The Role of Nutrition in Overcoming Alcohol Addiction

By June Rousso
June Rousso
June Rousso
I am a New York State licensed psychologist and a nutritional consultant with an M.S. degree in holistic nutrition. My interests have expanded over the years to the field of nutrition, which I often integrate in my work as a psychologist. I love to write and educate people about nutrition so that they can make more informed choices about their health. I believe that dietary and lifestyle changes are so important in our lives to support a healthy lifestyle.
September 2, 2014 Updated: September 2, 2014

This week’s blog focuses on the role of nutrition in overcoming alcohol addiction. Studies also have found that alcohol decreases absorption of vitamins and minerals, and decreases appetite, limiting the nutrients that can be obtained from food. A whole foods diet can help to replace lost nutrients. Choose mostly organic fruits and vegetables, consuming at least five cup servings of vegetables and two to four half-cup servings of low glycemic fruit daily. Consume three to four ounces of grass-fed meat, pasture-raised chicken, and wild fish daily along with nuts, seeds, and legumes in moderation. A gluten-free diet can be particularly helpful in improving mood.

Patrick Holford, in his book, “New Optimum Nutrition for the Mind”, reported a study showing that just following a whole foods diet and taking a high quality multivitamin kept eighty percent of alcoholics from drinking six months after withdrawal as compared to thirty four percent. Following this line of research, people consuming a junk food diet may be more at risk for alcoholism than the general population. Studies done with mice actually have shown that those who consumed a junk food diet were more likely to become alcoholic and died prematurely while mice consuming a healthy diet were much likely to drink and lived long lives. Hopefully, one day these results will be found with humans and be another reason to avoid junk food.

Another point to consider is that many alcoholics and drug addicts are hypoglycemic. According to Holford, they will use smoking, coffee, chocolate, alcohol, and drugs to boost blood sugar, which is then followed by plummeting levels. As blood sugar levels decrease, people become anxious and irritable, often fueling the drinking cycle. If we eat three meals a day and snacks with a healthy ratio of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, our blood sugar is more balanced. This reduces cravings for smoking, coffee, chocolate, alcohol, and drugs.

Alcohol in excess depletes not only vitamins and minerals, but amino acids, some of which affect our emotional well-being. Holford discusses how depletions in amino acids cause uncomfortable symptoms related to mood and perceptual distortions. The amino acid, tryptophan, for example, helps to even our moods, and when depleted leads to anxiety, depression, anger, possible violence, sleep problems, and cravings, all of which often fuel drinking. When B vitamins become depleted, people become more anxious and can have difficulty concentrating. Depletion of vitamin B6 can lead to distortions of reality.

Amino acid therapy has been used to treat alcohol addiction. Supplemental glutamine reduces alcohol cravings and helps with intestinal repair from damage caused by alcohol. GABA works to reduce anxiety and tryptophan helps to improve mood. Taurine helps to increase energy and prevents alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Along with amino acids, high doses of Vitamin B-complex and Vitamin C are recommended. Anyone considering amino acid and vitamin therapy should do so under the supervision of a physician and nutritionist knowledgeable in the field. Based upon symptom picture, they can choose the right combination and doses of amino acids, and monitor progress.