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January 31, 2017

What to expect when you stop drinking alcohol

Wellness Alcohol

Content sponsored by IBC - Native (195x33)

Hand rejecting alcoholic beverage BrianAJackson /

If you struggle to say no to that second glass of wine on a night out, you’re not alone. It’s easy to minimize the consequences of drinking when we’re buzzed and watching our friends miraculously become funny. We want to engage because after all, it’s not called sad hour, right?

Even when we crave the temporary lift alcohol lends, putting the well-being of our bodies first is essential. Oftentimes, a break is what’s needed. Whether you want to eliminate alcohol from your lifestyle or do a temporary cleanse, here are some changes to expect when you stop drinking:

1. A good night’s sleep

Do you wake up throughout the night or experience shallow sleep after drinking? That’s because drinking before bed increases alpha wave patterns — waves that occur when we’re awake but resting. You might be thinking, “but alcohol makes me fall asleep faster!” While this may seem true, alcohol actually disrupts your sleep quality after the initial resting period. Alcohol is a depressant, so it has a sedating effect which can be tempting for people with insomnia. But drinking before bed will ultimately only leave you fatigued and irritable the next day.

2. You’ll lose weight

Surprise! Alcohol has a ton of calories. One glass of beer averages 150 calories, and one glass of wine -- 125. These calories sneak into our diet because unlike eating fast food, drinking is more often than not an encouraged social activity. The good news is just cutting out alcohol will result in evident weight loss.

3. No more junk food cravings

The last thing we want when hung over is a bowl of spinach. Our bodies yearn for fried doughnuts filled with bacon and syrup drizzled on top. Sober, you might find this nauseating, or find it appealing but have the willpower to say no. But when we’re hung over, our primitive instincts often overrule our logic. Our bodies hanker for calorie-dense foods because we feel stripped of sustenance. Cutting the alcohol will also help control the cravings.

4. But you might have sugar cravings (and that’s normal)

If your weekly intake of alcohol is high, your body might initially experience sugar cravings when you stop drinking. This is because sugar boosts levels of dopamine, AKA the “reward” chemical, which elicits feelings of pleasure. So, when you stop drinking, your body might crave sugar to trigger the dopamine release it was getting from alcohol. If the sugar cravings are getting to you, try foods from this list of sugar replacements, or make a dish from these sugar-free recipes.

5. You will be hydrated!

Alcohol decreases the body’s production of anti-diuretic hormone, which the body uses to reabsorb water. With less anti-diuretic hormone, your body loses more fluid than normal through increased urination (does “breaking the seal” ring a bell?). Excessive amounts of alcohol can also cause vomiting, which will cause further dehydration. Try replacing alcohol with water. You will likely see dewier skin, decreased headaches and increased mobility.

Detoxing may be grueling for the first 48 to 72 hours, especially if you are a heavy drinker. Withdrawal symptoms can include headaches, nausea, insomnia, shakiness, and sweating, with symptoms peaking 72 hours after your last drink. Your body is creating a new equilibrium without alcohol and it may get worse before it gets better. But it will get better, and so will you!

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