2016 is here and New Year resolutions will have been made. Giving up alcohol may have been one of them.
Dry January takes place this month and is aimed at encouraging causal drinkers to give up alcohol for a month after the indulgences of Christmas and New Year’s Eve. In the long term, giving up alcohol for a month really can change people’s attitudes towards drinking.
Jacquie Fisher, hospital alcohol practitioner at Solihull Hospital, explains: “Most people who regularly drink more than these levels don’t see any harmful effects at first. Alcohol’s hidden harms usually only emerge after a number of years and by then, serious health problems will have developed. Liver problems, reduced fertility, high blood pressure, increased risk of various cancers and heart attacks are some of the numerous harmful effects of regularly drinking above the recommended levels over the long-term.
“To some, the prospect of going without alcohol for 31 days sounds daunting at first but Dry January can only have a positive impact. It may seem like the final straw, but if you remove alcohol from the equation, you are probably killing at least three New Year resolutions with one stone. Alcohol has many side effects but the effects of abstinence (even in the short term) are worth it; sleeping better, losing weight and feeling more energetic.
“People sometimes find that alcohol helps them to cope with stress, however it cannot be seen as a long-term solution.”
So what can you do to combat alcohol and stay dry this January? Jacquie says: “Increase your intake of fruit and vegetables and eat more rice, grains and salad. Aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. Replace alcoholic drinks with water and juice – not only will you be cutting down on your alcohol intake – a glass of unsweetened fruit juice counts as a portion of your five a day.
“You can also do some damage limitation by increasing your exercise and taking supplements that will give your body a hug. Adults should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. Active people are also up to 50 percent less likely to be at risk of major chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke.”
Pete Duffield, RAID nurse at Solihull and Heartlands Hospitals, adds: “At the end of Dry January when you do go back to drinking alcohol, please remember the new government advice. There is no safe limit in regards to alcohol consumption and it is now recommended that both women and men drink only 14 units of alcohol per week (equivalent to six pints of 4% beer) with at least three alcohol free days a week.”
For more information on Dry January, please visit the Alcohol Concern website (https://www.alcoholconcern.org.uk/what-we-do/campaigns/dry-january/). You can also join in the conversation on Twitter by following @dryjanuary.