Why Nutrition Matters: Deficiencies and Detoxification
Overcoming alcohol addiction is not an easy task, even with the guidance of experts. Success rates can be improved, however, with help from the diet. Alcohol use and abuse can lead to nutrient deficiencies within the body, the most common deficiencies being zinc, B vitamins and protein. Consuming alcohol often replaces whole food nutrition, leading to these deficiencies. For example, a deficiency in zinc may be caused partly because foods high in zinc have not been consumed (meat, dairy, nuts) but may also be due to alcohol decreasing the absorption of zinc in the gut. Deficiencies in zinc have been linked to depression, irritability, confusion and apathy. These issues are often challenges for people with an addiction to alcohol.
The liver is the main detoxification organ within the body along with the kidneys. Alcohol is metabolized within the liver as well as many medications both prescription and over the counter. Binge drinking or alcohol dependence can affect the ability of the liver to function optimally leading to issues such as inflammation, fatty liver disease and cirrhosis. Additionally, nutrient deficiencies can cause issues such as poor metabolism, cravings, anxiety and depression.
Focusing on Gut Health
The health of the digestive system (the gut) is also important. When gut health is compromised, nutrients may not be absorbed as they should be. By healing the gut, nutritional deficiencies can lessen and other issues related to poor gut health will begin to resolve as well. Researchers are discovering more ways each day that the health of the gut affects our mental and physical wellbeing. The inflammation that occurs in the liver of alcoholics also can happen in the brain, fueling feelings of depression and anxiety as well as cravings. Healing the gut could ultimately influence the risk of relapse.
Processed Foods and Blood Sugar Levels
According to William Billica, MD, “If you give the brain the nutrients it needs to get past biochemical and genetic deficiencies, inefficiencies, and blockages, people treated for addiction have a better chance of staying sober.” Shifting food choices from the standard American diet, which is high in refined flours, sugars and industrial seed oils, to a more nutrient dense diet can help curb the sugar cravings that can happen and improve the nutrient profile of those in recovery. Experiencing a blood sugar low can easily be mistaken for a craving for alcohol because the body is craving sweetness.
Recovery from alcohol dependency is ongoing and nutrition choices can be made to help the body to repair itself. Special care should be taken to help heal the liver and bring it back to optimum function. Adding foods to the diet which help promote liver function will also help to close the nutrient deficiency gap. Consider adding beets, dandelion greens, cabbage, etc to your diet to improve liver function. While it is true that your body does have a natural detoxification process, that process can be helped when we eat food to help promote the detoxification process instead of hindering it.
Stabilizing blood sugar levels not only improves health, but can aid in the success of sobriety. Blood sugar levels can be stabilized by eating a source of protein, fat and carbohydrate at each meal or snack. When blood sugar levels crash, the brain sends a signal to you to look for more energy which can trigger cravings. Healthy eating habits can help control blood sugar levels and control cravings for alcohol and sugar.
A good start to overcoming nutritional deficiencies is to clean up the diet and rid it of overly processed foods, refined flours and excess sugars. Focusing on healing the gut is important as is basic nutritional support including a high quality multivitamin.
The Positive Impact of Nutrition
Combining healing nutrition with lifestyle and stress management skills significantly improves the odds of staying sober. Nutrition is a difficult piece of the puzzle, but, by making small steps toward dietary changes, the difficult challenge becomes easier each day. Start with a high quality multivitamin, replace a bar or shake with a meal made of whole foods and remember to stay hydrated. Once those become easy, add another healing food to your diet. Plan your meals and snacks and you will discover success in no time.
If you’re looking for a facility that fully integrates nutrition into your treatment plan, look no further. The Lakeside-Milam team provides healthy gourmet meals tailored to the needs of each individual client. Our emphasis on holistic healing means that we prioritize wellness in all areas of your life, including your diet, physical activity, emotional health, and spirituality. To learn more about our unique approach to addiction treatment, contact Lakeside-Milam today.
About the Author
Kelly Sherman, NC, is a holistic nutritionist and owner of Provision Nutrition located in Richland, WA. She is passionate about helping others promote health and wellness within their bodies through the use of whole food nutrition and positive lifestyle choices. Currently, she is earning her masters degree in holistic nutrition and consults with clients in her office and online. Learn more at www.provisionnutrition.net.
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