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3 things that happen to the body when you stop drinking alcohol

Toasting to the holidays is a favorite pastime for many, but the stress and strain of the season can lead to overconsumption of alcohol. According to a Harris Poll survey, 50 percent of adults said alcohol plays a part in family gatherings and 16 percent admit to drinking more during the holidays than they would any other time of year.

So what would happen to your body if you decided to put down the holiday spirits and opt for a glass of water? Lena Beal, M.S., RD, LD, a therapeutic dietitian at Piedmont’s Fuqua Heart Center, shares her thoughts.

Alcohol is not a part of a standard diet,” says Beal.  “It doesn’t give us any significant essential nutrients and it can increase your daily calorie intake.”

Beal says if you stop drinking, you will:

1. Lose weight. “When you drink alcohol, you should eat a lower calorie meal to account for the alcohol,” says Beal. “But that doesn’t usually happen, and you end up consuming more calories. If you cut alcohol from your diet, you won’t be taking in extra calories and may ultimately help with weight loss.”

2. Get better sleep. Studies have shown that alcohol actually disrupts the release of melatonin in the brain, which triggers sleep disruption and insomnia. This can cause you to feel unrested and cranky the next day. “Cutting out some alcohol can help reduce sleep disturbances and allow you to get adequate rest,” says Beal.

3. Improve your mood. Drinking alcohol lowers the level of serotonin in your brain, says Beal. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps to balance your mood. “Without serotonin, the brain can’t function properly and it can cause you to feel anxious or irritable,” says Beal. “When you don’t drink alcohol, you actually feel better.”

Trying to lose weight or tone up? Take a look at our diet and nutrition stories