It’s impossible, in these days of high health awareness, to not know how an alcohol addiction can harm you physically and mentally. But still, somehow, it’s hard for some of us to give it up. What is it that stops us from breaking an addiction? We asked experts to help us understand more about excessive drinking and how to quit.
When you drink excessively
“Drinking excessively affects every organ of the body and has a drastic impact on the liver, our detoxifying organ,” says health guru Mickey Mehta. “Alcohol interferes with the absorption and assimilation of nutrients leading to damage of liver, digestive system and other organs. Long periods of alcohol consumption can increase the risk of arthritis, liver and pancreatic cancer, can lead to heart diseases and nervous disorders and other problems.”
Practically every portion of the body is affected, explains Kannan Nettath, manager and consultant at The Spa & Gym at Taj Lands End. Alcohol works on specific organs in the body in these ways:
This part of the brain controls not only balance but also coordination and eye movements. High alcohol consumption can interfere with the perception of distance and height and cause dizziness.
Alcohol can irritate the lining of the stomach, causing retching and vomiting. It can also cause inflammation and heartburn.
Central nervous system:
Excessive alcohol can cause a complete breakdown in communication between the brain and some of its organs, leading to blurred vision, loss of balance and problems.
What stops you from quitting
There are several reasons that make quitting alcohol extremely difficult. Fear of social rejection, peer pressure, addiction, lack of activity and boredom can make one take up alcohol to fill up the gaps.
“Alcohol enables you to feel relaxed, happy and uninhibited. For many people, alcohol makes them feel like a different person — a more attractive, sexier, friendlier version of themselves. Others find themselves more in control of their lives with the help of alcohol,” explains Nettath.
What you’ll face in the first few weeks when you quit
“When you quit drinking alcohol, your body is so used to the chemicals entering your system that it automatically signals the brain to keep refuelling it with those chemicals. You cough more because your lungs are attempting to clean out the muck that has built up over time. You may also suffer from headaches, mood swings, and tiredness,” says Ramraj Yogi, fitness expert and owner of Well N Trim gym. Nettath adds, “You may experience a craving for some essential dietary element that you can’t identify.”
Why you should push yourself to quit
Giving up the habit makes you feel healthier and happier. “Better skin and improved liver function can be seen from the first week onwards of quitting. With prolonged abstinence, damage to brain and nervous system can be reversed and over time, memory, concentration, motor control comes back to normal,” says Mehta.
Nettath adds, “Over time, life without alcohol can lead to improved relationships. Besides, you may be surprised at how much extra money you have when you stop drinking.”
How to overcome the craving:
“Alcohol has a direct connection with sugar. It is nothing but carbs that are eventually broken down into sugar. In order to avoid alcohol cravings, cut down on your sweet intake. Reduce your caffeine and junk food intake and drink plenty of water and get enough of sleep,” advises Yogi. “It’s more likely that your body has been depleted of crucial minerals and vitamins by habitual consumption of alcohol. It’s important to begin eating more healthily when you stop drinking. Include grapes, dates, fruits and vegetable juices, wholegrain cereals, nuts, seeds and sprouts in your diet,” adds Nettath.
“One can also indulge in healthy drinking substitutes like soda with lemon, a cocktail of fruits without added sugar, a glass of red wine, smoothies with soy milk, green and herbal teas and soups,” says Mehta. “Eating sweet treats can be a substitute for taking a drink but try to choose healthy sweet snacks and avoid replacing drinking with eating habits that lead to obesity or diabetes,” warns Nettath.