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Sober-Curious: Benefits of an Alcohol-Free Lifestyle

Health Benefits behind the Sober-Curious Movement
By Eva Chatman, MD

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.


Topics and Subtopics: Diet & Nutrition & General Health

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