With so many conflicting messages about alcohol, it can be difficult to know how to cut back. The truth is that drinking too much can be unhealthy. For those trying to cut back on drinking, monitoring the type and amount of alcohol consumed is key.

Alcohol is one of the most popular psychoactive substances in the world and its use has both short-term and long-term effects. Ethanol, the active ingredient in alcoholic drinks, is generally referred to as “alcohol” and can have powerful effects on your mental state. Moderate amounts are said to have health benefits in some cases, such as reducing cardiovascular disease and stroke risk. If regular drinking is causing symptoms such as fatigue, feeling sick in the morning or a lack of concentration, cutting back on alcohol - or completely avoiding it - may make all the difference.

Liver

The liver is a tremendously remarkable organ that has hundreds of essential functions, one of the most important being the neutralization of toxic substances. Excessive alcohol consumption can damage the liver. One common result of too much alcohol consumption is fatty liver, which is characterized by fat inside liver cells that can develop in those who drink more than half an ounce (15ml) of alcohol per day.

Over time, drinking less alcohol will help protect your precious and irreplaceable liver from further damage.

Brain

Drinking too much alcohol can have serious consequences for your brain. It slows down communication between brain cells, which can cause symptoms like feeling drunk and may even lead to memory loss during a heavy drinking episode. These effects are generally temporary, but long-term chronic alcohol abuse can cause permanent damage to the brain’s function.

Experts recommend that everyone cut back on consuming alcohol or drink less frequently.

Mental health

Alcohol abuse and depression often coincide, creating a dangerous cycle where increased alcohol intake leads to depression and further drinking. Research suggests that cutting back on alcohol is an important step toward improving mental health. Cutting back or completely eliminating drinking can reduce depression as well as associated risks from heavy drinking, such as chronic stress, increased risk of medical illness, and whole-body inflammation.

Many people find it helpful to cut back on their drinking habits gradually. Create goals for yourself to cut down on drinking over time. You can also take other steps to reduce the effects of depression, such as talking to supportive friends, prioritizing healthy activities like sleep and exercise, and exploring mindfulness practices like yoga or meditation. Taking a holistic approach can help you cut back on your alcohol use while improving your overall mental health.

Weight

Obesity is a serious health concern. Alcohol is the second most calorie-rich nutrient after fat — packing about seven calories per gram. Beer has a similar number of calories to sugary soft drinks, ounce for ounce, whereas red wine has twice as many.

It seems that drinking habits and preferences may play a role in obesity. For example, moderate drinking is linked to slower weight gain, whereas heavy drinking is linked to increased weight gain.

Heart

A growing body of research suggests drinking alcohol in moderation may have beneficial effects on heart health. Excessive consumption of alcohol can have a harmful effect on the cardiovascular system and increase your risk for heart disease. Research shows that light to moderate consumption of alcohol is linked to a lower risk for heart disease, whereas heavy drinking has been shown to increase it.

If you wish to cut back on your alcohol consumption and reduce your risk of developing heart disease, it’s important to understand how much is too much. The recommended guideline is no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women on alternating days. Cut back on drinking by having drink-free days throughout the week or alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic beverages like lime soda or sparkling water with crushed mint leaves.

It’s essential to not replace mealtime with an alcoholic beverage and practice mindful drinking by taking a minute during each serving of an alcoholic beverage. Moderate consumption of alcohol may help cut back the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Affecting eight percent of the world’s population, type 2 diabetes is caused by a reduced absorption of glucose into cells, where it triggers the release of insulin into the body.

Studies have shown that drinking alcohol in moderation can actually reduce insulin resistance and cut back on rising blood sugar and fasting blood glucose levels. It is recommended those with type 2 diabetes looking to cut back on their drinking should do so slowly and with professional advice, as drinking too much or too quickly can have serious repercussions for them.

There is no denying that the effects of alcohol depend entirely on individual body chemistry and drinking habits. Moderate indulgence of beer, wine, or spirits can be beneficial in some cases, with moderate drinking linked to lowered risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. That being said, cut back on drinking if you are approaching the recommended daily limit — too much of anything is not good for you. For those who find they cannot cut back on their alcohol consumption successfully without professional help, it's important to seek out treatment immediately to prevent any negative health effects from worsening. Remember that even just drinking less alcohol can make a huge difference in your overall well-being.

It's true that moderate drinking can bring some potential health benefits but it is important to cut back on your alcohol intake if you're approaching the recommended daily limits. While the effects of alcohol depend on an individual's body chemistry and drinking habits, taking things down a level when it comes to your beer, wine or spirits consumption can have a huge impact on overall well-being. If you are struggling to cut back, Reframe can provide helpful resources for learning new ways to drink less and achieve better health and happiness.