Nutrition recommendations for those who consume alcohol in moderation or in excess, now or in the past
The process of metabolizing alcohol requires nutrients. As the liver decreases its supply of these nutrients, the blood stream is called upon to replenish the supply. As a result, body cells are deprived of critical nutrients and normal body functions suffer.Many people would like to stop drinking alcohol altogether. Yet, many people experience one or more of the following symptoms after discontinuing alcohol use:
- anxiety, insomnia, tremors, shakiness, dizziness, depression
- impaired cognitive thinking, poor memory
Many of the symptoms are caused by nutrient deficiencies. The B-complex vitamins are especially vulnerable and destroyed by alcohol. These vitamins are essential to mental and emotional well being.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin)- deficiencies trigger depression and irritability and can cause neurological and cardiac disorders among alcoholics.
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)- In 1982 an article published in the British Journal of Psychiatry reported that every one of 172 successive patients admitted to a British psychiatric hospital for treatment for depression was deficient in B2.
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)- depletion causes anxiety, depression, apprehension and fatigue.
- Pantothenic acid- symptoms of deficiency are fatigue, chronic stress and depression.
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)- deficiencies can disrupt the formation of neurotransmitters.
- Vitamin B12– deficiency will cause depression.
- Folic Acid- deficiency is a common cause of depression.
Deficiencies of other nutrients can also contribute to the negative feelings that frequently lead susceptible individuals toward another alcoholic beverage.
- Vitamin C- continuing deficiency causes chronic depression and fatigue.
- Magnesium- symptoms of deficiency include confusion, apathy, loss of appetite, weakness and insomnia.
- Calcium- depletion effects the central nervous system.
- Zinc- inadequacies result in apathy, lack of appetite and lethargy
- Iron- depression is often a symptom of chronic iron deficiency
- Manganese- this metal is needed for proper use of the B-Complex vitamins and Vitamin C
- Potassium- depletion is frequently associated with depression, tearfulness, weakness and fatigue.
- Chromium- enhances glucose uptake into cells. A deficiency can cause hypoglycemia.
- Omega 3 EFA- in adults, skin disorders and anemia develop as a consequence of EFA deficiency.
To minimize these symptoms and to replenish depleted nutrient stores follow the food guide pyramid recommendations, eat a wide variety of nutrient dense foods and avoid foods containing refined sugars and white flours (i.e.-candy bars, cookies, cakes, ice cream). Try to eat at least three meals per day, even if your appetite is poor. Good food choices are fruits and vegetables, nuts and salads, fish, legumes, eggs and chicken.Make sure to include 250mg Vitamin C, 150mg magnesium, 1500mg calcium and 500 mg niacin from dietary sources each day. A good multivitamin/mineral supplement (like Centrum) is also recommended. Omega 3 fatty acids can help with symptom minimization. Try including 3-4 ounces of fish 2-4 times per week or adding flaxseed to your foods. These are both excellent sources of omega 3 fatty acids. There is a breakfast cereal called Uncle Sam’s that is high in flaxseed. Among the fish with the highest omega 3 fatty acid content are Atlantic and Pacific herring, sardines, Atlantic halibut and salmon, lake trout, coho, pink and king salmon, bluefish, albacore tuna and Atlantic mackerel.Avoid all foods and beverages that contain caffeine. Avoid all sources of nicotine. Nutrition plays an important role in both emotional and physical health. Alcohol consumption heightens this need even further. With a balanced dietary intake that is modeled after the food guide pyramid, negligent in simple carbohydrates, void of caffeine or alcohol, a healthy body and mind is attainable. Add a balanced multivitamin/mineral supplement daily and an aerobic exercise program and good health with the positive energy and feelings associated can be yours! If you need individual help creating this plan, please call Grayson Nutrition Services 303-442-1452. Registered Dietitians are on staff to help you achieve your health goals.