In the world of clubbing, brunches, happy hours and music fests, it can seem like alcohol is always on the agenda these days.
But should you consider taking a hiatus from your typical three shots? Well, it certainly couldn’t hurt.
An alcohol break is obviously in order if there is a problem with alcohol abuse or consistent over indulgence. However even those who are moderate drinkers should consider laying off the booze now and again.
Damage to the liver is cumulative, so having a few drinks every day may be just as harmful as excessive binge drinking. The constant insult to the liver and digestive track can lead to ulcers, pancreatitis, and cirrhosis. Well Yikes.
What’s more, since alcohol is a diuretic, natural depressant, and can interfere with sound sleep, taking even a short break from alcohol is an opportunity to see how you would feel without that stuff floating through your body on the regular. And we’re willing to bet you’ll feel pretty amazing.
While that’s not to say alcohol is all bad—moderate alcohol consumption has even been linked to a 25 to 50 percent lower risk in heart diseases and diabetes in women—most women tend to vastly underestimate how much they drink, who typically doubles whatever a patient’s estimate of their alcohol consumption is. You can blame over-sized wine glasses and too-big restaurant serving sizes for that one.
The fact is that overdoing it, or binge drinking (which is defined as having four or more drinks within a couple of hours) can wreak havoc on your body. A recent study published in the journal Alcohol found that entire weekend of binge drinking can damage your body’s DNA, while another study in PLOS ONE found that just one night of binge drinking can cause gut bacteria to release toxins into your bloodstream. No wonder you feel less than stellar on Wednesday after a few glasses of wine on Tuesday.
And don’t even get us started on your waistline. When women overdo it on booze, they eat an average of 6,300 extra calories in the following 24 hours, according to a recent survey. So depending on your drinking habits, cutting back on the booze could definitely help you get both your eating habit and weight in check.
If you do take a break from alcohol, make sure you don’t just jump back into the booze like you used to, says Deutsch. The more you drink, the more active your liver’s alcohol-metabolizing enzymes become. So as soon as you cut back on your alcohol, those enzymes take a chill pill, and your tolerance goes down.
That’s generally a good thing and a sign your liver is happy and healthy. But if you come back from a booze-free week or month and try to polish off the same number of drinks you did before abstaining, you could find yourself more easily suffering from severe intoxication, he says.
So in addition to taking a happy hour hiatus, it’s also important to cut back on your drinking habits for good. “Clearly any break is going to be beneficial,” he says. “However, in the long run, I’d rather prescribe moderation than yo-yoing back and forth between heavy drinking and ‘alco-holidays.’”