The health benefits of dry January include a ‘more resilient’ gut

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While there are guidelines on how much you should drink, there is no safe amount of alcohol to consume. With the new year many of us seize the chance to give our bodies a break from booze by taking part in dry January. However, it is more than just our waistlines and wallets that benefit from this.

Lead nutritionist at Feel Complete, Hannah Macey, spoke with about the effects of going temporarily teetotal.

What happens when you quit alcohol?

“Quitting alcohol temporarily (or completely) can have a positive impact on your gut health and overall health,” she said.

“Consuming alcohol forces your gut to work extra hard, using a lot of additional energy to remove the toxin from the system.

“When this substance is no longer consumed our digestive system has more energy for digestion which allows better absorption of nutrients from the food and drinks, so our bodies are better fuelled.

“Many good things will happen when you quit alcohol completely, you’ll notice the positive effects on your gut health almost immediately.

“Your digestive system will become stronger and more resilient, you’ll also notice less frequent bloating and indigestion as the food we eat is being properly broken down.

“Quitting alcohol can also bring a whole host of other positive benefits to your overall health.

“Your body, brain, skin, sleep, weight, mood and of course your energy levels will all be enhanced.”

She added: “Oh, and your bank balance, we do not even realise how much we can spend on alcohol before those drinks are bought and it’s too late, money that could be spent on improving your health!”

What happens when you start drinking again?

Ms Macey warned that the effects of alcohol will return come February.

She said: “All that negative impact on the mind, body and gut will come back, causing inflammation around the body and inflammation in the digestive tract leading to symptoms such as bloating, nausea, and indigestion.

“With more inflammation comes more imbalance in the body, this can be seen especially in our digestive tract and will interfere with nutrient absorption which can cause potential malabsorption issues and cause dehydration, leading to electrolyte imbalances.

“Alcohol may also lead to the acids and digestive enzymes that break food down in the stomach, to rise into your throat (acid reflux) or may also cause heartburn.

“There is a vast amount of scientific research that reinforces the importance of maintaining a healthy gut for overall health.

“To build a healthy gut we need to take care of the good bacteria which can be negatively affected by alcohol.”

To protect your gut health, experts from the ZOE Health Study recommends consuming:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Probiotic fermented foods – such as natural yoghurt, kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut
  • Coffee.

According to the NHS regularly drinking alcohol can raise your risk of:

  • Mouth cancer, throat cancer and breast cancer
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Brain damage
  • Damage to the nervous system.

Under government guidelines, men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.

Fourteen units is roughly equivalent to six pints of standard beer or 10 small glasses of wine.

To reduce the effects it is best if you spread these units over several days rather than binge drinking.

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