(Cleveland Clinic)- Was your December marked by holiday over-indulgence? If so, you may be one of the many adults trying a ‘Dry January’ – and avoiding any alcohol for the entire first month of the year.
But can it really help someone’s health? According to Jamile Wakim-Fleming, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic, going ‘dry’ can decrease liver inflammation brought on by drinking alcohol.
“When people stop drinking, even if it’s a month, this inflammation, induced by alcohol will have the chance to improve – it’s like you’re giving that wound a little bit of time to heal itself,” she said.
“It may not heal all the way back, if you have been drinking a lot before and your liver has been severely damaged by alcohol, but it will still help.”
Dr. Wakim-Fleming points out those who have a history of heavy drinking often suffer from scarring of the liver, such as fibrosis or cirrhosis, at which point, the damage may not always be reversed by going dry.
She said a recent study shows more adults are engaging in binge-drinking now than ever before – especially women over the age of 40.
Binge drinking is defined as drinking more than five drinks in one sitting for men, and more than four drinks for women.
Dr. Wakim-Fleming believes it’s wise to create a ‘budget’ for alcohol use each year, the same way a budget is created for finances.
Take a look at the year ahead and consider how often drinking occurs, and how much, and how often drinking is likely to happen the following year.
And as far as a ‘Dry January’ goes, Dr. Wakim-Fleming said going for longer periods – such as 3-6 months – without alcohol, is a better bet for seeing liver recovery.
“If you stop for the month, to take a ‘Dry January’ because you drank during the holidays and now you’re going to give your body a rest, that is awesome; that’s very good, compared to somebody who did not stop in January,” she said. “But we would like to see if the dry month could be extended to a dry three months, or dry six months.”
Dr. Wakim-Fleming said, of course, it’s best not to drink alcohol at all, especially for people who have liver disease, but, if folks decide to go back to drinking after a dry spell, consider lowering the amount.
She said it’s always a good idea to have a conversation with a doctor about alcohol habits and develop a plan that’s best for long term health.
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