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Dry January: How does it benefit the liver?
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Dry January: How does it benefit the liver?

Abstaining from alcohol for a month could help detoxify your liver. It has additional benefits like weight management and improved sleep quality, say experts

Dry January is a campaign that encourages people to abstain from consuming alcohol for the entire month of January

Dry January is a campaign that encourages people to abstain from consuming alcohol for the entire month of January. It began in 2012 as a public initiative by Alcohol UK, a British charity, to raise awareness about the benefits of reducing alcohol intake.

Other events, including Dry July and Febfast, also emphasize abstaining from alcohol for a period. Over time, these have gained popularity worldwide. Events like Dry Jan not only focus on abstaining from alcohol consumption but also raise awareness about the risks involved in overindulging in alcohol.

Why should you follow Dry January?

Prof Dr Neelamekam Thoppa Kapali, a Chennai-based hepatologist, says a break from alcohol is always good for liver health. This is because it improves not just liver function but also metabolism. He adds that alcohol is an irritant to the stomach. Hence, the impact of abstaining from alcohol, even for a month, can show noticeable results, such as better eating habits, improved sleep quality and increased energy levels.

“Excessive alcohol consumption can cause fat deposition in the liver, leading to fatty liver disease. Prolonged alcohol consumption can lead to alcoholic hepatitis, an inflammatory condition resulting in liver inflammation and damage”, says Dr Pradeepta Kumar Sethy, Director of Gastroenterology, Medical Superspeciality Hospital, Kolkata.

According to Dr Chetan Kalal, program director of liver, pancreas, and intestine transplantation, Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital, Mumbai, abstaining from alcohol can also lead to better mental balance. He adds that once people see the benefits of abstaining from alcohol, they are more likely to extend the abstinence period or moderate their alcohol consumption.

An observational study published in British Medical Journal shows that abstinence from alcohol in moderate to heavy drinkers improves insulin resistance, weight, blood pressure and cancer-related growth factors.

How does Dry January benefit liver health?

1. Helps in liver detoxification

During Dry January, the liver gets time to detoxify itself from the accumulated toxins associated with alcohol consumption, says Dr Kapali. According to Dr Sethy, when you stop alcohol consumption, the liver tissues can regenerate faster as they are no longer subjected to the damaging effects of acetaldehyde and free radicals from alcohol metabolism.

2. Reduces liver inflammation

Chronic alcohol consumption can lead to liver inflammation and, over time, cirrhosis (scarring of liver tissue). A month-long break from alcohol can help to reduce this inflammation.

“Continued abstinence from alcohol may even reverse some of the fibrosis caused by alcohol-induced inflammation”, shares Dr Sethy. Collagen and other fibers deposited during repair processes can be broken down and cleared away, potentially reversing fibrosis if it is identified before severe cirrhotic scarring develops.

3. Helps in weight management

Dr Kapali suggests that refraining from alcohol consumption can help in weight loss. Alcohol — especially beer — contains calories. It might be difficult to account for these extra calories in your diet; hence, one can lose weight by abstaining from alcohol.

4. Improves sleep quality

Research has linked alcohol consumption with poor sleep quality. Dr Kapali says, “Alcohol makes you feel lethargic and tired and affects your sleep. Poor sleep can also affect your liver health.”

According to research published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, those with poor sleep behaviors are at increased risk of developing fatty liver disease. Dry January or a break from alcohol can significantly improve their sleep quality.

Tips for a successful Dry January

Experts suggest tips to get the most out of your Dry January challenge or long-term abstinence from alcohol. These include:

  • A balanced diet and ample hydration,
  • Regular exercise, such as morning walk,
  • Avoiding binge drinking,
  • Seeking professional help in case of alcohol dependency.

Takeaways

  • Moving away from alcohol for a month may sound like a challenge, but it is beneficial to liver health.
  • It also helps in weight management and improving sleep quality
  • It is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid binge drinking to benefit from Dry January.

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