As soon as December hits, us Brits use it as an excuse to reach for the alcohol – drinking a staggering 3,253 bottles of wine and 14,841 pints of beer every minute during the height of the festive season. But have those endless Christmas parties, evenings with mulled wine and New Year's celebrations left you feeling a little worse for wear?
Well, now that the party season is officially over, you may be tempted to jump on the Dry January bandwagon. To help get you motivated, we've asked some top health experts to discuss the impact that alcohol can have on our bodies, and how a month off the sauce could be one of the best decisions you make in 2018.
1. Calorie cut-back
We all know that alcohol can have a negative impact on our weight, but whether we opt for a 'lighter' option of G&T or use a diet mixer, just how calorific is it? Nutritionist Cassandra Barns explains:
"Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram compared to sugar which has 4 calories per gram! Alcohol binges are also a classic way to set up a cycle of cravings for sugary and stodgy foods the following day."
So, if you have a long-term goal of losing weight in 2018, cutting back on the booze is a good place to start.
2. Liver love
It's our liver that suffers the most when we drink, so giving it a good month to recover after the festive season will really work wonders for your health. Alix Woods, Nutritionist at Quest Nutra Pharma explains:
"Cutting out alcohol for a month means the liver becomes less fatty and functions better, which is so important for long-term health as it has many diverse roles within the body; like digestion, detoxification and hormone balance. Having 'time-off' from alcohol, which in reality is an anti-nutrient, reduces the chances of inflammation and ultimately long-term liver damage. Glucose levels are also reduced and blood glucose balance is better. By having a balance in blood sugar, the chances of developing type 2 diabetes are less likely. Insulin, the regulatory fat hormone, responds better and weight and cholesterol levels should improve."
Probiotics, such as Mega 8 Biotix by Quest Nutra Pharma (13.29, qnutrapharma.com) can help aid the detoxification process by reducing the toxin load of the liver.
3. Sleep it off
December probably saw your sleeping habits disrupted from all those late nights out. In addition to affecting the quantity, too much alcohol can also disrupt the quality of your sleep, too, as you spend less time in this deep sleep and more time in the less restful, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep. This can leave you feeling tired the next day no matter how long you stay in bed. To help get your body into a better sleeping routine, Cassandra recommends upping your magnesium intake.
"Magnesium is needed to relax our muscles, which in turn can help us fall into a peaceful sleep. Try and include plenty of magnesium-rich foods in your diet such as, buckweat, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, fish and leafy green vegetables."
4. Fresh faced
It might sound counterintuitive, but drinking a lot of alcohol can really dehydrate you – and the first thing to suffer as a result is your skin. Cassandra says:
"Staying hydrated is essential for that healthy glow. Alcohol is a key culprit in leading to your skin feeling de-hydrated and dry. Remember to drink one and a half to two litres of water a day to ensure skin remains hydrated. If you do crack under the pressure and fancy an alcoholic beverage, make sure you increase your water intake to help counteract the negative impact that the alcohol can have on your skin."
Even if you aren't partaking in Dry January, it's always a good idea to alternate alcoholic beverages with glasses of water.
5. Healthy mind
Even though that glass of bubbly can make us feel merrier, in the long-term alcohol can cause low mood levels. Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK's leading Nutritionist and author of Fat Around The Middle explains:
"Those consuming excessive alcohol may have lower levels of tryptophan (the amino acid that is converted to serotonin – 'happy hormone'). Low serotonin, Selenium and Vitamin B levels are a major feature of depression, mood swings, anxiety and irritation."