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How to make dry January a little bit easier....

It is way past the beginning of the year – it’s almost March! But let’s just go back a moment to January (“do we have to???” I hear you cry!). Certain times of year prompt people to examine their habits and to make changes that will benefit their health, and the start of the year is one of them.


Most people know that ditching the alcohol in January is a way to give the liver a much deserved break after the indulgence of the festive period. Most people also know that one of the best ways to help your liver is not to overtax it with toxins, and alcohol is a major toxin.

 

But did you know just how important this organ, the liver, is – some of the jobs it does day in, day out include:


  • detoxification of substances both from outside (exogenous) and produced by the body itself (endogenous)

  • production of bile, essential for fat digestion and also for transporting toxins out of the body

  • “energy regulation” as glycogenesis: storage of blood sugar (as glycogen) and release when levels are low

  • conversion of thyroid hormones to the form used by cells (t3)

  • part of the immune system – it “traps” viruses and pathogens

  • production of cholesterol, a vital substance for repair, hormone production and other roles around the body

 

It was with liver health in mind that I set out to “go dry” in January this year. I admit that I’ve tried in the past and failed – giving up alcohol is my personal “last frontier” in the journey to better health (I was brought up in a drinking family, there was always booze around when I was growing up, it’s part of my culture, for better or for worse).

 

Once reason that I have found it easier this time round is that I had a real, here-and-now reason to take extra care of my liver. I’m 52, going on 53, and the menopause is no longer just a thing that might happen to me off in the future….Did you know that in peri-menopause the first female hormone to drop away is progesterone? Oestrogen levels can then fluctuate wildly (see Lara Briden’s graph, below). Progesterone I have heard described as the “pressure cooker lid” of female hormones, when it drops away oestrogen is left “unopposed”. It is these oestrogen highs and lows (and later, non-existence) that cause the symptoms of (peri)menopause.










Given the huge fluctuations in hormones, it is really important that we are able to metabolise (or detox) these hormones well – it’s one of the endogenous toxins in the bullet point list above. This happens primarily in the liver, and so we really do want a healthy liver at menopause. I think this is the reason that I found Dry January so much easier, because I have a real and present reason to give my liver a bit of love – i.e. the need to detox hormones successfully. My perimenopause has so far been (largely) symptom-free, and I’d quite like to remain healthy as I pass through it.

 

Dr Chatterjee wrote an Instagram post recently that really resonated with me:




In other words, the “push through until you get there” mindset doesn’t come from a place of love, but almost of physical punishment. On the other hand, giving up alcohol for a month because you want the best for yourself and your body as you age or pass through peri-menopause (in my case) comes instead from a place of love.

 

A couple of things that may make going alcohol-free easier:

 

  • recognise your alcohol “triggers” – certain settings, certain people, certain times of day and be prepared for them. For me, it’s always as I start cooking dinner…

  • have an alternative to hand. Try something dry or sour-tasting to replicate the flavours of your tipple. I like lime juice in sparkling water, or Swedish bitters in a tonic water as a treat.

  • notice the benefits as you pass through your alcohol-free days; maybe jot them down e.g. in a journal.

 

That last point, the benefits – for me, they were very noticeable. First and foremost – sleep, sleep and sleep. I slept so deeply, it was just wonderful. Sleep is so regenerating, so healing, and man, did I feel regenerated. I also felt generally much more clear-headed. I had been suffering from a couple of cyclical headaches – those just dropped away.

 

So that’s it  - dry January is going to be an annual event for me. I cannot, and don’t want to, give up alcohol completely, but knowing the benefits of cutting it out / cutting back make it so much easier.

 

Marie

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