Do you enjoy a cold beer or glass of wine after a long day? Drinking may help with relaxation, but consuming too much has been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, liver disease, low testosterone, vitamin deficiencies, and more. Cutting back on alcohol can lead to some impressive health benefits—find out how your body reacts and benefits when you drink less.
You might have noticed that when you drink less, your waistline benefits. Evidence shows that drinking can make us eat more, affect our sleep, and cause less motivation to get active. When you drink less, you reduce your caloric intake, which can contribute to weight loss.
Improved immune system
Our digestive system is the first point of contact for alcohol, which gets absorbed into the blood. When alcohol passes through the digestive tract, it alters the number of healthy and unhealthy bacteria living in our gut, damaging gut barrier cells by allowing the leakage of bacteria into circulation. This can negatively affect the intestinal immune system and overall immune health, leading to inflammation and more illnesses.
By drinking less, you’re doing a favour for your gut and immune system.
Ever dozed off not long after drinking but found yourself waking up a couple of hours later? Alcohol can make you fall asleep faster, but your sleep quality may be impacted when the effects wear off.
Sleep is divided into quiet and active (deep) stages of sleep. The thinking is that alcohol may affect melatonin secretion, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, leading to more quiet sleep rather than deep sleep. Deep sleep strengthens the immune system, improves memory, promotes healthy blood pressure, and more.
So, when you drink less, you’re more likely to feel physically and mentally better—recharged, refreshed, and focused.
You may notice peeing more often when you drink. Alcohol stops the body from releasing the antidiuretic hormone that normally tells the kidneys to hold onto the fluids. When this hormone is held back, the kidneys excrete more fluids than your body needs.
Since water makes up roughly 60% of our body, drinking can dehydrate you, leading to classic hangover symptoms: nausea and headaches. Water is essential for controlling body temperature, maintaining blood flow, lubricating joints, getting rid of waste, and more.
When you drink less, your body retains more fluids. When you stop drinking, the antidiuretic hormone levels return to normal, and your kidneys excrete the appropriate amount of fluids without working extra hard.
Reduced cancer risk
Some health benefits of drinking less alcohol appear sooner than others, but overall, cutting back has a positive impact on your long-term well-being.
Drinking less alcohol may lower your risk of developing esophageal, stomach, liver, colon, rectal, and breast cancers. But how often you drink matters as much as how much you drink in one sitting—ultimately, the more frequently you drink, the higher the cancer risk, as noted in a 2021 research study of more than 11 million people.
Best ways to cut back on alcohol
1. Set a goal
Limit how much you drink by keeping track of the amount consumed compared to your goal. Keep a journal or use an app to help you set and reach your goals.
2. Space out your drinks
Only have one alcoholic drink per hour. In-between boozy beverages, have a non-alcoholic refreshment like water, soda, or juice to satisfy your thirst. Sipping your drinks instead of gulping them down also helps.
3. Order by the glass
When eating out, you can enjoy wine by ordering by the glass instead of by the bottle. This will also help with spacing your drinks.
4. Replace your drink with a non-alcoholic beer
Love the flavour of beer? Replace some of your booze with non-alcoholic beer that tastes just as good as the real thing.
5. Have a virgin drink
If you love cocktails, reduce the amount of alcohol added or enjoy a mocktail, like a sparkling Pom Collins, No-booze penicillin, and the Nilsson.
6. Have a non-alcoholic sparkling drink
It’s all about perception—make your own bubbly beverage by mixing soda with fruit juice and enjoy it from a wine glass.
7. Quench your thirst with flavoured water
Flavour your water with lemon or lime.
To sum it all up
Setting a goal to drink less is a win all its own. Combine that with health benefits and cost savings, and there’s even more reason to re-consider your levels of consumption. Remember that changes take time. Start small, and don’t be discouraged if you deviate from your plan—you can always try again.
In the long run, your body will thank you.
An important note about alcohol use disorder:
The tips above are intended for casual or light to moderate drinkers who are trying to cut down. If someone suffers from alcohol use disorder, they need to speak with a healthcare professional to come up with a safe treatment plan. Check out these resources to get the ball rolling.
Do you have tips that help you drink less alcohol? Share in the comments below.