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The Alcohol Recovery Diet: Foods, Fluids, and Vitamins for Healing After Alcohol Abuse

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Medically Reviewed by Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP

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Updated 07/16/2020

Recovery from alcohol withdrawal is possible with the right foods, fluids, and vitamins. Learn some dietary strategies to quicken your recovery.

Alcohol causes harmful effects to the body in two ways: it leads to direct harm and it makes people treat themselves differently by eating unhealthy food and having a poor diet. One of the ways a person can reduce the harm to their body when they drink alcohol is to plan an alcohol recovery diet.

Recovering from heavy drinking or an alcohol binge can be challenging. People will likely not feel like eating, or if they do, they will eat unhealthy foods that do not help their recovery. Finding the right diet is important for making a full recovery from the damage alcohol causes to the body.

To understand who can benefit from the right diet, one must understand what the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are. If you know someone that drinks heavily and they suddenly stop, look for some of these symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Hallucinations
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Sweating
  • Tremor
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Vomiting

Symptoms may persist for days or weeks after the last drink of alcohol, making it harder for someone to eat a proper meal. For example, someone with persistent nausea and vomiting will find it challenging to stay hydrated and keep any food down.

A severe form of alcohol withdrawal, called Delirium Tremens (DTs) can occur when someone drinks a lot of alcohol over a long period. Delirium Tremens can be life-threatening and symptoms include:

  • Disorientation
  • Fast breathing
  • Hallucinations that do not go away
  • High blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Severe agitation
  • Tremor
  • Rapid heart rate

If you suspect someone you know is experiencing DTs, call their doctor or 911. DTs is a life-threatening medical emergency. People with symptoms of DTs may be too confused to recognize the seriousness of their condition.

Alcohol vitamin deficiency is difficult to spot, and by the time symptoms start, it is too late to treat. Therefore, a healthy diet is critical.

Foods For Alcohol Recovery

To help recover from the damage caused by alcohol, a person should eat whole foods that are high in B vitamins. Alcohol mostly causes a deficiency in this group of vitamins and does so for a few reasons.

People who drink a lot of alcohol tend to have a poor diet, but in addition, there are mechanisms in the body affected by alcohol. Alcohol interferes with cells of the small intestine and makes it more difficult for the body to absorb nutrients, even when eating a healthy diet. For this reason, abstinence from alcohol is an important first step to begin recovery.

Foods that are high in B vitamins include:

  • Beef
  • Broccoli
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Fruit
  • Milk
  • Tomatoes
  • Whole grains

To get the most out of this diet, a person should try to obtain their vitamins from a wide array of foods and not just a few.

Some other general tips for someone recovering from an alcohol binge include:

  • Choose foods high in fiber, complex carbohydrates, and protein
  • Consider using multivitamin supplements
  • Create regular mealtimes
  • Eat healthy foods that are low in fat

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Fluids for Alcohol Recovery

Do not drink fluids with alcohol in them, even to help mitigate the symptoms of withdrawal. No mimosas, light beers or any other drinks to “help get the day started.” Drinking more alcohol will only prolong withdrawal symptoms and worsen damage to the body.

Otherwise, any fluids are fine as long as they do not contain sugar.

Examples of healthy drinks at this time include:

  • Electrolyte-filled sports drinks
  • Natural fruit juice
  • Vegetable juice like V8
  • Water

Vitamins For Alcohol Recovery

People who misuse alcohol tend to be deficient in B vitamins, mainly B1, B6, and folic acid. Consuming B vitamin complex is a good idea during the recovery period, but any multivitamin is fine.

If you have to narrow it down to the most important vitamin for alcohol recovery, take vitamin B1, or thiamin. People who regularly drink alcohol tend to be low in thiamine, which is critical to metabolism in brain cells. Thiamin creates sugar and fuel for these cells. Without thiamin, people can experience a form of permanent brain damage called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.

If you or a loved one struggle with alcohol use, contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health to speak with a representative about how professional addiction treatment can help. You deserve a healthier future, call today.

View Sources

Myrick, Hugh; et al. “Gabapentin Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal.” American Journal of Psychiatry, 1998. Accessed Sept 12, 2019.

MedlinePlus. “Substance Use Recovery and Diet: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” 2017. Accessed September 12, 2019.

NHS Choices. “B Vitamins and Folic Acid”.  Accessed September 12, 2019.