10 Best Vitamins for Alcohol Withdrawal
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Taking vitamin supplements during alcohol withdrawal can help with nutritional deficiencies that often occur during alcohol abuse.
Alcohol abuse and addiction, also called alcohol use disorder (AUD), is hard on the body. Many people who struggle with alcohol addiction may experience related health problems. Alcohol can prevent the body from absorbing or maintaining healthy levels of key vitamins and nutrients. People using alcohol may also have nutritional deficiencies. While the liver is central to detoxing from alcohol, there are also alcohol detox supplements that support optimal health during the process. Although these vitamins and minerals for detoxing from alcohol should not be viewed as a miracle cure or solution, they can help address nutritional deficiencies with alcohol abuse.
What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?
Alcohol withdrawal refers to the signs and symptoms that occur when a person who drinks heavily and regularly either decreases their alcohol intake or stops it altogether. These symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the quantity of alcohol consumed and how often the person drinks.
It is estimated that about 50% of people dependent on alcohol will experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping alcohol or reducing their intake. The probability of nutritional deficiencies is high in patients who withdraw from alcohol, so providing proper nutritional support, including vitamins and minerals, is important.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol impacts GABA, a neurotransmitter that slows nerve excitability. When a person stops drinking alcohol, an imbalance in GABA receptors can increase nerve excitability, resulting in muscle stiffness and other movement disorders.
Different degrees of withdrawal symptoms can occur with AUD. Some more common symptoms can begin within hours of reducing alcohol consumption or stopping alcohol. These symptoms can last up to several days and include:
- Alcohol cravings
- Difficulty sleeping
- Strange dreams
- Loss of appetite
- Agitation and irritability
- State of heightened alertness
More severe symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal include:
- Hallucinosis — hallucinations that occur without other impairment of consciousness
- Delirium tremens — a condition involving abrupt and serious mental and nervous system changes characterized by:
- Body tremors
- Severe confusion
- Severe and rapid mood changes
- Sleepiness and fatigue
- Sleep that lasts longer than a day
- Sensitivity to light, sound and touch
Hallucinosis and seizures may occur within one to two days of stopping or reducing alcohol. Delirium tremens usually occurs within two to four days but can happen up to 10 days after a person’s last drink.
Why Does Alcohol Consumption Cause Vitamin Deficiencies?
Alcohol consumption can cause vitamin deficiencies for many reasons. In some cases, it is because alcohol interferes with the absorption of the vitamin itself, as is the case with vitamin B12. But alcohol can also decrease your appetite for food, instead encouraging the intake of empty calories. This means your body can deplete certain nutrients over time, leading to vitamin deficiencies. Side effects from drinking can also cause deficiencies: for example, vomiting after drinking can cause a magnesium deficiency, while internal bleeding linked to drinking can cause an iron deficiency.
Unfortunately, one nutrient deficiency often leads to another, with some deficiencies like folate predisposing you to develop other deficiencies.
What Vitamins Help With Alcohol Withdrawal?
Patients in recovery from alcohol abuse and addiction usually have nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies are common in alcohol use disorder (AUD) from a poor diet and alcohol-induced changes that lead to reduced absorption of nutrients into the blood.
Taking certain vitamins for detoxing from alcohol is essential to replenish any loss in a patient. Doing so improves overall health, prevents certain diseases and supports recovery. The following are alcohol withdrawal vitamins and minerals that are important to incorporate while detoxing from alcohol.
A vitamin A deficiency causes dry skin and dry eyes. The latter can eventually lead to vision problems, including night blindness. Because vitamin A is metabolized and stored in the liver, it is very likely to be low in a person abusing alcohol. Restoring levels of vitamin A is critical for healthy vision and immunity.
Vitamin A is found in foods like:
- Dairy products
- Leafy green vegetables
- Orange and yellow vegetables
- Vegetable oils
B vitamins, which include vitamins B1, 2, 3, 6, 9 and 12, play an important role in energy production and are often lacking in people struggling with alcoholism. The two most important B vitamins concerning alcohol withdrawal are vitamin B1 (thiamine) and vitamin B9 (folate).
A thiamine deficiency can cause Wernicke’s encephalopathy, a potentially fatal brain disorder. It is routine to administer thiamine to anyone withdrawing from alcohol to prevent this disease. Folate is required to produce red blood cells, so a deficiency of this vitamin can lead to anemia.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can also occur in alcoholism, as drinking makes it harder for your body to absorb the vitamin.
B vitamins are found in foods like:
- Dairy products
- Leafy green vegetables
Vitamin C deficiency can result from low fruit and vegetable intake during alcohol addiction. Vitamin C deficiency is common in alcohol use disorders and can lead to additional health problems. Consuming vitamin C supplements may help protect against some of the toxic effects of alcohol because the vitamin is an antioxidant and may prevent inflammation throughout the body, including in the liver.
Foods that contain vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruits
- Red and green peppers
- Brussels sprouts
Alcohol and vitamin D have an unclear relationship, with conflicting evidence about whether alcohol intake can impact vitamin D levels. That said, vitamin D has been linked to low mood, which is common in those who struggle with drinking.
Vitamin D is important in many bodily processes, including bone health. Although your body can naturally make vitamin D from exposure to the sun, many people may need vitamin D supplementation to maintain adequate levels. Vitamin D is found naturally in fatty fish but is not present at high levels in many other foods.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Cognitive impairment is a common complication of alcohol use disorder (AUD). Memory loss, language problems, learning problems and difficulty focusing are all possible side effects of alcohol abuse. Omega-3 fatty acids are nutrients our bodies do not make. DHA, a type of omega-3, helps improve cognitive function and the ability to learn, so supplementing with omega-3s may help restore the cognitive abilities of someone with AUD.
There is also early evidence that a specific formulation of amino acids may help protect the body from some of the harmful effects of alcohol by helping improve cell function and possibly prevent fatty liver disease, which is a common problem associated with alcohol abuse.
Foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Plant oils
Extremely low magnesium levels, or hypomagnesemia, are often found in patients with alcohol use disorder. Hypomagnesemia can result in serious effects, such as seizures, coma and abnormal heart rhythms. Since seizures are already a concern with chronic alcohol use, restoring an individual’s magnesium levels through supplementation should be considered.
Foods that contain magnesium include:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Whole grains
Alcohol can affect calcium balance in the body, which is critical for strong bones. An individual may supplement with calcium and vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis, a disease that affects bone density and causes bones to become more fragile. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium more efficiently.
Foods that contain calcium include:
- Dairy products
- Chinese cabbage (bok choi)
Iron deficiency occurs in some people who drink heavily. Iron deficiency is linked to internal bleeding, which can occur in alcoholism; however, this does not happen in all drinkers. In fact, around 9% of heavy drinkers have high iron levels. As such, not everyone who struggles with drinking will need an iron supplement.
Foods that contain iron include:
- Fortified grain products
Alcohol abuse and addiction are related to low levels of zinc in the blood. During withdrawal from alcohol, low zinc levels may contribute to the possibility of a seizure. Therefore, zinc replenishment may be a logical treatment approach during detox.
Foods that contain zinc include:
- Meat, especially beef
- Seafood, especially oysters
- Dairy products
Many vitamins and minerals can be depleted due to chronic alcohol use. Restoring vitamin levels is a sensible response to prevent potential problems and disorders. Rather than taking them individually, it may be more efficient to administer a multivitamin once daily to a patient detoxing from alcohol.
However, at least 100 mg of vitamin B1 (thiamine) must be present in the multivitamin; otherwise, it should be taken separately. Thiamine is a common protocol for those detoxing from alcohol that sometimes requires higher doses or intramuscular administration.
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Natural Remedies for Alcohol Detox
Many supplements for detoxing from alcohol are available. Most natural supplements for alcohol detox are useful for rejuvenating healthy organ function and restoring blood levels to normal in cases where deficiency has occurred. These types of supplements can be accessed in health food stores and over the counter where other supplements are sold. Consultation with a medical professional and blood testing can ensure you access the right supplements for your health needs. Some popular natural remedies include:
- Milk thistle: Using milk thistle with alcohol detox may benefit liver function; however, data are lacking on alcohol withdrawal.
- Kudzu: Studies are conflicting about whether kudzu has benefits in alcohol detox, but some studies suggest it can reduce alcohol intake and improve withdrawal symptoms.
Consequences of Ignoring Nutritional Deficiencies in Alcohol Withdrawal
Addressing nutritional deficiencies during your alcohol detox is important for your recovery. You are more likely to recover with proper nutrients and education about nutrients. The detox process impacts your body’s nutritional requirements, making you need more nutrients.
Detox can take longer and be more difficult for a person who lacks proper nutrition. In part, this is because addiction can cause a person to confuse hunger for a substance craving, increasing the risk of relapse.
Can Vitamins Help You Overcome Alcohol Withdrawal?
When medically appropriate, treating a vitamin deficiency can help you overcome alcohol withdrawal. Taking vitamins under medical direction as part of a comprehensive treatment plan can play a role in helping you recover. While not enough to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms on their own, treating a vitamin deficiency can give your body the strength to recover from your alcohol addiction, setting you up for long-term sobriety and success.
Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Evidence-based treatment or medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is available for people suffering from alcohol use disorder. It consists of administering certain medications that prevent or ease symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal.
These medications can reduce cravings for alcohol and help an individual maintain sobriety. MAT also involves counseling and behavioral therapies, which provide a more holistic approach to the individual struggling with AUD.
The safest way to detox from alcohol is under direct medical supervision. Medical personnel will monitor you for withdrawal symptoms and administer medications to minimize discomfort. An individual has access to around-the-clock care should any serious symptoms arise.
Supportive care is usually given during medical detox and may include alcohol detox supplements. Vitamins and minerals may be administered depending on the patient’s blood levels and symptoms, or they may be given as a preventative measure in those with severe alcohol withdrawal. The alcohol detox supplements should include thiamine, folate and magnesium. It is important to note that IV thiamine or intramuscular thiamine may be required in certain cases.
How Long Does It Take To Detox From Alcohol?
The time it takes to detox from alcohol will vary. Factors that influence detox time include:
- The amount an individual regularly drinks
- How often a person drinks
- The duration of time a person has been drinking
- The presence of any co-occurring mental or physical disorders
Although most symptoms from withdrawal resolve within a few days, dangerous withdrawal effects, like seizures, may occur 7–10 days after the last drink; therefore, it is prudent that an individual is closely monitored during this time.
Find Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Florida
Recovery from alcohol addiction often requires a long healing process. The first step usually involves medical detox, which can be difficult. Using supplements and MAT therapy during recovery can be helpful as the body begins to heal. Following detox, an individual can choose inpatient rehab, a partial hospitalization program or outpatient rehab. You will receive individual and group therapy and care for any co-occurring mental disorders during this time.
If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol use, contact The Recovery Village at Baptist Health to speak with a Recovery Advocate about how professional addiction treatment can help. You deserve a healthier, substance-free future.
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