Alcohol Abuse Depletes Nutrition: How to Fix It

Alcoholism and the abuse of alcohol are nutritional nightmares, wreaking havoc on the human body. Known for doing damage to a variety of organs, including the liver, brain and pancreas, the effects of alcoholism in terms of health multiply when nutritional values are considered. Nutritional changes account for a significant portion of the long-term complications of alcoholism. In order to come back to full health once they embrace the long-term path of sobriety, most alcoholics need to change their nutritional habits in recovery.


A positive benefit of making a healthy nutritional shift is that the maintenance of good nutritional habits actually helps to decrease the risks for a future alcohol-related relapse. Nutrition is the process through which the human body extracts health-supporting substances, known as nutrients, from foods in a daily diet. To maintain a healthy balance, humans need to consume certain amounts of a variety of nutrients, including healthy omega 3 fats like fish oil, complex carbohydrates with fiber, lean proteins like free range chicken, salmon or grass fed beef, minerals like magnesium, and vitamins including a co-enzyme B-vitamin complex, B vitamins are water soluble and often depleted from alcohol abuse.


Lack of adequate nutrient intake will lead to a form of malnutrition called under-nutrition. In contrast, excessive nutrient intake will lead to another form of malnutrition called over-nutrition and potential obesity. In addition to other roles they play in the human body, proteins, fats and carbohydrates provide the energy needed in terms of calories for both voluntary and involuntary body processes.

Alcoholism A Nutritional Nightmare

Alcohol is a calorie-containing substance. As a result, it qualifies as a type of nutrient. The problem is that the other harmful properties of alcohol more than offset any potential benefits. First, and perhaps most importantly, alcohol, particularly when it comes to the amounts consumed by alcoholics, degrades the normal function of the liver, the stomach and other organs involved in the processing of nutrients. Alcohol actually prevents the human body from properly processing dietary fats while depleting the body’s supply of most major vitamins and essential minerals like zinc, magnesium, calcium, and iron. In chronic alcoholics, serious or severe nutrition-related problems can lead to pancreatic inflammation and stomach ulcers.

A secondary problem is many alcoholics fall into a habit of substituting alcohol for portions of their normal daily caloric intake. In extreme cases, substitution decreases food and nutrient intake by a substantial percentage. For alcoholics who initially start with minor maladaptive health issues, this pattern of food replacement can potentially worsen their condition.


In a study of alcoholics in early recovery, experts at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism identified multiple cases of malnutrition. As a result, they recommended a dietary program that addresses any nutritional deficiencies. While the specific required diet will vary from person to person, certain general dietary factors may play a role. For instance, consumption of high-protein foods can potentially reduce alcohol cravings by stabilizing an alcoholic’s blood glucose. Recovering alcoholics also benefit from supplements that contain concentrated doses of specific minerals or vitamins.

By focusing on the individual nutritional needs of each client, an individualized program directly responds to and helps to repair the nutritional damage done by active alcoholism.

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