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Health Challenge: Give up Alcohol for Lent

Health Challenge: Give up Alcohol for Lent
January 20
23:11 2016

With Mardi Gras right around the corner, it’s time to think about using Lent to improve your health. While the traditional purpose of Lent is to spend the six weeks before Easter preparing with repentance, prayers, almsgiving, and atonement, we challenge to do something much easier: give up booze.

Many people use Lent as an excuse to trash bad habits like smoking and drinking. Forty days long, this religious observance can tie into your New Year’s resolutions for 2016 by helping you improve your health – and you don’t have to be Christian to do it.

This year, we challenge you to use this old Christian observance to improve your health by giving up alcohol for 40 days. If you drink alcohol frequently, you may want to do some experimentation before you quit cold turkey to find out how your body will react to the detox. Before Lent, record your weight and take a close-up photo of your face.

If you want to find out what will happen inside your body, ask your doctor to run the following tests. Some are indicators of general health; others are specific markers of liver health, inflammation, and alcohol toxicity:

• CMP (comprehensive metabolic panel)
• CBC (complete blood count)
• Lipid Panel (includes triglycerides, which can be affected by drinking)
• Vitamin B12 and Folate Panel
• GGT (gamma glutamyl transferase, a specific liver test that is most affected by drinking)
• ESR (sedimentation rate – marks inflammation)
• Hs-CRP (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein – marks inflammation)

Don’t get me wrong, the occasional drink can actually benefit your health. “Moderate” drinking is usually defined as no more than 14 drinks per week for men and no more than 7 per week for women. Drinking above moderation can have significant affects on your health that you might not even know about. Drawbacks include:

• Inflammation (puffy eyes, face, etc.)
• Increased risk for arthritis, heart disease, certain types of cancer, stroke, and liver disease
• Alcohol makes it hard to stay asleep and can lead to low energy and brain fog the next day
• Alcohol is high in calories and can cause weight gain
• Too much alcohol can interfere with our body’s stress response, making underlying issues worse

Over time, excessive drinking can cause alcohol-related dementia (similar to Alzheimer’s), cancer of the mouth, esophagus, and throat, liver cancer, heart failure, impotence in men, muscle wasting, bone loss, and more.

Even someone who drinks, say, one or two drinks every day is probably not feeling as good as he could during his daily life. You might not even realize that what you classify as feeling “normal” is actually sluggish and tired.

This is why I am challenging you to stop drinking for 40 days. Here are a few benefits you can expect:

• Less inflammation and puffiness
• Improved mood
• Weight loss
• Clearer thinking
• Better sleep
• More energy

If giving up alcohol for six weeks seems impossible, you’re already addicted and that’s one more reason to attempt the challenge.

You can make the challenge easier by asking a friend to do it with you, by posting your intentions on social media, and by letting family and friends know so that they don’t serve you drinks at gatherings.

Track your progress by recording your energy levels, sleep habits, and weight. Have your labs re-checked after the challenge to see how your insides have changed.

Note: Don’t beat yourself up or give up if you have a drink or two. Hop right back on the wagon the next morning.

This year, Lent begins on February 10th and ends on March 24th. Let us know how your own experiment turns out in the comments below!

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April Kuhlman

April Kuhlman

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