What really happens to your body when you give up booze?

Thousands of Irish people are having a ‘Dry January’ and abstaining from alcohol after the excesses of Christmas. But does four weeks without a drink really have any health benefits, or are we kidding ourselves? Liver specialist Professor Suzanne Norris has the answers

We are often told that too much alcohol is bad for us. While the liver can cope with drinking a small amount of alcohol at any given time, drinking too quickly or drinking too much over a short period of time can result in the liver struggling to process it. Most of us are familiar with the idea of giving up alcohol for Lent. More recently the concept of a ‘Dry January’ has gained prominence when we give up alcohol for the month in an attempt to make up for the excesses of the Christmas period.

It’s a concept gaining popularity with the medical profession which has warned that Ireland is in the grip of an alcohol epidemic. According to a report by the World Health Organisation in 2014, 39pc of Irish people are heavy drinkers which is defined as having more than 35 units (three and a half bottles of wine) a week for women, or more than 50 units a week for men. Drinking more than six standard drinks on any one occasion is regarded as binge drinking.

The recommended maximum levels of alcohol intake are 11 units a week for a woman or 17 units a week for a man (1 unit is equivalent to a half pint of beer, one pub measure of spirits, or one small glass (125mls) of wine).

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