Alcohol: Life gets better without it

Three weeks without a drop of alcohol. Three weeks where I felt fitter, more awake and more relaxed. What exactly happened to my body?

I get up at 5:30 and answer the questions of my energetic son before the kid heads off to school and I go to work. For three weeks this process was easier for me than ever before. Coincidentally, it was the three weeks where I wasn't drinking alcohol.

However, Helmut Karl Seitz, the director of the Centre for Alcohol Research (CAR) in Heidelberg, doesn't believe in coincidence. The professor of internal medicine and gastroenterology is sure that a lot has already happened in my body during these three weeks.

The fact that I jump out of bed before my son, who is a seriously early riser, could be due to the fact that I can sleep much better without alcohol. "Alcohol activates catecholamines, which include adrenaline. It doesn't really let you rest at night," Seitz says.

No booze, no problem

After one week sleep rhythm normalizes, explains Seitz. The expert repeatedly emphasizes that we are not talking about alcoholics, just people who drink regularly.

Health | 25.08.2018

"You're not a chronic drinker," Seitz tells me several times. The fact that the expert seems to be convinced of this makes me so happy that I leave the statement uncorrected. I wasn't so sure myself anymore.

But abstaining wasn't difficult at all. Feeling so much better definitely helped. As well as sleep, blood pressure becomes more normal too, says Seitz. Alcohol increases your blood pressure which can cause headaches and dizziness.

Those who do without alcohol can also experience better digestion. "The villi of the small intestine contain proteins that break down the food. These proteins recover relatively quickly," says Seitz. Without going into too much detail: gastrointestinal harmony makes life better. 

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A party without alcohol?

Don't forget the liver. For our detoxifying organ giving up alcohol is like a kind of holiday to a spa. Beer, wine and spirits fatten the liver. A fatty liver is not so bad at first, explains Seitz. However, it is also the first step to liver cirrhosis.

My liver has always been quiet and inconspicuous. I could not feel any changes. "If you go without alcohol, it is always good for the liver, always. No matter what stage the liver is in, whether it is only slightly oily or already has advanced cirrhosis. It will recover," emphasizes Seitz.

Not drinking is(n't) a solution 

I explain that I broke my fast after three weeks with a friend and a white wine spritzer. Surprisingly, I found the feeling of light intoxication more unpleasant than funny. And exercising the next morning at 5:30 a.m. was unthinkable.

"The metabolic processes that break down alcohol are no longer automatic for you," explains the alcohol researcher. The metabolism of a trained drinker knows what to do, but my metabolism had trouble remembering after the break.

Next time I unwind with wine, Seitz recommends a tactic I hope to make into a mantra: drink enough water! Alcohol dehydrates the body, blood circulation gets worse; headaches are guaranteed.

In addition, I should stick to the recommended amount of alcohol, of course. However, I did not know how low this actually was. For men, no more than a quarter of a liter of wine a day is recommended. Women are only allowed to drink half of that. That's not even a glass!

Is it worth drinking at all? My next break will probably be pretty soon. But for now it's the weekend. And my son is staying at his dad's.

Read more: India: Scores dead after consuming bootleg liquor

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Destiny is in your hands

Being diagnosed with cancer is a shock that hits you hard. And yet almost half of all cancer cases could be prevented. Smoking alone triggers about every fifth tumor. The toxic cigarette smoke does not only cause lung cancer but many other kinds of tumors as well. Smoking is the most frequent self-imposed cause for cancer, but not the only one.

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In second place of cancer-causing agents: obesity. Why it causes cancer? Enhanced insulin levels increase the risk of almost all sorts of cancer, especially when it comes to kidney, gall bladder, and oesophagus cancer. Overweight women produce increasing amounts of female sex hormones in their fat tissue and hence have a higher risk for uterine or breast cancer.

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Don't be a couch potato!

People who don't move enough are especially likely to get cancer. Long-term studies show that exercising prevents tumors. After all, working out lowers the insulin levels while preventing you from gaining weight. And it doesn’t have to be high-performance sport. Even just going for a walk or a bike ride makes a big difference.

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Don't eat too much red meat!

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Avoid fast food

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Cancer triggered by infection

Human papillomaviruses can cause cervical cancer. Hepatitis B and C can cause hepatocytes to degenerate. The bacterium helicobacter pylori (pictured above) settles in your stomach and can cause stomach cancer. But not all hope is lost. You can get vaccinated against many of these pathogens and antibiotics help fight helicobacter pylori.

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A true stroke of fate

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