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Alcohol is a highly addictive drug, with the average consumption per adult in the UK at about 9.7 litres of pure alcohol per year (about 18 units a week). That means we drink about 18 shots a week – or the equivalent of nine pints of beer. Dry January is appealing to many British drinkers who overdid it during the festive season and want a detox… but lots of participants will experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms over the course of the month. Express.co.uk chatted to GP Dr Ross Perry and Medical Director of Cosmedics to find out everything you need to know about alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Is Dry January bad for you?
This isn’t the answer you want to hear, but Dry January is never a bad idea.
Dr Perry explained it is always good to give your body a break from alcohol and drinking in moderation is always advised.
On top of this, participating in Dry January brings plenty of health benefits.
He said: “After four weeks of not drinking alcohol skin and eyes will look brighter and clearer.
“Skin which is irritated and normally dry will feel better due to the added hydration to the body.”
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One reason for this is because alcohol is a diuretic, which means it affects the kidneys and makes you pass water much more than you normally take in.
The kidneys are trying to sift out alcohol and other harmful substances, and when you drink too much they can’t properly purify the blood.
This makes you feel dehydrated and can lead to kidney disease.
Dr Perry explained: “Once you stop drinking alcohol, and replenish the fluids, you’ll see a noticeable difference in your energy levels, sleep quality, dark circles will lessen under the eye area and the daily dry mouth and dull headaches should also go.”
We all know that alcohol impacts the liver, and Dry January can help to fix this.
Dr Perry said: “During Dry January, Liver fat reduces up to 15 percent, increasing its ability to flush out toxins.
“Mild liver disease, like fatty liver, can be reversed completely if a person stops drinking alcohol altogether.
“When there is no alcohol in your blood for several months, the liver cells can return to normal.”
You will feel better generally after four alcohol-free weeks, Dr Perry said.
He explained: “Sleep will be regulated and you will most certainly feel well-rested.
“You’ll have more energy, clearer skin, be less bloated and likely to have dropped a dress size.
“Brain function and productivity will also have increased.”
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Alcohol withdrawal symptoms
Once you make the decision to stop drinking alcohol, after a couple of days your body goes into detox mode.
Detox mode sounds lovely, doesn’t it? It is good for you, but you may get some unpleasant side effects to begin with.
According to Drink Aware, there are both physical and psychological alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
The physical symptoms include hand tremors (‘the shakes’), sweating, nausea, visual hallucinations (seeing things that are not actually real), and seizures (fits) in the most serious cases.
The psychological withdrawal symptoms can include depression, anxiety, irritability, restlessness, and insomnia (difficulty sleeping).
Dr Perry explained your body goes into detox mode when you stop drinking and so your liver starts working overtime and the pancreas starts producing extra insulin.
He said: “You may have a slight headache initially and feel dehydrated so it’s important to drink lots of water at this time.
“Sleep is also likely to be disrupted for the first few days and you may feel anxious and a bit jittery, this is because your body is having withdrawal symptoms from alcohol.
“After a couple of days of zero alcohol, any headaches and grogginess will have subsided and you will start to feel more refreshed in general, but it actually takes up to 72 hours before you mentally and physically start to feel like your body is getting back to normal.”
If you started Dry January on time, you should already be starting to feel better!
Are there any reasons why you shouldn’t do Dry Jan? Can Dry January be bad for you?
If you’re still not convinced Dry January is in your best interest, listen to what Dr Perry has to say.
Dr Perry argues how beneficial Dry January is for you depends on the level you were drinking beforehand.
He said: “If you’re someone who enjoys the occasional glass of wine, particularly red wine then this can actually have some really good health benefits.
“However, if you’ve been guzzling a bottle of wine every evening then you need to give your body a break.
“Either way, don’t use Dry January as an excuse to drink copious amounts of alcohol from February through to the end of the year.
“Binge drinking and long term drinking can cause a number of dangerous health problems.”
How to get through Dry January
Here are Dr Perry’s top five tips to successfully completing Dry January and beating withdrawal symptoms:
If you’re going to start detoxing from alcohol the first thing you need to do is to get rid of any booze in the house, and by that, I don’t mean drinking it all! No booze around means no temptation.
Put a list of goals together at the start of detoxing and include the benefits you’re going to feel with giving up booze. Better skin, better sleep quality, no headaches or feeling groggy, more energy. Having it in writing really helps to act as a guide.
Don’t bow down to peer pressure. Just because lockdown is lifted and we can see friends more freely, don’t use this as an excuse to drink alcohol. Instead, if you’re at home or hosting a family BBQ look into making some delicious mocktails and fresh juices. You’ll feel so much better for it.
Set yourself a list of ‘exercise goals’ go to bed earlier and get up for some early morning exercise. Not only is this a great mood booster, it will mentally set you up for the day and you’ll find you just don’t fancy reaching for that glass of wine.
Make sure you drink plenty of water to help flush out those alcohol toxins and keep hydrated. This will also help keep those headaches at bay.
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