After a night of binge drinking, you probably wake up feeling groggy, dehydrated, unable to think clearly, and are experiencing some degree of physical pain (like a headache, body aches, etc.). Unfortunately, the temporary pain of a hangover is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the negative impacts of binge drinking on your body.
We often talk about alcohol and its detrimental effects on the gut, the immune system, and the brain. However, we often overlook the impact of how drinking, especially in large quantities, affects lung health. Heavy drinking can increase the risk of developing acute respiratory distress, pneumonia, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and tuberculosis, mainly due to the impairment of overall immune function (Simet & Sisson, 2015).
While going out and enjoying a few (or many) drinks with friends is a fun weekend to-do, it may not be the best or healthiest way to spend your downtime. Not to be a (literal) buzzkill, but the benefits of not drinking far outweigh the benefits of overindulging in libations.
So, what classifies binge drinking? The National Institute of Health defines it as four or more beverages within two hours for women and five or more drinks within two hours for men. Results from a 2015 survey showed that 26.9% of adults 18 and over engaged in binge drinking behavior within the last 30 days, making this a fairly common behavior for about a quarter of the population.
Beyond binge drinking, new research published just this month shows that even drinking in light-to-moderate amounts (less than one drink per day) has been correlated with a reduction in brain volume, which intensifies as alcohol intake increases (Daviet et al., 2022).
If you decide it's time to cut back on heavy drinking, here are some of the long-term health benefits you can expect:
Better Lung Health
Reducing alcohol intake decreases your risk of acute respiratory diseases and long-term lung disorders. While the two might seem distantly related, alcohol decreases immune function, making us more susceptible to respiratory distress.
Better Gut Health
Alcohol increases intestinal permeability and also affects the microbiome. It can disrupt the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut and even make it more difficult to break down food, absorb nutrients, and could lead to long-term gut health damage. Incorporating a probiotic into your diet can benefit your microbiome and systemic health. There are probiotic options that provide targeted support, like resB Lung Support. You can learn more at www.resbiotic.com.
Better Nutritional Status
Alcohol severely affects your nutrient status. By cutting back, you can improve the level of key nutrients like Vitamin D (key for immune support) and B Vitamins (that help with energy production and mental clarity) (Barve et al., 2017).
Increases in drinking are associated with diabetes, hypertension, risk of stroke, heart disease, and more. Alcohol also increases the need for insulin to reduce blood sugar spikes, which also can lead to inflammation in the vascular system (Molina & Nelson, 2018).
Alcohol contributes to inflammation through several pathways. First, alcohol contributes to inflammation in the gut, which can affect the immune system and decrease our ability to fight infections.
Better Brain Function
Since alcohol can reduce brain volume and damage regions of the brain, cutting back on alcohol use can provide a range of benefits. This includes better mood, more mental clarity, improved learning, and better cognition overall.
Other benefits of less binging are fewer hangovers and more energy to tackle your day. In the end, it can be extremely empowering to reduce your alcohol intake and take some time off from binging – both for your physical and mental health.