It is all too easy to overindulge during the holidays, one too many toasts over Thanksgiving, an excess of eggnog at Christmas and far too much Champagne to see in the New Year. It is something that most of us are guilty of, for example in a recent survey by Harris Interactive it was found that 96% of people surveyed returned to work hungover after a holiday party and that 40% of us use the holidays as an excuse to drink.
So what can you do once the holidays are over? You may feel that the time is right for a post-holiday detox to rid your system of all the excess.
The Effects of Alcohol
There is no real issue with the consumption of alcohol, in moderation, however as we increase intake over the holidays we can start to see some of the negative effects.
Alcohol can affect how you look through dehydration. In particular, your skin becomes dehydrated, depriving it of nutrients it needs. This can lead to wrinkles and aging as well as unsightly spots.
Alcohol also contains a lot of calories, there are 7 calories per gram of alcohol which is almost the same caloric value as butter. To put this into perspective, a pint of beer has as many calories as a chocolate bar and a glass of wine is equivalent to an ice cream cone. You can soon find that the extra calories show themselves as unwelcome weight which, along with increased cellulite and bloating, is enough to make most of us want to think twice about having another drink.
Over time, if you increase your drinking or regularly drink in excess, you can cause permanent damage to your body which can lead to infertility, sexual dysfunction or serious conditions such as liver disease.
Your liver is responsible for breaking down harmful substances in your body and when you drink this includes alcohol. Excessive drinking can lead to alcoholic hepatitis, jaundice and scarring of the liver which can cause the liver fail at breaking down harmful substances. These then build up in your body and it can be fatal. Moderate drinking will not do any permanent harm, but you can still help your body and make yourself feel great by giving yourself a break from booze!
Taking a Break From Drinking
Something which is popular in Europe is the idea of a ‘dry’ month, this was an idea which was first created in Finland when the government created ‘Sober January’ in 1942 as part of its war effort. Today in the United Kingdom the charity Alcohol Concern runs a campaign called ‘Dry January’ where people are encouraged to give up alcohol for a month.
There are people who doubt that this is effective, however, the University of Sussex found that six months following January 2014, 72% out of 900 surveyed participants had “kept harmful drinking episodes down” and 4% were still not drinking. It may be a good way to break the habit after all if you feel that it is time for you to review your intake.
Of course, you don’t have to go for a full month, you will start to notice effects after a 7-10 day detox. After which an ongoing reduction of your drinking will have a major benefit on your health.
If you have been a little excessive over the holiday period you can plan a short detox to help your body recover from the effects of alcohol.
The One Week Detox
Here is a simple set of steps you can take to undergo a short detox program.
What is detox?
A detox – is a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances. It is a time when you will remove alcohol from your diet, in this case for one week. It will give your body time to flush any toxic substances from your body and allow organs such as your liver to recover. It can be especially good following a time like the holidays when you may have indulged just a little too much!
There are a number of detox programs you can follow and lots of products to help you if you wish. This is a very simple method. You should, of course, seek medical advice before you detox if you are pregnant or unwell.
- Set aside a week when you will carry out your detox – make sure your friends and family are aware that you are trying to stop drinking for a week so that they do not encourage you to break your program!
- You will be avoiding all alcohol – if you slip and have a drink, make sure it is just one and then carry on. Remember, you are only cheating yourself!
- Eat healthy – boost your diet with lots of fruit and vegetables which will supercharge your body with essential vitamins and minerals. You can enjoy raw foods and salads and avoid heavily processed foods. For just one week forgo the takeaways and processed foods, fresh fruit and veg will kick start your immune system.
- Drink lots – but ensure it is water or juice! Alcohol will dehydrate your body so look to replace your lost fluid with lots of fresh water or juice. It will help you flush toxins from your body and plump up your skin making you look great! Try slicing a lemon and adding it to a water bottle in your fridge. You will have delicious flavored water to sip all day. Try it with any of your favorite fruit or even cucumber which makes a delicious drink. Avoid coffee and caffeinated drinks where you can.
- Enjoy exercise – if you don’t regularly exercise you should start to move your body. If you do exercise, see if you can extend what you are doing. Go slow, if you are unused to physical exercise take it easy at first, a gentle walk or swim is a good start, just slowly start to build up what you are doing to get your body moving.
- Try a mental detox too – take time to clear your mind, there are lots of meditation programs you can follow for example, 5 Minutes to find happiness. At least ensure you find some ‘me’ time for you during your detox week. Read a book, enjoy some music, do whatever helps you relax and clear your mind.
There may be times when you will struggle but if you persevere you will find that the benefits will be worth the effort. Even a short period of detox will make you feel better, your skin should be brighter, and you may have more energy. Your body and especially your liver will certainly thank you!
The best thing you can do is, keep it simple. Think of a detox as a treat to yourself and your body.
Keeping the Good Times Flowing
Once you have completed your detox (and no doubt feel great!) don’t use it as an excuse to immediately open a bottle of champagne and celebrate. Why not build on the good practice and use this, instead, as a great excuse to build on your good practice.
There is nothing wrong in a social drink, however, try to consider what you are drinking and if you can cut down. It doesn’t have to be hard work. For example, if only for your waistline, why not drink a spritzer instead of a full glass of wine? A 5 oz glass of dry white wine contains approximately 105 calories whereas a 5 oz spritzer made with soda water is just 50 calories – less than half! Importantly you have a longer drink and therefore more time between alcoholic drinks – fewer units per night!
Remember that beer has calories not only from the alcohol but also the carbohydrates, a light beer could save approximately 50 calories per bottle. Reduced strength need not affect the flavor of a well-chilled beer!
Avoid drinks such as coolers made from sugary flavors mixed with vodka or rum. Most contain at least 250 calories and may contain more than 300 calories, plus more than 8 teaspoons of sugar in each serving. Try a rum and Diet Coke instead.
If you enjoy a cocktail, why not enjoy some delicious alcohol-free cocktails. You can still be the life and soul of the party even without lots of alcohol.
When is a Detox Not Right?
For most people, a short detox where you abstain from alcohol will be a positive move and it will help you greatly. However, you need to be aware if you are alcohol dependent you should not suddenly stop drinking.
If you are a regular and heavy drinker your body will be compensating for the depressive effect of alcohol by increasing production of hormones and brain chemicals such as serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine. If you were to suddenly stop drinking alcohol, your body would become flooded with abnormally high levels of these chemicals, causing your brain to undergo rapid changes in an attempt to maintain normal function. Severe complications include dehydration, vomiting, abnormal heart rhythms.
How do I Know if I am Alcohol Dependent?
Sadly, it has never been easier to become alcohol dependent, there is a wide range of alcohol available and social drinking is seen to be more acceptable than ever. Coming home after a hard day at work and reaching for a ‘glass of wine’ can rapidly turn into regularly ‘finishing the bottle’. If you feel that you may be struggling with alcohol, ask yourself some questions:
- Do I need to have a drink? – you need alcohol, your desire for a drink has become a powerful need for alcohol.
- You need to drink more to get the same buzz – having a glass of wine of a bottle of beer just doesn’t ‘hit the spot’ and you need more and more to get the same effect. It is showing that your body is becoming more tolerant of alcohol.
- You are drinking most days – your drinking has become regular, this could show the signs of an addiction forming
- You drink alone – whereas there is nothing wrong with enjoying a drink alone if this becomes the norm you should take notice.
Alcohol consumption is measured in ‘units.’ One unit is equivalent to a measure of spirits (a bar measure as opposed to a home measure), half a pint of lager or a small glass of wine.
When you are drinking you should take note of how many units you are consuming in one session:
- 1 – 2 units are referred to as moderate
- 8 – 9 units is heavy drinking
- 10+ units is considered to be excessive
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that men should not exceed 4 drinks per day or a total of 14 per week and women should not exceed 3 drinks a day or a total of 7 per week. The American Heart Association suggest even lower levels.
If you find that you are at risk of being alcohol dependent you should take professional advice before you attempt to cut down on your alcohol intake to avoid alcohol withdrawal symptoms which can include anxiety, visual and auditory hallucinations, convulsions, whole body tremor, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, profuse sweating, shakiness, convulsions, DTs, hypertension and even heart failure. Approximately 50% of people with alcohol dependence experience withdrawal symptoms.