By Michael Carlton, MD
Many adults have a glass of wine or a cocktail at the end of the day to relax and take the edge off. The growing use of alcohol among women has become a public health concern in recent years, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. New research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests skipping that daily libation could help women’s mental health. The study found that women who gave up alcohol improved their mental health and overall quality of life. For years, moderate drinking has been touted as harmless and can increase longevity. Lately, science suggests that there is no safe amount of alcohol as the life-altering risks outweigh any potential benefits.
Alcohol impacts women differently than men from the first sip to metabolism to recovery, and these differences will make it more likely to cause long-term health problems in females like increased risk of breast cancer. Many people consume alcohol in order to relax and reduce anxiety and stress. At first alcohol relieves anxiety, but it also activates parts of the brain that increases anxiety levels later on, which could lead to a dangerous cycle of needing more alcohol to suppress the anxiety. Over time, alcohol could play a major factor in experiencing depressed moods, irritability, high levels of stress and poor sleep.
The numbers are rising in women 35 and older, around the time of motherhood, who report casual drinking, binge drinking and dependency. Studies have found that the American culture plays a part in women’s alcohol misuse with the “mommy juice” phenomenon that has normalized drinking in a negative way. This wine-moms culture sends a message that drinking will help diminish the stress from their day.
Alcohol can be an enjoyable part of life, but it can also carry serious issues that can negatively impact one’s health. So, what are some short-term and long-term benefits of living an alcohol-free life for women?
1. Improved overall health and well-being
Quitting alcohol reduces the chances of developing a plethora of alcohol-related illnesses including seven various types of cancers, stroke, liver disease and heart disease.
2. Mental health
While alcohol may have a temporary positive influence on mood, it is also linked to depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Sobriety will help you become calmer, less anxious, and less irritable. It will increase self-confidence, improve focus, and bring an overall positive, clear head space.
3. Weight loss
Not drinking alcohol will help to cut out empty calories. Say goodbye beer gut and hello waistline!
4. Glowing skin
Alcohol is a diuretic that dehydrates the body and skin. Without consuming it daily, that’ll avoid premature ageing, acne, rosacea and the collagen will slowly restore itself.
5. More sleep
Without alcohol, the quality of sleep will increase with improved REMs, continual circadian rhythm and give the ability to fall into a deeper state of sleep.
After giving up alcohol for one month, revisit how it made you feel, see if you noticed any changes and reexamine your relationship with alcohol. Explore any other new hobbies to start up. Get creative, create new habits and see how your life may transform. Some may find that they are better off without it, or others may go through some struggles and withdrawal symptoms. If that’s the case, perhaps explore that a little deeper and don’t be ashamed to reach out to a loved one or professional to ask for help. There is a major difference between someone who is dependent on alcohol and someone who is a regular drinker that is content with stopping for a while.
Dr. Michael Carlton is the Medical Director for A Better Today Recovery Services and has over 30 years of experience in treating addiction. A Better Today Recovery Services (ABTRS) is a substance abuse treatment center. Located in Scottsdale for more than ten years, ABTRS serves the community and is committed to saving lives and healing families. With providing lifetime support and alumni events, the center continues to care for clients after treatment.