Alcohol can have serious effects on the body. Not only can it impact health directly, but it can also disrupt the balance of other key aspects of health, like sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Drinking alcohol can change the effectiveness of the digestive system, affecting how it absorbs different nutrients and leading to poor nutritional status.
The effects of alcohol on nutrition have been well documented. Heavy drinking or alcohol addiction can impact the levels of key vitamins and nutrients in the body. These deficiencies can make it hard for the body to function normally.
While the liver and other bodily systems are responsible for clearing alcohol from the system, proper nutrition can support this process. Avoiding and including certain foods may improve physical symptoms that are a result of detoxing from alcohol.
The Role of Nutrition During Detox
Malnutrition is common in people receiving treatment for alcohol addiction. Poor nutrition can make it harder for the body to function normally, thus making the process and symptoms of alcohol detox worse. Since detoxing from alcohol affects many parts of the body, many individuals and treatment facilities opt for a holistic approach to detox that includes considering nutrition and hydration.
It’s important to consider nutrition and other factors like electrolyte balance when detoxing from alcohol because both of these factors are often disrupted by alcohol use. Ensuring proper nutrition, hydration, electrolyte balance, and vitamin or mineral supplementation can help support the body as it eliminates alcohol from your system. Having poor nutrition can also make the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal seem worse, so eating well can support a safe and comfortable detox experience.
Alcoholic malnutrition is common, and many people who use alcohol have various vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Deficiencies in nutrients like Vitamin B, Vitamin C or magnesium can impact the body’s energy production and immune system. Addressing nutritional deficiencies in alcoholics can help restore balance and function is systems affected by alcohol use.
Foods to Eat While Detoxing From Alcohol
There is a range of foods to eat while detoxing from alcohol that can help reduce withdrawal symptoms and keep energy and hydration at a safe level. Importantly, the best foods for alcohol detox can depend on the severity of withdrawal symptoms. For those with severe symptoms, it’s important to focus on hydration, electrolyte balance and foods that are easy to digest. For people with more mild symptoms, a well-balanced, whole-food diet can support the alcohol detox process.
While there is no single alcohol recovery diet that suits all, discussing nutrition with your doctor can be an important part of your recovery process.
- Start With Fluids
Electrolyte deficiency in alcoholics is common and is usually a result of alcohol-related dehydration. Electrolytes are minerals, like salt, that are used by the body to clear waste and maintain proper hydration levels. Including fluids, particularly those with electrolytes like a sports drink or coconut water can help support the body’s natural detox system.
- Supplement With Vitamins and Minerals
Alcohol use can deplete vitamins and minerals in two ways. Usually, people who are drinking heavily may be eating fewer vitamin-rich foods. In addition, alcohol use can make it hard for the body to absorb these nutrients. Alcohol use is linked with deficiencies in B vitamins, including thiamine, which can help with energy production. Supplementing a diet with a multivitamin can improve energy levels and nutritional status to support recovery.
- Load Up On Fresh Produce
For those with mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms, eating lots of fruits and vegetables are best to support detox. Fresh produce often contains plenty of antioxidants, which can help reduce the effects of inflammation caused by alcohol. This can also help address vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Fruits and vegetables can be included in salads, eaten fresh or added to a superfood smoothie.
- Include Complex Carbs
Complex carbohydrates take longer to break down in the body and can provide longer-lasting energy. Carbohydrates are important for brain function and can also help regulate blood sugar, which can both be impacted by alcohol use. Including complex carbs like wholegrain bread or brown rice can support alcohol recovery.
- Lean Protein for Cellular Repair
Eating protein can support the repair of tissues that may have been damaged by alcohol use. Protein sources like eggs, fish or lean meats can support the body’s natural repair and recovery process.
- Healthy Fats for Nutrient Absorption
Some nutrients rely on fats to be absorbed by the body. Eating healthy fats like avocado, olive oil or nuts can help the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins and improve vitamin levels to support recovery.
Foods to Limit During Detox
Certain foods can impact the body’s overall health and are not ideal during recovery. These foods may make it harder for the body to recover or may exacerbate certain alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Sugar cravings are common when quitting alcohol, as the body begins to crave quick energy. While breaking a sugar addiction is difficult, eating sugar can cause quick changes in blood sugar and energy levels that can make alcohol withdrawal more uncomfortable.
Drinking caffeine is common and well-tolerated in some people. However, caffeine can cause insomnia or feelings of anxiety, particularly when stopping alcohol use. Too much caffeine can heighten feelings of anxiety or restlessness that are common during withdrawal. Avoiding caffeine can help minimize some detox symptoms.
Fat and alcohol are processed by the liver, and many high-fat processed foods are harder for the liver to process. The liver is working hard during alcohol detox, and eating processed foods can add extra work. Avoiding heavily processed food can support the alcohol detox process, and can make more space for fresh foods that address any nutritional deficiencies.
When It’s Time For Professional Help
Eating a balanced diet is important for everyone, but is particularly relevant as the body works hard to repair and recover during the detox process. However, nutrition alone cannot ensure a safe or comfortable detox process. For those with heavy alcohol use or addiction, professional help is the safest and most comfortable way to complete the alcohol detox process.
There are many treatment options for alcohol addiction. Alcohol detox centers can provide around-the-clock medical supervision to ensure that alcohol detox is safe and comfortable. Many alcohol rehab programs in Florida include medical detox, followed by a more structured inpatient or outpatient treatment program. Many programs offer holistic services, including nutrition advice or counseling.
If you or someone you care about is living with alcohol addiction, The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist can help. Contact us today to discuss treatment options with a representative.
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Achur, Rajeshwara; et al. “Circulating cytokines as biomarkers of alcohol abuse and alcoholism.” Journal of neuroimmune pharmacology, 2010. Accessed September 11, 2019.
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Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.