Nutritional requirements can vary significantly from one person to the next. This is increasingly important to realize when dealing with populations of individuals who are metabolically compromised, as in those that are chronically addicted to alcohol, controlled substances, and even over the counter medications. While occasional use of any of the above is commonplace, it is the chronic use, misuse, and abuse of these substances that promotes significant health challenges that, if not addressed, can lead to serious health consequences and even death. Of all the addictive substances, alcohol has been the most widely studied when it comes to the nutritional consequences of abuse.
One thing is for certain, alcoholism is the cause of multiple nutrient deficiencies, including many that can have dire consequences. The bottom line is that when folks are drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol on a daily, near daily, or binge basis, their ability to take in (eat) and assimilate (absorb) vital nutrients is severely compromised. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which is one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), published an excellent overview of research into the long-term effects of alcoholism on nutrition.
While recovery and abstinence are the ultimate goals for an alcohol abuser, the reality is that these deficiencies need to be addressed at any stage of addiction as a brain and body depleted of vital nutrients will be very unlikely to kick the habit!
Nutritional Deficiencies Caused by Alcohol Abuse
What follows is a list of nutrients typically impacted by moderate to excessive use of alcohol:
Blood sugar – Your brain cannot function without fuel, and glucose is its main source. Malnourishment associated with alcoholism robs your body and brain of glucose and forces it to run on less efficient sources, causing significant damage to cells in your body.
Protein – More specifically, amino acids are the building blocks of life and the basis for chemical communication in the brain. Inadequate intake and poor breakdown of protein in alcoholics can lead to tissue damage in all systems and mental health disorders.
Fats – An important part of your brain’s physical makeup, fat malabsorption is a hallmark of alcohol abuse. If you can’t absorb and utilize the fats you eat, the brain will begin to atrophy (shrink), possibly leading to dementia.
Vitamins – B vitamins (particularly folate, B6 and B12) are classically deficient in alcoholics. Decreases in these vital nutrients impairs removal of the damaging compound homocysteine from the body by the process of methylation. Other deficiencies include vitamins A, C, D and E; which are rich antioxidants and promoters of cellular healing.
Minerals – Essential for nerve conduction and virtually any cellular process in the body, minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and potassium are deficient in nearly all who drink excessively.
Nutritional Therapy for Recovering Alcoholics
While many looking to recover function due to multiple nutrient deficiencies would benefit from some form of nutritional supplementation, this is in no way an acceptable alternative to reduction in usage of or abstinence from alcohol. Until the problem behavior is eliminated, malnutrition and damage to vital organs will continue to occur, rendering cells and organ systems irreparable and eventually non-functional! Medical foods, fatty acids, and micronutrients such as the specific vitamins and mineral discussed would be indicated in the majority of cases, although evaluation by a qualified specialist (such as a physician who practices metabolic and nutritional therapy) is recommended as the variability in needs in is exceptionally high in the alcoholic population.
About the Author:
Dr. Michael Trayford is a board certified Chiropractic Neurologist and founder of APEX Brain Centers. APEX Brain Centers use cutting edge techniques and technology to optimize brain function. Their program is safe, effective, research-backed and offers hope to people who are having neurological issues. Dr. Michael Trayford and his team offer help for people suffering from concussions, memory loss, Alzheimers and ADD Brain Training at APEX Brain Centers. Learn more about Brain Training at the APEX Brain Centers website