Abstaining from drink may not be helpful

Whether you call it “Janopause” or “Drynuary” or just a month-long ‘recovery period’, the common British practice of abstaining from alcohol for the month of January as compensation for a drinking free-for-all during the holidays is likely to do more harm than good. That’s the opinion of health experts from everywhere, including the British Liver Trust.

The idea that you can give your liver a month’s rest and expect it to recover from excess and be as good as new in February is a fond hope, not a reality.  The results of many studies and much research all indicate that continual long term consumption of alcohol does serious damage to the liver which is not reversible by short ‘dry spells’.

The liver is the body’s largest organ, but it’s not indestructible.  It works as a filter to remove and destroy toxic substances (like alcohol) in the bloodstream.  It also processes fats, stores vitamins, synthesizes cholesterol and does all sorts of other jobs to keep the body functioning at its best.  When it is overloaded with toxins, the enzymes secreted to break them down can cause scarring of the liver, blocking blood vessels and leading to cirrhosis, liver failure, and death.

To add more warnings, medical experts suggest that taking a short break from alcohol – a ‘Janopause’ if you like – tends to encourage the abstainer to make up for lost time when the break time is up.  This puts even more pressure on the abused liver and is likely to accelerate the progress of damage.  There may be no blatant symptoms in early or even late stages of liver disease, so by the time you start to feel pain it may be too late for any rejuvenation to take place.

If total abstinence is not an option for you, try giving your liver a break for a few days every week of the year.  For those who feel they need to drink up in a hurry before David Cameron’s new tax on booze takes effect, you’ll still spend less on alcohol if you only drink on two or three days of the week, and your liver will last longer.