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When you quit drinking, how long to look better in the face?
February 6, 2006 7:09 PM   Subscribe

When a heavy drinker decides to quit, how long does it take for your body/face to permanently show the benefits of not over indulging and keeping a healthy diet ? What I noticed is that when I go a week or 2 with no alcohol, my face looks puffy and drawn out. Just old. After I drink again, a normal healthy look returns to my face the next day.

I know this must have much to do with the body ridding itself of toxins.

For most of my adult life I have been a consistent drinker. Approx 18-20 beers a week, sometimes more.


I usually drank to the point when I could definitely feel the effects. I'm 39 and I have decided that it wastes too much time and has obvious health problems. I'm just bored sick of drinking. I recently went to great measures to improve my diet and started going to the gym.

I have cut down on my alcohol intake a great deal in the last few months, but still do the 6-8 beer binge at usually once a week.

What I noticed is that when I go a week or 2 with no alcohol, my face starts to look puffy and drawn out. Just old. After I drink again, my normal healthy look returns to my face. I deduced that it must be my body attempting to rid itself of toxins during my dry periods, but why would putting more alcohol/toxins in my body return to me a healthy looking appearance (face)?

Question is, When a heavy drinker decides to quit, how long does it take for your body/face to permanently show the benefits of not over indulging and keeping a healthy diet?
posted by SwingingJohnson1968 to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
* I want to add..... the healthy look in the face come back the next day after drinking and the puffiness does not start to show until after a about week of not drinking.
posted by SwingingJohnson1968 at 7:17 PM on February 6, 2006


Two thoughts.

Either It's psychological.
or
It's physiological. Alcohol is a diuretic and makes your kidneys pump out more water. Over time, your body aclimates to this. When you quit, your kidneys are no longer stimulated by the alcohol and you end up retaining more water, which makes you look puffy. Taking another drink makes you piss it out again. I have no idea how long it would take for your body to reach a proper equilibrium again given that its taken years to get into the current state.
posted by Good Brain at 7:23 PM on February 6, 2006


Great info about the kidneys Good Brain. Thanks! That explains alot. Now I hope someone who has been thru this can answer me how long it takes the bod to re-adjust to the benifits of normal diet minus booze.

I assume just going thru it the hard way is better than taking a medicinal diuretics to ease the symptoms of puffiness. How long will this last is my main question now.
posted by SwingingJohnson1968 at 7:39 PM on February 6, 2006


IANAD either, but I've helped a couple of full blown alcoholics enough to have learned a few things.

Besides the kidney function issues raised by Good Brain, which are true, habitual alcohol use over long periods also affects the liver greatly. The levels of alcohol you say you've consumed over the length of time you say you've been doing it have probably caused your liver function to drop significantly. At the same time, people consuming large amounts of alcohol tend to eat less, and the call upon the liver for normal digestive functions is less. So, you've cut out the booze, and are trying to eat right, but it may take weeks, or even months, for your liver to get with the new program. Although the human liver is amazingly resilient, an alcoholic's liver function can be so bad, without them realizing it, that they often feel pretty bad for 10-12 weeks after quitting, before noticing consistent improvement. This is assuming related problems like anemia, cirrhosis, jaundice, and diabetes aren't further complicating the problem.

It's not helping that you are still bingeing, but it's good you are being honest with yourself about that. bingeing causes your liver to go "off the wagon" for days after the binge, and if your liver function is poor, continuing to do this is also delaying any regeneration your liver is capable of making. You are also somewhat more susceptible to infection in the first weeks of drying out, and many alcoholics notice dental problems in that time, which may have persisted for some time before, but they ignored those problems while drinking.

Cut out the booze. Go to AA. See a doctor for liver function tests and an overall evaluation, if you feel particularly bad, or if you see any signs of jaundice. See a dentist, if you haven't been in a while. Eat well, and regularly. Take a multi-vitamin daily.

The puffiness will go away, as your kidneys and liver recover.
posted by paulsc at 8:05 PM on February 6, 2006


Sorry I can't give timelines, but I thought this might help. If it is the diuretic effect causing this problem both cranberry and blackcurrent juice are good natural diuretics. I have to be careful to drink extra water when on a Ribena kick or I get very dry. They are also high in antioxidants, which will help your body detox, so might make a good replacement for the alcohol. Make sure you stay hydrated though, drinking extra water never hurts.
posted by shelleycat at 8:17 PM on February 6, 2006


I can't answer your question, but I highly recommend taking milk thistle while detoxing your liver. As paulsc notes, the liver can't be functioning at its utmost capacity and if you are jump-starting it with a regular dosage of this amazing herb, it can only shorten the puffiness-time. But if nothing else, certainly do the multi-vitamin. And I second the Cranberry Juice (not the stuff cut with apple juice but real 100% Cranberry
posted by iurodivii at 8:27 PM on February 6, 2006


paulsc, iurodivii, shelleycat and Good Brain, thank you all for these excellent answers.

Cranberry juice and milk-thistle are now on my grocery list.

I don't want to give the impression that I'm a raging alcoholic with the shakes. I have just been very confused as to why I look tired and worn out when I don't drink after a few days. Good answers here!
posted by SwingingJohnson1968 at 8:45 PM on February 6, 2006


IAD, and the explanations sound about right. Caffeine is another diuretic.

I'm glad you've made the decision to cut back or even quit your drinking. This is great news! I hope you are able to quit entirely.

I'd like to echo what paulsc said about going to see a physician. If he's nice, he'll slap your back and say GREAT JOB! right before the part where he'll need to draw some blood. I don't know how long it's been since you've had tests done, but some appropriate labs to order would a liver function test panel to see how it's workin, a complete blood count to see your blood levels and check for anemia. Might even get some vitamin tests, too.

Hopefully you'll meet a doc who's supportive. If he's not, break his thumbs and tell him to talk to me, and i'll break his thumbs. You're doin well, and I'm so glad you've decided to quit. The recovery may not be easy, but you can get help from a lot of places. Feel free to email me through my profile if you ever just want to chat.

Finally, about milk thistle: there's a Cochrane Meta-analysis on milk thistle that says: "No evidence supporting or refuting milk thistle for alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C virus liver diseases." This is not to say that it's bunk, but we just don't know. That's the problem with most alternative medicines; poor-quality studies. Maybe talk to your physician about it when you go to see him.

Congrats again, bro.
posted by herrdoktor at 8:51 PM on February 6, 2006


Try asking your doctor if he prescribe you a diuretic. At low doses, they might help keep you less puffy until you can continue to stay off the booze. Exercise is great.

Good move on quitting you are saving years (and gaining quality years at that) by it.
posted by narebuc at 8:53 PM on February 6, 2006


18-20 drinks a week is 2-3 drinks a day, which, I thought, was reasonably healthy for an adult male. True, it's better to be at 1-2 drinks a day (7-14 drinks/week), but, I always tell my doctors that I drink 2-3 beers a day and none of my doctors have ever even batted an eye at that.

I guess if you're having 6 drinks a day, 3 times a week, it's a different story.

Sorry for the threadjack, but I'm just not sure that I think 2-3 drinks a day counts as profoundly unhealthy.
posted by u2604ab at 8:54 PM on February 6, 2006


herrdoktor , Thanks for that supportive message. I did in fact see a doctor last summer to run all the tests. It was a wild party summer and my girlfriend insisted I go see her doctor when she got worried about my Motley Crue lifestyle (been in the music biz for many years).

His diagnosis was my liver was swollen but all other blood tests came back normal. That's when I 1st made the decision to cut down. That and being sick and tired of hangovers and nearing 40 yrs old.

The 1st time I went 3 weeks dry (2 months ago) I did develop a dental abcess that will need root canal...just like paulsc said about possible dental problems in the beginning of alcohol detox.

Been doing the multi-vitamins for 2 weeks now. It just blows my mind that quitting booze and eating right could have so many powerfull physical side effects. I feel like the cliche' drunk who spits out the water and screams, "OMG! WTF IS THIS?!!!"

Danke & Chuce!
posted by SwingingJohnson1968 at 9:10 PM on February 6, 2006


u2604ab: 18-20 drinks a week is 2-3 drinks a day, which, I thought, was reasonably healthy for an adult male. True, it's better to be at 1-2 drinks a day (7-14 drinks/week),

In no way did I divide my weekly 20 + beers into 7 days. That was a figure that I came up with to try and put an average on my hdrinking habits since 18 yrs old.

The more I read these answers and think about my drinking history, 25 a week in more like it. A more accurate and honest record would be to get blasted about 3 1/2 days a week.
posted by SwingingJohnson1968 at 9:17 PM on February 6, 2006


This thread is so full of speculation and witchcraft that it's awesome. I have my own guess that has nothing to do with reality but would sound good in a mimeographed pamphelet for snake oil:

Many beers tend to be made with iron-rich water, and the iron molecules collected in your face and pulling towards magnetic north. The result is that your face is a few degrees off and you look old. If you eat raw sulfur, it will combine with the iron to make iron sulfide, which is not magnetic and your face will go back to normal.

(administrator, before you delete this comment, could you please reflect on the fact that this whole thread is a STEAMING pile of dung, authored by people who collectively don't have the medical knowledge of the guy in the PSA who tells you not to touch live electrical wires?)
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:31 PM on February 6, 2006



Mayor Curley:Many beers tend to be made with iron-rich water, and the iron molecules collected in your face and pulling towards magnetic north.

So you mean, I could move to the North Pole and continue to drink like a fish and I'll look healthy and fit. That sounds excellent, except the beer will freeze. Thanks anyway.
posted by SwingingJohnson1968 at 9:38 PM on February 6, 2006


Curley: I don't think it's all speculation. I _am_ a physician. I know alcohol to be a diuretic, and I have a history of a fellow who claims the edema comes on when he stops drinking and goes away when he starts.. I currently know an alcoholic who has hepatitis C, a normal echocardiogram as a result of previous, unrelated hospitalization, who will not quit because he a) gets "puffy," and b) doesn't want to take any more medications.

What are you thinking?
posted by herrdoktor at 9:46 PM on February 6, 2006


And I mean the "what are you thinking" as in "what should _I_ be thinking?"
posted by herrdoktor at 9:50 PM on February 6, 2006


So you mean, I could move to the North Pole and continue to drink like a fish and I'll look healthy and fit. That sounds excellent, except the beer will freeze.

That's why god invented Vodka. Just don't draw any pictures of god when you go off on your north-pole fuelled bender.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:21 PM on February 6, 2006


Whereas I'm not a doctor, but am doing a PhD investigating the biochemical action of active fruit compounds (ie chemicals from fruit). I'm just starting, so am currently being bombarded with info and am not yet an expert (yet, working on it), but am confident in my understanding that cranberry and black current juice *does* contain both diuretic and antioxidant copounds (it's the antioxidant/anti-inflammatory stuffs I'm interested in). Given some time with the endnote libraries at work tomorrow I can produce references to back this up.

Increased consumption of these juices in place of alcohol isn't going to hurt and may even give health improvements (for pretty much anyone), assuming it's done in moderation and includes other fluids to remain hydrated. I didn't say it would solve the problem (or even agreed that this is the problem, I don't know that part), just that it might be a good replacement.

Maybe I should have been more clear in my comment in that it was based on science rather than just something I heard somewhere. No speculation at all, and certainly no witchcraft.
posted by shelleycat at 11:29 PM on February 6, 2006


Have you tried increasing the amount of water you drink? Alcohol is a diuretic, but not so much that you end up with a net loss. Even by a conservative estimate, 3 or so beers a night probably adds up to a glass or two of water. Other than that, just keep doing what you're doing. Exercise, eat right and avoid like the plague anyone or anything that claims they can "rid your body of toxins." It's bullshit, whether or not they know it.
posted by electroboy at 10:17 AM on February 7, 2006


Alcohol causes your face to flush - it gets red, especially the nose. More so if you have rosacea, and/or are from certain ethnic groups. You may be accustomed to an unnaturally red glow. I'd check with a doctor before using milk thistle. I'm not a doctor, but I do have drinking experience.
posted by theora55 at 10:34 AM on February 7, 2006


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