What Happens in Your Body When You Quit Drinking

After the overindulgence of the holidays, lots of people decide that January is the perfect time to lay off the sauce.

And depending on how much alcohol your body is used to filtering, abstaining can be trickier for some than for others.

So it’s important to understand, if you choose to avoid alcohol, what goes on in your body when you first stop drinking.

Alcohol is a pretty ubiquitous mind-altering substance in most societies. We drink for celebrations, for commemorations, memorializations, athletic events, happy hours, on romantic dates, or even just because.

Whether you’re taking a break for a couple of weeks, a month, or even longer-term, the body goes through changes when you remove alcohol from the picture.

Let’s examine how your body reacts to the first four weeks of being booze-free.

Week One 

When you remove alcohol from the equation, your body responds pretty quickly. Within 24 hours, in fact.

One hour after your last alcoholic drink, your liver begins filtering the alcohol out of your bloodstream so that it doesn’t poison you. It changes the chemical composition of alcohol to acetaldehyde, and then acetate. Now, acetaldehyde is a carcinogen. It only exists in the body briefly until it becomes acetate, but it’s worth knowing.

The pancreas also starts producing insulin, which causes an intense craving for carbs.

After 72 hours, most everyone, including very heavy drinkers, should no longer feel groggy, tired, achey, or foggy.

After a full week, you’ll notice three main differences: better sleep, clearer skin, and a normalized eating pattern.

For every six glasses of wine, your body loses 19-24 glasses of water. Without the drain on your hydration reserves, your skin is brighter and clearer. 

Without alcohol, your body experiences six to eight more REM cycles a night – with alcohol, you can typically expect between one and two REM cycles. 

And when your hunger pangs aren’t dictated by cycles of being drunk and hungover, your hunger is more in line with the circadian rhythm of the Earth. You also crave better food, and less of it. 

Week Two

After two weeks of improved hydration, you’ll notice a few things. First, your body is releasing its water weight. 

You see, while you’re drinking, your body clings to any reserves of water because alcohol dehydrates you. When you stop drinking, your body releases that water and you start to pee more frequently and lose some of your water weight.

You also stop experiencing acid reflux, and your stomach lining has repaired itself from the damage that drinking alcohol does to it. 

As you’re not drinking pints of beer and glasses of wine anymore, you’re saving majorly on calories and may start to show signs of weight loss.

Not to mention two weeks of clean, deep, and restful sleep makes you more alert, more productive, and less distracted.

Week Three

Drinking alcohol causes higher blood pressure. Around week three, you should see your blood pressure levels return to normal.

Not only that, but your kidney health improves, and your risk of stroke or heart attack is significantly decreased. 

Because alcohol raises your blood-sugar levels, which causes the lens of your eyes to swell…

Your vision also gets better at around this stage of being sober!

Your sleep gets better every night, eating habits stabilize, skin clears, and immune function increases. And you may be able to notice some belly fat loss.

Week Four

A whole month!

After a month without alcohol, your liver fat is reduced by 15% on average. That means that you can better filter out contaminants, store vitamins and minerals better, fight infections, and more, better than ever before.

While your skin has been improving steadily over this month, you’ll notice the most significant difference at this point.

Partially, it’s because you’re more likely to drink water when you’re not drinking alcohol, but mainly it’s because you’re not actively robbing your skin of the water it needs by drinking alcohol.

Now, there are plenty of good changes happening in your body…

But if you’ve been a steady drinker for a long time, you should also expect to experience depression, anxiety, aggression, and a higher level of irritability during your first month without alcohol. 

That’s normal.

It’s your body trying to get you to feed it booze – after all, people tend to drink alcohol when they’re sad, angry, anxious, or stressed. 

That’s all okay.

Whether one week, two weeks, or one month is your goal, your emotional state evens out and adjusts to the absence of alcohol just like the body does, resulting in a brighter, healthier, more alert you. 

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.