Alcohol detox can cause many unpleasant effects. There are medications and other methods that can be used to make it less challenging. Diet can also affect the alcohol detox process.
Certain dietary changes may help or hurt a person as they go through detox. Learning more about how diet influences alcohol detox can aid people in making better choices during this stage of recovery.
How Diet Can Help or Hurt During Alcohol Detox
Many detox and addiction treatment facilities have a dietician or nutritionist on staff. This person addresses each client’s nutritional needs during withdrawal, crafting a diet that can best serve them during this vulnerable time. They can also help people to create a diet that can aid them into ongoing recovery.
Hydration and proper nutrition play a critical role in recovering from substance abuse because they help to restore a person’s mental and physical health, according to information published in Today’s Dietician. Improper nutrition may lead to anxiety, low energy, and depression as a result of nutrient deficiencies. When this happens, the person is at a higher risk for a relapse.
The first step is to establish a healthy eating routine. This can help people to start normalizing their lives. It is also beneficial for aiding those who lost weight due to alcohol abuse to gain until they achieve a healthy weight.
When starting a new diet, it is ideal for those in alcohol detox to focus on foods that are easy to digest. This can help with the gastrointestinal distress, such as nausea, that can happen when a person is experiencing alcohol withdrawal, according to information reviewed by Richard N. Fogoros, M.D.
When developing a nutrition therapy plan for someone going through alcohol detox, the following goals should be targeted:
- Reduce stress and stabilize the mood.
- Address any medical conditions that a person has due to drinking or ones that are co-occurring with their alcohol use disorder.
- Nourish and heal the damage that the body sustained as a result of alcohol abuse.
- Reduce cravings for alcohol.
- Encourage a healthy lifestyle and self-care.
Nutritional Deficiency and Alcohol Abuse
When someone abuses alcohol, especially for the long term, it is not uncommon for them to have nutrient deficiencies. This is because alcohol can stop the body from absorbing nutrients effectively, according to the University of California San Diego.
One possible deficiency seen in those with an alcohol use disorder is protein. The following vitamin deficiencies are also relatively common among chronic heavy drinkers, according to MedlinePlus:
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- Folic acid
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
- Vitamin C
When someone allows alcohol to account for at least 30 percent of the calories they consume in a day, they are at risk for malnutrition, according to Today’s Dietician.
Vitamin B1 helps the body to use carbohydrates for energy. It aids with muscle, nerve, and heart function, and it is essential for glucose metabolism. Good sources of this vitamin include fortified breakfast cereals, trout, long grain rice, tuna, brown rice, sunflower seeds, and black beans.
Folic acid is critical for creating the nucleic acid that works to form genetic material. It also helps to prevent hearing loss and create red blood cells. Good sources of this nutrient include fruits, enriched cereals and breads, leafy green vegetables, dried peas, nuts, and beans.
Vitamin A is important for development and growth, vision, healthy reproduction, cell recognition, and proper immune system function. This vitamin also plays a role in the proper functioning of the lungs, kidneys, heart, and other organs throughout the body. Good sources of this vitamin include fatty fish, eggs, organ meats, milk, cheese, and butter.
Vitamin B6 helps the body to make antibodies, make hemoglobin, balance blood sugar, maintain proper nerve function, and break down proteins. Good sources of this nutrient include avocados, legumes, nuts, whole grains, bananas, pork and beef, and nuts.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. It may aid with healthy blood pressure. It may also reduce uric acid levels, prevent iron deficiencies, and boost immunity. Good sources of this nutrient include citrus fruits, tomatoes, greens, green and red peppers, and broccoli.
Foods and Nutrients that May Help With Alcohol Detox
In general, a person should focus on healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, vegetables, and fruits. It is very important to avoid sugar when detoxing from alcohol. When a person stops drinking alcohol, sugar cravings are common since their blood sugar levels drop, according to information published in U.S. News & World Report.
This causes people to look for things that are high in sugar. However, this can cause rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels that can cause additional problems. It is better to satisfy a sweet tooth with healthy options, such as oatmeal with a little cinnamon or fresh fruit.
For the first 24 to 72 hours of the alcohol detox process, it is a good idea to stick to liquids and soups. These foods are easier to keep down, which is important since nausea and vomiting are possible during the detox process. The idea during this short period to eat healthy foods that are easy on the stomach. Drinking vegetable juices, teas, and fruit juices can also be a good idea during this time.
One newer area of nutritional therapy for people with substance use disorders is looking at how amino acids might be beneficial. First, amino acids are protein’s building blocks. Protein deficiency is possible with alcohol abuse, so it makes sense that these nutrients would be beneficial for this element.
When a person is going through alcohol withdrawal, their turnover of the norepinephrine neurotransmitter is increased. Some research shows that eating foods that are high in phenylalanine, a type of amino acid, could help to balance out this increased turnover and reduce the potentially negative effects, according to research published in Drug Store News.
Phenylalanine can be found in fish and meat. Eating something high in this amino acid about once a day may be beneficial. However, people should focus on getting all the essential amino acids, which include, according to MedlinePlus:
Amino acids have several critical roles in the body. They can serve as a source of energy. They also help the body to grow, perform various functions, break down food, and repair body tissue.
It is easy to see that nutrition may be beneficial when someone is overcoming an alcohol use disorder. It is ideal to get detox at a facility that puts a focus on holistic care. This means the facility will work with clients on all elements of their recovery, including the person’s unique nutritional needs and other diet methods that may help during detox.