Alcohol strips certain nutrients from the body. Many people who abuse alcohol may choose to drink instead of eating some meals.
Replacing lost nutrients as you detox, with medical supervision, can help you improve your physical health.
If you struggle with alcohol abuse, finding the best approach to safely detoxing is the first step in overcoming this condition. Medical care and social support are crucial parts of this process. A professional detox program and loving encouragement from friends and family can do a lot to help you manage withdrawal symptoms.
The process of withdrawing from alcohol can be uncomfortable, and some symptoms of severe withdrawal may be life-threatening. An assessment from a medical professional and medications to ease withdrawal symptoms, if needed, will help you to manage this process.
If you have struggled with drinking a lot of alcohol for a long time, your doctor may inform you that you have vitamin and mineral deficiencies. This information can influence how detox works for you.
Whether you have medical help managing withdrawal or not, eating healthy foods that are high in specific vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes can help you feel better and get healthy.
People who need a lot of medical support, or who need help staying away from alcohol, benefit from entering an inpatient detox program. While they live in the treatment facility, they will have their meals prepared for them by nutritional experts in the program’s kitchen. This means their food will be managed so that certain vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes are replaced in their diet.
If you can detox safely at home, you will not have this kind of oversight. Alcohol can damage the digestive process and prevent the stomach, small intestine, liver, and kidneys from absorbing certain nutrients into the body. During detox, you need a range of healthy foods that contain the nutrition you may have lost while drinking.
You should not attempt at-home detox unless you have first consulted with a physician who has approved this.
The most common electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs while overcoming alcohol abuse include:
Thiamine. This nutrient plays an essential part in the body’s metabolic processes. Without enough thiamine, or B12, the brain begins to lose memories.
People who abuse alcohol for a long time or who otherwise suffer from thiamine deficiency may develop Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a combination of brain conditions that mimic dementia. Quitting alcohol can help you avoid this condition, or it can reverse some or all of the symptoms.
Recommended daily thiamine intake levels vary by age, but average recommendations are between 1 and 1.4 mg (milligrams) daily for adults.
The most common sources of thiamine in diets in the United States are grains, especially bread and breakfast cereals; however, meat and fish are also good sources of this essential nutrient.
Folic acid. Folate, or folic acid, is another B vitamin that can be stripped from the body if you abuse alcohol. This mineral is involved in blood cell formation and maturation as well as DNA synthesis in cells. When DNA is copied as normal, cells are healthy, but when it is copied incorrectly, there is an increased risk of cancer.
Fruits, vegetables, and legumes tend to be good sources of folic acid. Some examples include:
Magnesium. Chronic deficiency of magnesium, which can be caused by drinking a lot of alcohol over many years, can lead to muscle cramps, headaches, diabetes, osteoporosis, and anxiety. This mineral is also involved in the digestion of thiamine, so it is important to eat enough magnesium-rich foods alongside B12-rich food.
Getting enough phosphate or phosphorus, sodium, and water is also important.
Many of the foods listed above contain multiple important vitamins and minerals. Ensure that you eat enough of these whole foods to get the nutrients you need. Also, increase your consumption of lean protein and fiber.
Even if you know it is important to eat enough thiamine, folic acid, and magnesium, along with protein and fiber, and stay hydrated, it may be difficult in the early stages of alcohol detox.
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A common withdrawal symptom is nausea, so you may not want to eat anything while you are managing other symptoms. You may also not want to think about food, as your cognition, mood, and digestion can all be affected by the stress of cooking for yourself or keeping track of a long list of necessary vitamins.
Enlist the help of loved ones with meal preparation, and consider making nutrient-dense smoothies. Smoothies are a great way to combine all the vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and other substances you need to stay healthy without forcing yourself to eat a lot when you feel sick.
Try prepping smoothies for a few meals. You may find it’s an easy and convenient way to get the nutrients you need during detox.
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(January 10, 2019) Alcohol Withdrawal. MedlinePlus. from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000764.htm
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(August 22, 2018) Thiamin: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health (NIH). from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Thiamin-HealthProfessional
The Nutrients Lost While Drinking Alcohol. LIVESTRONG. from https://www.livestrong.com/article/537703-the-nutrients-lost-while-drinking-alcohol/
(May 22, 2018) 15 Healthy Foods that are High in Folate (Folic Acid). Healthline. from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-high-in-folate-folic-acid
(August 22, 2018) 10 Magnesium-Rich Foods that are Super Healthy. Healthline. from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-foods-high-in-magnesium