Role of Nutrition in Alcohol Recovery
Alcoholism is regarded as a disease. In the medical field it is known as Alcohol Use Disorder. When people don't limit their consumption and frequency of alcohol consumption, it can become a serious addiction. Alcohol problems can be progressive and as people continue to drink over the course of their lives their alcohol issues get worse. Alcohol addiction is not just a cognitive or moral issue. There is something that happens in people's brains that compels them to want and need to continue drinking in spite of all the negative evidence.
Nutrition plays an important role in recovering from the damage caused by over consumption of alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol are different for everyone. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to more than a few weeks or months. Although eating healthy may be the last thing you will want to think of when going through an alcohol detox, it is an essential part of the process. As symptoms improve, it is important to ensure you continue to eat a balanced diet that will help replenish alcohol-related vitamin deficiencies and support your health and strength.
Effects of Alcoholism on Depletion of Vital Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamin A deficiency is common in alcoholics. It can cause low immunity, impaired vision, impaired liver function and reduced fertility.
Long term chronic alcoholics are often deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is responsible for protein synthesis, bone density, blood sugar and blood pressure regulation. Magnesium deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, heart disease and gastrointestinal problems.
B Vitamins and Folate deficiencies are common in alcoholics. It can cause anxiety, depression and chronic stress.
Vitamin C excretion in alcoholics was significantly increased compared to that of nonalcoholics. Deficiency of this vitamin can lead to slow-healing wounds or cuts, discoloration or decay of the teeth, low immunity and fatigue.
Alcohol is a diuretic that increases the output of urine. It can cause the loss of water-soluble minerals such as calcium, zinc, magnesium and potassium. Zinc status appears to be particularly affected by alcohol. Zinc deficiency interferes with the ability to taste and smell, further limiting dietary intake.
Zinc deficiency also has been linked to depression, irritability, confusion, and apathy, which are often challenges for people with discoloration alcohol addiction.
Some Important Nutrition Guidelines for Alcohol Recovery:
1. Keep yourself hydrated
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include dehydration, nausea and diarrhoea. It is important to keep yourself well hydrated throughout the day as these symptoms can worsen if you are not getting enough water. Water flushes toxins from your system and keeps your body working properly.
2. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are rich in fibre and many important vitamins. Fruit can also be a substitute for people who crave sugary foods when trying to quit drinking. Vitamin B is usually low in people who drink heavily. Foods high in vitamin B include leafy greens, beans, lentils, whole grains, salmon, poultry and dairy.
3. Have a protein-rich diet
Proteins are an essential macronutrient for any recovery process. Lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, peas, eggs, nuts and seeds are rich in proteins as well as B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc and magnesium. All of these are common alcohol-related deficiencies.
4. Include whole grains in diet
Carbohydrates are vital for recovery, as they provide fibre and energy, which is essential in the recovery process. Whole, unprocessed grains like amaranth, millets, oatmeal, quinoa, etc. contain more fibre as well as B vitamins as compared to refined grains like white bread.
5. Include Omega-3 fats
Healthy fats reduce inflammation, stabilise mood and improve brain function. Salmon, walnuts, chia and flaxseed are rich in omega-3s which are healthy fats.
6. Drink soups and vegetable juices
Withdrawal symptoms like nausea or vomiting can make it difficult to eat and keep down proper meals. Clear liquids like vegetable soups/juices do not put as much of a strain on the stomach and intestines as regular food. It also helps hydrate the body while the body adjusts to being alcohol-free.
7. Avoid foods containing refined sugars and white flours
It is common for individuals who once struggled with alcohol to turn to food during recovery, especially sugary foods. Sugar affects the brain’s neural pathways, and weight gain affects the individual’s self-esteem and both thereby pose a risk to alcohol relapse.
In cases where withdrawal symptoms are overly uncomfortable or potentially dangerous, medical detoxification may be necessary. Attempting to go through withdrawal without medical supervision results in a long list of unpleasant symptoms. Some of these symptoms can have dire consequences on the nutritional balance. For sustainable recovery, it is beneficial to seek nutrition guidance and support from a qualified registered dietitian. They can provide an appropriate personalised meal plan catering to the individual's needs and symptoms.
About the Author: Preetha Sanjeev has teaching experience of over 15 years and has completed her Kindergarten & Montessori Teachers Training. She also holds the Cambridge International Diploma for Teachers and Trainers. Preetha has a passion for fitness and nutrition and holds multiple certifications in both. She is a qualified pre & postnatal yoga instructor, with advanced certification as a yoga instructor for children. Her understanding of the subject matter and easy writing skills make her an invaluable part of the Juvenate Team. For more information about us, please visit us at www.juvenatewellbeing.org.