Women and alcohol – abstinence makes the liver grow stronger

Women and alcohol – abstinence makes the liver grow stronger

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Since 1995, Irish teenage girls have been drinking as much and sometimes more than their male counterparts, according to Alcohol Action Ireland.

That’s us ladies. The now late 30’s/early 40’s generation of women. We broke the trend and started consuming alcohol like no other generation of women before us.

Many of us are now Mothers. We drink at home, sometimes when the children are there.

Many of us are readers and/or writers of the female blogging community. We normalise our alcohol consumption with funny memes and Facebook posts.

We don’t hear the scary warnings from the medical community. Professor Frank Murry, president of the Royal College of Physicians spoke on RTE’s Radio Ireland last summer. His prognosis was rather stark. I found it hard to listen.

Many people are over-doing it with alcohol and don’t even realise it, he warned. Liver blood tests may not indicate how damaged your liver actually is.

Now for the really frightening part. You might think you’re fine, maybe a bit tired sometimes. According to Professor Murry, patients often arrive in hospital with severe liver damage having no idea what’s wrong with them and then they die.

While well-intended I suspect that this kind of communication may not be reaching the people who really need it.

If you’re anything like me, the thought of sudden liver failure followed by almost immediate death might actually drive you to drink.

So, in the midst of my dry January I am thinking more about benefits than risks. I’m focusing on what happens when I stop drinking. It’s this information that really motivates me to give up the bold stuff.

1. Better sleep.

Drinking makes us drowsy and fall asleep quickly. However a disturbed sleep is usually what follows. After consuming alcohol, the brain behaves the way it would normally when awake and resting. The result is poor quality sleep, often followed the next day by confusion and irritability.

Sleep is a mood stabiliser. When we are well-rested and fresh, every-day decisions and tasks become easier. Ditching the booze brings clarity and energy to our lives.

2. Weight loss.

In addition to the empty calories contained in our favourite drink (125 calories/glass of wine) alcohol increases our appetite. Studies show that women in particular, eat more when they drink.

One hour after the last drink our liver starts to work hard to metabolise and remove the alcohol from our bodies. The pancreas then produces extra insulin which in turn lowers blood sugar. And boom we’re hungry; but not for a fresh fruit salad or low-fat yogurt. We crave fat and carbohydrate. The people who run the local fish and chip shop already know about this phenomenon.

Swapping booze for will-power makes it much easier to control sugar cravings and stick to a healthy diet.

3. Better skin.

Women are the target market for a million and one skin-care products. Creams, lotions, face masks, multi-vitamin and herb extract supplements. Instead of adding something that costs money and has dubious science behind it, why not remove something that we know is not good for our skin?

It only takes a few days without alcohol to see an improvement in skin condition and a brighter complexion. Alcohol is a diuretic which means it increases fluid loss through urination and sweating. Cutting out alcohol improves hydration and can alleviate the symptoms of common skin conditions such as eczema and dandruff.

4. Improved liver function.

Drinking large volumes of alcohol, even for just a few days causes fat to accumulate in the liver. This condition is very common and has no symptoms. If not treated, fatty liver will lead to liver disease. The treatment is free. Stop drinking.

The liver is one of the most complex organs in the human body and it has an amazing capacity to regenerate and self-heal. If, you allow it.

Some sources, like the NHS advise that even giving up alcohol for two weeks can have a large impact on liver health.

Staff at New Scientist tested out the effect of dry January on their own livers. The results were incredible. After only one month without alcohol, participants had reduced their liver fat by 15-20%.

A healthy liver will boost immunity, metabolism and general vitality. Give it a chance and it will make your life healthier.

5. Money saved.

Drinking at home is definitely less costly than drinking out. However, popping an extra bottle or two of wine into the shopping trolley can mask how much we are actually spending on booze. Putting aside money that would normally be spent on drink and seeing how it adds up can really be an eye-opener. When we think about it, is it really money well spent?

If you’ve decided that dry January is not for you who can blame you. January is a tough month after the fun and frolics of Christmas.

But why not dry February? January might be the darkest month of the year but February is the shortest. A quiet month too, it’s really just a gateway month to March.

Ah March, that’s the one, Mother’s Day, St Patrick’s day, not to mention the rugby.

A lot of opportunity to enjoy a drink, if you’re so inclined.

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