After 30 days of not drinking alcohol, your liver may start to repair itself, your risk of cancer and heart disease decrease, and your sleep could improve.
The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that alcohol should be consumed in moderation — up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
Alcohol consumption has been also linked to head, neck, esophagus, liver, breast, colon, and rectum cancers.
If you need a break from alcohol, going alcohol-free for a month or more can bring about many physical and mental health benefits.
“The benefits can vary from person to person depending on how much of a change from their baseline behavior this is,” Dr. Rekha B. Kumar, medical director of the American Board of Obesity Medicine, told Healthline.
Kumar explained that someone who drinks minimally but abstains from alcohol for a month “might feel a sense of control over their health or feel a sense of accomplishment from achieving a set goal.”
Meanwhile, others who drink heavily “might notice more pronounced physiologic effects, such as more mental clarity, better sleep, weight loss, and feeling the ‘detox’ sensation, in addition to achieving a set goal.”
Dr. Dasgupta said for social and moderate drinkers, participating in a month break won’t make much difference to their bodies. However, for people who exceed recommendations in the
The guidelines state that alcohol should be consumed in moderation — up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
“Studies show that even if you drink in excess once a month, it increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke,” said Dasgupta. “My warning is not for the people who drink in moderation. It’s for the people who drink too much.”
What happens when you stop drinking for 30 days
For those who drink frequently or excessively, taking a month off can help your body in the following ways.
1. Repair liver damage
Cirrhosis of the liver (liver disease) can occur over time in those who drink excessively.
“It doesn’t happen in a day, but for anyone who drinks in excess, which again is more than two drinks a day for men, and one a day for women, there are fatty changes in the liver, so when you stop drinking, those changes are reversible, and the liver can become normal again,” said Dasgupta.
Because the liver is a tolerant organ, he said positive changes can occur within weeks of going dry.
Kumar added that in the absence of alcohol, “the liver can focus on its other jobs, such as breaking down other toxins produced by the body, metabolizing fats and excess hormones that need to be broken down.”
2. Decrease the risk of heart disease
On the other hand, if you drink in moderation, alcohol doesn’t affect LDL and instead
“Drinking one or two glasses of wine once or twice a week has some health benefits, especially for men over 40; it reduces risk of cardiovascular disease… for women you can get those benefits anytime, it’s not age-dependent,” Dasgupta said.
In addition, some racial and ethnic groups may face greater health risks from alcohol consumption than others.
For instance, Dasgupta cited research he conducted on the relationship between genetics and alcohol misuse. He noted that people of Chinese and Indian descent do not benefit from drinking alcohol due to a genetic reason that isn’t fully understood.
For anyone concerned about heart health, Dasgupta recommended decreasing alcohol intake and increasing physical activity, which also raises good cholesterol.
3. Reduce the risk of cancer
The National Toxicology Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists alcohol as a known human carcinogen in its
The report states that a person’s risk of developing an alcohol-associated cancer increases with the more alcohol they drink regularly over time.
Links are shown between alcohol consumption and the development of the following types of cancer:
- head and neck
Data from 2013 published in the
4. Facilitate weight loss
Excess alcohol consumption may cause weight gain, which means that cutting out alcohol could lead to weight loss for some people.
While alcohol is high in calories, and wine, beer, and mixed drinks add sugar to one’s diet, Kumar said that simply cutting it out may not always help you lose weight.
“Again, depends on what the baseline alcohol consumption is,” she said.
“If heavier drinkers remove alcohol for a longer period of time, they might see weight loss, improvement in body composition, less stomach fat, improvement in triglycerides (one of the fat particles in the blood),” she said.
Depending on the person, Kumar said she sometimes suggests cutting back on alcohol to lose weight.
“I have recommended completely eliminating alcohol for weight loss as a trial for some patients who have optimized all other aspects of their life (diet is pristine, exercise is maximal, sleep is adequate, stress is managed) to see if they are particularly sensitive to the weight gaining effects of alcohol,” Kumar noted.
“For instance, many women around menopause report gaining weight from alcohol much easier than they did prior to menopause.”
However, if you’re banking on a month-long break from alcohol to help you lose weight, Kumar said it’s not your best bet.
“I would suggest cutting back on several things rather than completely eliminating to avoid feeling deprived, which can lead to rebound eating/drinking and weight regain,” she said.
5. Boost brain power
Dasgupta said the best people to avoid alcohol always are those under 21 years old, and not just for legal reasons.
“There’s a reason why the legal age of drinking is 21 years. Teenage and college drinking is a huge problem. It can cause memory loss and interference with brain development. For college students, being dry is the best thing to do,” he said.
The same goes for those with alcohol use disorder or a family history of it.
6. Improve sleep
While many think drinking alcohol before bed will help them nod off and stay asleep, it’s quite the opposite.
For those with alcohol misuse and dependence, the conditions are connected to chronic sleep disturbance, lower slow-wave sleep, and more rapid eye movement.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms
According to American Family Physician, about half of the people who have alcohol use disorder (uncontrolled drinking and preoccupation with alcohol) who suddenly stop or cut back on alcohol consumption will develop signs or symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome.
Theses withdrawal symptoms occur because of overactivity of the central and autonomic nervous systems.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal might
- elevated blood pressure
- hyperreflexia (increased or overactive reflex response from muscles)
- gastrointestinal upset
- nausea and vomiting
In severe cases of withdrawal when symptoms are not treated, a person may experience generalized tonic-clonic seizures, delirium tremens, and even death.
Other benefits of not drinking alcohol
In addition to the health benefits, when you stop drinking for any amount of time it automatically saves you money.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average household spends $579 per year on alcohol, which is around 1% of their annual income.
If you add in costs of drinking in social settings at restaurants, bars, and clubs, the amount might be more.
Plus, add in things like paying for transportation to avoid driving under the influence and now you might be forking out even more.
The bottom line
Cutting out alcohol for 30 days can have benefits for those who drink more than the recommended limit of two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
“You get the best benefit from alcohol when you drink in moderation. Just being dry for 1 month and going back to drinking in excess is a bad idea. If you are drinking in excess, it’s better to cut your alcohol intake,” said Dasgupta.
“And going [dry] for 90 days will get you more benefits… it will give more time for the liver to heal and heart to heal.”
For those who drink in moderation, Kumar said partaking in a month-long retreat from drinking alcohol won’t do harm, but it may not do much good either.
“There are people who have learned to practice very reasonable alcohol consumption that contributes to psychosocial well-being in a way that does not impair their health,” Kumar noted.
“In these people, completely cutting out healthy/moderate/social consumption might interfere with their social dynamics, cultural factors around meals, and mildly interfere with one’s routine of stress management.”
Can cutting out alcohol bring about health benefits?
Yes, it can. If you drink in excess, cutting out alcohol for a period of time can help your liver, heart, and body composition. However, the benefits vary from person to person.
How much alcohol is safe to consume?
According to the
Will I experience withdrawal symptoms if I stop drinking?
According to American Family Physician, about half of people who have alcohol use disorder (uncontrolled drinking and preoccupation with alcohol) who suddenly stop or cut back on alcohol consumption will develop signs or symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Symptoms can range from headache, elevated blood pressure, heart palpitations, and nausea and vomiting to tremors, hallucination and in severe cases death.
Will I lose weight if I stop drinking alcohol?
Possibly. While alcohol is high in calories, and wine, beer, and mixed drinks add sugar to one’s diet, cutting it out may or may not help you lose weight depending on how much alcohol you consume regularly.