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Participating in Dry January could improve your health all year

In multiple studies, researchers found giving up alcohol, even for just a month, can help you lose weight, lower blood pressure and get a better night's sleep.

NORFOLK, Va. — The champagne bottles are empty post-New Year’s Eve celebrations, and for some, that will be the last time they drink until February 1.

That’s because thousands are once again participating in Dry January.

By putting down the bottle, even just for a month, you could be improving your health for the rest of the year.

Chris Simmonds owns Ceremony in Hampton Roads. The dry bottle shop specializes in non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits.

He said he wants to meet people where they are.

"We wanted to create a way that enabled people to live the life they want to live," he said.

Whether you’re cutting back on alcohol for dry January, or beyond, Simmonds said their drinks are for everyone -- recovering alcoholics, expecting mothers, people who are breastfeeding, people on medications, the list goes on.

He said there doesn't even have to be a prescribed reason why you want to buy a non-alcoholic drink option. It can be just to improve your overall health, which is what many are doing this month. 

The challenge to stop drinking for 31 days started back in 2013.

In 2022, 19% of adults 21 and older participated in Dry January, according to a poll by Morning Consult. The year before, only 6% participated.

This year, people are putting away their alcohol once again.

So, what’s the buzz all about?

"When the body is breaking down alcohol, it’s taking away from other functions," said Simmonds.

Experts said there’s clear evidence that taking a break from booze can help your body and your mind. 

A University of Sussex study of more than 800 British participants found that six months after the 2018 challenge, 80% said they felt more in control of their drinking. Slightly more said they thought more deeply about their relationship with alcohol, and most — 93% — felt a sense of accomplishment.

In that same study, 71% said they slept better and 67% said they had more energy. A little more than half reported losing weight and having better skin. 

Other benefits are more than just skin-deep. 

In one smaller study, researchers recruited 94 men and women who gave up alcohol for one month, comparing them with a control group of 47 others who kept drinking. The results for the "dry" group were promising — their blood pressure dropped, they lost weight, and researchers noted improved insulin sensitivity and reduced cancer-related growth factors. 

Not to mention, cutting back on trips to the liquor store can save you some money.

Simmonds wants to do his part to help year-round.

"I think as people start to find alternatives and make small changes, then they start to see how it feels."

So, you don’t have to think of Dry January as a challenge. It can be an opportunity to try something new.

While the campaign can be helpful for light or moderate drinkers, it's not for everyone.

Heavy drinkers can experience dangerous or even deadly alcohol withdrawal symptoms and may need help from a professional to safely stop drinking.

Some people who take a break from alcohol find themselves overdoing it afterward — much like what can happen after you finish a strict diet.

Reach out to your doctor or a rehab facility if you need help beating addiction.

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