Many people don’t realize how much their bodies change when they start drinking. While adjusting to an influx of sugar and carbohydrates, human bodies create a new norm from which it’s hard to come back. This new kind of alcohol-induced equilibrium can ease people into alcoholism without them even knowing it, and it makes withdrawal symptoms even worse. The health benefits of cutting out alcohol are numerous; not only do you feel better, but your body begins to heal itself in ways you’d never suspect.
What happens when you stop drinking is a regeneration of sorts. First, your body tries to reject the decision you’ve made, and these symptoms can last for weeks or even longer. However, once you make it through this tough period without alcohol, your entire body begins to change for the better. From the mental to the physical, there are many things that happen to your body when you stop drinking, although some of them take longer than others.
Soon after cutting out alcohol, your body will adjust to its new sugar levels. However, while it's working itself out, you'll find yourself craving foods that are high in sugar, but that's just your body adjusting. If you've been drinking two or more sugary drinks a night and you suddenly cut them out, your body's going to try and get that sugar in one way or another.
If you can keep away from the sweets while your body adjusts, you should be just fine. Writing for Better Humans, Malcolm Bedell explained his cravings: "I’ve noticed a craving for sugar that would be enough to render a healthy person diabetic, and make a 5-year-old your best friend for life."
One symptom that typically accompanies drinking is a need to feed. When you're drinking, it just feels right to snack a little — and, while there's nothing wrong with that, if you're drinking to excess multiple days out of the week, you're also probably eating many unnecessary calories.
The "aperitif effect" is the name researchers have coined for this phenomenon, pointing out that alcohol tricks a person's brain into entering a "starvation mode." According to their research, “We propose that the alcohol-associated activity... is the critical step in alcohol-induced overeating.”
Once you cut out drinking, that desire for carbs is heavily reduced. Dietician Jenny Champion affirms that after about 72 hours without a drink you lose your carb cravings and "finally feel back to yourself physically and mentally."
Do you find that you jolt awake in the middle of the night or early in the morning, bleary and completely unable to get back to sleep after a night of drinking? Alcohol interferes with your sleep — which is when your body reinvigorates itself — and without good, solid sleep, you're more likely to be a mess all day. Once you cut alcohol out of your system, you'll probably start sleeping more deeply.
Because of the better rest, you'll feel more energy and your body will be more acutely prepared to fight off heart failure, heart disease, anxiety, and depression.
Most drinkers don't want to hear about how they're more susceptible to mouth, breast, and liver cancer thanks to the way alcohol diminishes your immune system. Moderate-to-heavy consumption can notably increase this risk as well. According to the American Cancer Society:
Even a few drinks a week is linked with an increased risk of breast cancer in women. This risk may be especially high in women who do not get enough folate (a B vitamin) in their diet or through supplements. Alcohol can also raise estrogen levels in the body, which may explain some of the increased risk. Cutting back on alcohol may be an important way for many women to lower their risk.