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Sober-Curious: Benefits of an Alcohol-Free Lifestyle

Explor­ing an alco­hol-free or sober-curi­ous” lifestyle is one of the lat­est health and well­ness trends. There are many rea­sons to con­sid­er an alco­hol-free lifestyle. From incor­po­rat­ing more healthy choic­es to exam­in­ing your rela­tion­ship with alco­hol, reduc­ing or elim­i­nat­ing your alco­hol con­sump­tion can impact your over­all phys­i­cal and emo­tion­al health. 

What is sober-curious?

The term sober-curi­ous” is used to describe the deci­sion to decrease the amount of alco­hol you con­sume. As the name implies, it encour­ages par­tic­i­pants to scale-back their alco­hol con­sump­tion and/​or begin to exper­i­ment with an alco­hol-free lifestyle. The sober-curi­ous lifestyle takes a holis­tic approach to well­ness by encour­ag­ing health­i­er lifestyle choic­es. By reduc­ing your alco­hol con­sump­tion, you may expe­ri­ence sig­nif­i­cant health benefits.

What health ben­e­fits are asso­ci­at­ed with reduc­ing (or elim­i­nat­ing) alcohol?

There are both short and long-term health ben­e­fits of reduced alco­hol con­sump­tion. While some ben­e­fits can take time to notice, there are sev­er­al changes you may see imme­di­ate­ly. Com­mon short-term health ben­e­fits include:

Weight loss

Most alco­holic bev­er­ages are high in calo­ries and many are also mixed with juice or oth­er liq­uids that are loaded with sug­ar. Over time, drink­ing alco­hol can cause you to gain weight because your body process­es the alco­hol before oth­er nutri­ents. The unused nutri­ents, such as sug­ar, are con­vert­ed to fat and stored in your body. Alco­hol can also stim­u­late your appetite, caus­ing you to eat more than you nor­mal­ly would. Reduc­ing the amount of alco­hol you con­sume can help you to make bet­ter food choic­es and elim­i­nate unnec­es­sary calo­ries and sug­ars from your diet.

Improved mem­o­ry function

Alco­hol can affect your brain func­tion by impair­ing the com­mu­ni­ca­tion between neu­rons, which can lead to short-term mem­o­ry loss. Exces­sive alco­hol con­sump­tion, espe­cial­ly over an extend­ed peri­od of time, can begin to alter your brain struc­ture. This can cause more severe long-term mem­o­ry loss and impact your abil­i­ty to learn new things. Reduc­ing the amount of alco­hol you drink can help keep your brain func­tion healthy and your mem­o­ry sharp.

Deep­er sleep

Alco­hol also affects the way your cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem func­tions. Ini­tial­ly, it can slow your breath­ing and low­er your heart rate and blood pres­sure. This can leave you feel­ing drowsy and can cause you to fall asleep quick­ly. How­ev­er, as your liv­er begins to metab­o­lize the alco­hol in your blood stream, your heart rate and blood pres­sure rise, which pre­vents you from achiev­ing a deep sleep. With­out this dis­rup­tion to your cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem, your blood pres­sure and heart rate can remain sta­ble as you rest.

Bal­anced moods

Alco­hol is a depres­sant and can cause shifts in your mood and affect your men­tal health. Alco­hol boosts the sero­tonin lev­els in your blood stream, caus­ing you to expe­ri­ence tem­po­rary feel­ings of hap­pi­ness. How­ev­er, your sero­tonin lev­els quick­ly return to nor­mal lev­els, which could lead to feel­ings of depres­sion. Lim­it­ing your alco­hol con­sump­tion can help sta­bi­lize your sero­tonin lev­els and pre­vent dras­tic shifts in your mood. 

While you are enjoy­ing the imme­di­ate ben­e­fits of reduced alco­hol con­sump­tion, your body is hard at work repair­ing itself, which can have a last­ing impact on your over­all health. Some of the long-term health ben­e­fits of a sober-curi­ous lifestyle include:

Improved heart health

Reduc­ing your alco­hol con­sump­tion not only helps to low­er your blood pres­sure and heart rate, but it may also reduce your risk of devel­op­ing sev­er­al oth­er heart-relat­ed health con­di­tions. Exces­sive alco­hol con­sump­tion can ele­vate your triglyc­erides, caus­ing fat to accu­mu­late in your arter­ies. This thick­en­ing and hard­en­ing of your artery walls can cause seri­ous health con­di­tions includ­ing heart attacks, strokes or an arrhyth­mia (irreg­u­lar heart beat).

Enhanced liv­er function

Your liv­er works to fil­ter tox­ins from your body. Over­time, alco­hol can impair your liv­er func­tion and lead to health con­di­tions such as fat­ty liv­er dis­ease or liv­er dam­age. For­tu­nate­ly, in many cas­es, your liv­er has the abil­i­ty to repair itself. It is impor­tant to take pre­cau­tions to keep your liv­er healthy, includ­ing lim­it­ing your alco­hol, before seri­ous dam­age is done.

Boost­ing your immune system

Alco­hol can have an imme­di­ate, neg­a­tive impact on your immune sys­tem, reduc­ing its abil­i­ty to fight off germs. Over time, alco­hol can also reduce your body’s abil­i­ty to repair itself. As alco­hol intake is reduced, your immune sys­tem will begin to repair itself and strength­en, keep­ing you well.

Is an alco­hol-free lifestyle right for you?

From get­ting togeth­er with friends or attend­ing a work-relat­ed event, there is often a social com­po­nent asso­ci­at­ed with drink­ing alco­hol. To help sup­port the grow­ing sober-curi­ous lifestyle, many busi­ness­es are work­ing to cre­ate an envi­ron­ment that is wel­com­ing to both drinkers and non-drinkers. Sev­er­al food and drink retail­ers have expand­ed their selec­tion of non-alco­holic bev­er­ages, includ­ing craft beers and mock­tails” — alco­holic bev­er­ages cre­at­ed with dis­tilled, non-alco­holic spir­its. Addi­tion­al­ly, alco­hol-free social events are becom­ing more common.

Many who are con­sid­er­ing a sober-curi­ous lifestyle do so as a way to explore life with­out alco­hol. Tak­ing a break from con­sum­ing alco­hol allows you to eval­u­ate your rela­tion­ship with alco­hol and the role it plays in your life.

No mat­ter what your rea­son is for con­sid­er­ing a sober-curi­ous lifestyle, there are many health ben­e­fits to lim­it­ing your alco­hol con­sump­tion. If you are strug­gling with sub­stance abuse, con­sult with your pri­ma­ry care physi­cian. For more tips on health and well­ness, or to sched­ule an appoint­ment with a fam­i­ly med­i­cine physi­cian, please call 1 – 888-MY-DMG-DR (1−888−693−6437) or sched­ule an appoint­ment online.

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