Cruise into January without the booze
Experts believe we should cut alcohol down – or out – for the next few weeks
Drinking more than your liver can cope with means alcohol remains in your bloodstream and will continue to place a strain on the functions of your organs for several hours after you have stopped drinking.
The parties are over, the house is full of pine needles and the scales are tipping on the heavy side. While many of us threw caution to the wind when it came to counting calories over the festive period, we were also a lot more relaxed with our alcohol intake. Many experts believe we should cut it down – or out completely – in the coming weeks to give our bodies a chance to recover.
Dr Stephen Stewart, a liver specialist at the Mater hospital in Dublin, welcomes the flurry of new year’s resolutions which, he says, help people to redress the damage done to their bodies over the season.
“Most people seem to drink too much over the Christmas period,” he says. “Even those who already have cirrhosis of the liver see it as a time when regular rules do not apply and these people often end up in A&E vomiting blood and on the brink of very serious problems.
“The emergency department is always full but over the festive ‘party’ season [which can last six weeks] we are clogged up with people who are drunk and disorderly and have had accidents or become ill due to the amount they have consumed.
“So I really think a detox is important. A sustained period of alcohol consumption can reset tolerance levels and those who would have been mildly buzzing after one or two glasses of wine will now be able to drink a bottle without it having much effect, so it is vital for them to recalibrate their systems now that the festivities are over.”
Toxic to organsThe gastroenterologist, who works from the Centre for Liver Disease at the Mater, says not only does too much alcohol pose a threat to the liver but it can also have an impact on other physical health issues, as well as mental health.
“Regular, continual alcohol abuse can cause anxiety and depression,” he says. “It also causes gastric problems, muscle pains, nausea and headaches and is incredibly toxic to several organs – so cutting down, or cutting out for a while, can be only beneficial.”
According to Dr Bernadette Carr, medical director of VHI, an alcohol-free period allows your body to recover from the worst effects of the toxins in alcohol.
“It can [help] drinkers to cut down the volume of their drinking in the long run,” she says.
“Psychologically it’s also important as it helps people to rethink their relationship with alcohol and decreases the chances of becoming dependent. And, of course, alcohol can also be a significant source of calories and carbohydrates, so cutting it out can help you to lose weight, which is usually high up on everyone’s list of new year’s resolutions.”
Though Ireland is viewed internationally as the place to go for a drinking holiday, Deirdre Coogan – who runs Accents Cafe in Dublin with her husband, Donal – believes many Irish people are becoming more open to the idea of socialising in the evening without alcohol.
“Accents is one of very few places in Dublin city centre where people can socialise into the late evening without being in a pub environment,” she says. “The concept, while common in Europe, is fairly new to Dublin, but it’s proving to be very popular as customers like to enjoy the safe, quiet and alcohol-free atmosphere.”
While the couple both drink alcohol themselves, they recognise the need for people to be able to enjoy an inexpensive night out without drinking – and they run comedy nights and poetry slam evenings.
David Mooney of Funky Seomra (alcohol-free dance nights) agrees that people are becoming less reliant on alcohol. “It’s inspiring to see that people want to try something different, like going to the Funky Seomra,” he says.
“It’s a positive development in Ireland. We’ve had more than 37,000 people attend our events over the past seven years, so it seems there is more awareness about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, and clubbing can be part of this health revolution.”