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4 key health benefits to giving up alcohol

By Dr Andrew Thompson, Medical Director at InstantScripts


4 key health benefits to giving up alcohol

Many Australians are feeling disillusioned as our current volatile economy moves into, what some economists are calling, the ‘pancession’. Reflecting on what previous economic crises have shown us, there is cause for concern for increased levels of alcohol consumption. Studies conducted on alcohol use during the pandemic have uncovered a surge in spending on packaged alcohol, as Australians were choosing to drink alcohol at home as they were locked out of licensed venues.[1] Additionally, the lockdowns caused an increase in job loss, has historically exacerbated rates of heavy drinking, particularly in men.[2]

A study during the GFC also exposed serious patterns of gender disparity with respect to excessive alcohol consumption during economic recessions: the findings indicated that men were more likely than their female counterparts to resort to alcohol to cope with psychological distress.[3]

Alcohol is prominent feature in Australian culture as many choose to consume alcoholic beverages during social gatherings, which poses a low-immediate risk if consumed in accordance with the recommended guidelines – that is no more than 10 standard drinks per week.[4] However, data shows Australians are twice as likely to drink excessively,[5] which brings with it serious short-term and long-term health risks, including black outs and impaired motor skills, as well as high blood pressure and irreversible organ damage. Alcohol can be an extremely addictive and dangerous substance. Therefore, I encourage you to consciously curb your alcohol consumption and share the 4 health benefits to doing so, below.

  • Protects the health and functionality of your organs. Drinking alcohol to excess over an extended period of time, can severely damage your body’s vital organs, particularly the liver and pancreas. When you drink an alcoholic beverage, the alcohol passes into your blood through the walls of your stomach, thereby causing damage to the organs located in this part of the body. Heavy drinking may inflame the liver, inducing the onset of fat build-up in the organ (steatosis), inflammation (alcohol hepatitis), development of thick scar tissue (fibrosis), or chronic liver damage (cirrhosis).[6] Similarly, inflammation of the pancreas may lead to pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.[7] I recommend curbing your alcohol intake, as abstaining from alcohol for just one month may reduce liver fat, blood cholesterol and glucose levels.[8]

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  • Reduces the likelihood of developing serious health complications. Excessive drinking over years, or even a large amount on a single occasion, can diminish your health and may lead to complications such as heart arrhythmias, otherwise known as an irregular heartbeat; stroke; and high blood pressure. Alcohol is classified as a group one carcinogen, which indicates that there is a direct association between alcohol and some cancers. Moderate drinkers who consume at least one drink per day can still have an increased risk of certain cancers including head and neck cancer; esophageal cancer; liver cancer; breast cancer and colorectal cancer.[9] Therefore consuming less alcohol will help decrease your chances of developing major illnesses.

  • Prevent type 2 diabetes and facilitate weight loss. Excessive alcohol intake may induce chronic inflammation of the pancreas, diminishing its ability to secrete insulin that the body requires to regulate glucose levels – the circulation of too much glucose causes type 2 diabetes.[10] Furthermore, excessive consumption by individuals with diabetes can increase the risk of hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia, which can lead to serious health complications, and even death, if left untreated.[11] Reducing alcohol consumption will decrease the fat found in your blood, known as triglycerides, thereby lowering the chance of weight gain and developing type 2 diabetes.

  • Improve general mood and mental health. Alcohol travels through the blood into all parts of the body, including the brain. Its interference with the brain and central nervous system disrupts an individual’s mood and behaviour. In the short term, alcohol consumption stimulates dopamine, the chemical that invokes feelings of pleasure and can reduce inhibitions, leading intoxicated individuals to partake in risky behaviours. However, long-term risks include increased feelings of aggression and the development of mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression.[12] Curbing alcohol intake, or abstaining entirely, will improve sleep quality, boost energy levels and improve your general mood.

 

About Dr Andrew Thompson


Dr Andrew Thompson is the Medical Director at leading telehealth and prescription service InstantScripts. Dr Thompson has nearly a decade of experience, including as an anaesthetist in the paediatrics, cardiology, trauma, and neurosurgery departments in hospitals, and as a telehealth doctor at InstantScripts, where he consults to 30-50 patients a day. His expert commentary has appeared in major media where he provides advice on maintaining good physical and mental health, and addresses issues around the accessibility and affordability of healthcare for Australians. www.instantscripts.com.au


 

[1]National Library of Medicine, 2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7675730/

[2] National Library of Medicine, 2010, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20942975/

[3] Ibid.

[6] National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body

[12] Gateway Foundation, The Relationship between alcohol and mental health: https://www.gatewayfoundation.org/addiction-blog/alcohol-mental-health/

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