Healthy Food and Nutrients for Recovery

Nutrients Your Body Needs When Detoxing From Alcohol

Posted on January 30th, 2017
Posted in Alcoholism, Articles

People with diagnosable alcohol problems frequently have significant nutritional deficiencies. Some of these deficiencies are directly triggered by alcohol’s effects on the body, while others stem from long-term consumption of a poor diet. During the detox process, doctors commonly address nutritional problems in their patients. The nutrients you receive as part of an alcohol detoxification diet will help support your health and keep you safe from potential withdrawal complications.

How Alcohol Problems Affect Your Nutritional Status

When you drink alcohol, your liver uses several B vitamins — including vitamin B1 (thiamine) and vitamin B3 (niacin) — to help break down this toxic substance and eliminate it from your body. If you repeatedly drink in excessive amounts, you can develop a chronic B vitamin deficiency. The ongoing presence of alcohol also interferes with your body’s ability to properly absorb a range of important nutrients, including:

  • vitamin A
  • vitamin B9 (folate, folacin or folic acid)
  • vitamin B12 (cobalamin)

In addition, by functioning as a diuretic, alcohol can purge several water-soluble minerals from your system, including

  • potassium
  • magnesium
  • zinc

Finally, alcohol acts as an appetite suppressant when you drink it in large amounts. Among other things, this means that people with alcohol problems often fail to eat foods that support good health.

Nutrients You Need During Detox

Most of the nutrients that form the typical alcohol detoxification diet are the same as those that get depleted by heavy alcohol consumption and poor alcoholism-related eating habits. As a rule, your doctor will determine the specific nutrients you need and deliver them to your body through an IV (intravenous) drip. In some cases, you may receive a multivitamin solution that takes care of multiple nutritional deficiencies at the same time. You may also receive an IV of the simple sugar glucose in order to supply your body with the energy needed to make it through the detox process. If your doctor feels that you’re at risk for a severe alcohol withdrawal complication called Wernicke encephalopathy, you may receive an IV that contains a mixture of vitamin B1 and glucose as a precautionary measure. In addition, you may receive the same combination of nutrients as treatment for an active case of Wernicke encephalopathy.

Resources

Michigan State University Extension: Alcohol Can Lead to Malnutrition http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/alcohol_can_lead_to_malnutrition

UpToDate: Management of Moderate and Severe Alcohol Withdrawal Syndromes http://www.uptodate.com/contents/management-of-moderate-and-severe-alcohol-withdrawal-syndromes

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