People often use alcohol to loosen up, so they have the courage to get someone’s number or when nervous about being with someone sexually for the first time.
The thing about alcohol, though, is that it can negatively impact your libido and your sexual performance.
Alcohol is a depressant, which means that it can dampen the mood. Who wants that in a romantic situation?
Due to its depressant effects, alcohol can also make it difficult for men to get and keep an erection or reach orgasm. And the effects can be long-lasting. Excessive alcohol use, over time, can lead to erectile dysfunction.
The reality isn’t much better for women either. Too much alcohol can dehydrate the body, including the vagina, which can make sex extremely uncomfortable, even painful.
While alcohol can make some people feel unstoppable in the bedroom, the irony is that too many drinks will put a damper on your sex life. Reduce your alcohol intake and you’re more likely to get your mojo back.
12. Clear Brain Fog
Have you ever experienced brain fog? It’s annoying! You can’t remember even the simplest things. Trying to make decisions seems downright impossible.
Thankfully, you can reduce your brain fog by avoiding alcohol.
There are two ways in which alcohol impacts brain function. Firstly, it affects which hormones and neurotransmitters are released, leading to the wrong messages being sent out.
Second, alcohol causes dehydration, which affects the brain. Three-quarters of your brain is composed of water. When you don’t drink enough water – and compound the issue by drinking a diuretic – your brain doesn’t function optimally. This causes exhaustion, irritability, and brain fog.
Add more water and less alcohol into your day and you’ll soon feel the clouds parting and experience improved brain function.
13. Possibly Reduce Feelings of Depression
As with anxiety, alcohol can raise depression levels. And just as with alcohol, many people pick up a drink because they’re feeling depressed. It’s a vicious cycle.
Brain chemicals play a role in how you feel after a drink. Compounding the problem, though, is the issues that often arise after a person’s been drinking far too much for far too long, which can include:
- Job issues, including job loss
- Relationship issues
- Financial problems
Foregoing alcohol can have a major effect on feelings of depression. Not only will you feel better because you’re well-hydrated (dehydration can also lead to depression) and healthy, but you’ll feel good knowing that you’re not allowing an addictive substance to control your life and your emotions.
The Benefits of Quitting Drinking Are Undeniable – Getting the Help You Need to Quit
Learning what happens when you stop drinking – whether it’s to your body, your mental health, or your relationships – provides great impetus toward reaching your goal.
However, as it was mentioned earlier, quitting is not always easy, especially if you’re dealing with full-blown alcohol addiction. If this is the case for you, don’t despair.
Another way to quit drinking is to ask for help. There’s no shame in this. Think of getting help for alcoholism in the same way athletes look to their coaches for help. Even elite athletes don’t achieve their goals on their own. They put a lot of work into reaching their goals, but it’s the support, assistance, and guidance of their coaches that push them even further.
On your journey to quitting alcohol, you can accomplish much on your own. It requires a lot of work, but it can be done. However, if you’re struggling to the point that quitting seems impossible, by all means, ask for help. Get the assistance of professional “coaches” who can guide and support you toward successfully reaching your goal.