Nutritional deficiencies are common in people who abuse alcohol. A person who drinks heavily is consuming calories— an ounce of alcohol has over 200 calories— but is missing vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and fibers. The person may not feel that he or she needs much food, but, in fact, the body is becoming more and more deficient in needed nutrition over time. As nutritional sufficiency declines, so does the person’s health— he or she may feel sick all the time, which may fuel further alcohol abuse.

Eating for Wellness

Typically, alcoholics are deficient in vitamins A, B complex and C; folic acid, magnesium, selenium, zinc, antioxidants and fatty acids. Taking multivitamins to restore these nutrients and making dietary changes can help recovery by increasing overall well-being.

Foods like bell peppers, broccoli, green leafy vegetables and oranges are high in Vitamin C. Other important nutrients are:

  • Protein (can be found in skinless poultry, fish, beans, lentils, soybeans and egg whites)
  • Magnesium (found in almonds, sesame seeds, wheat germ, and lemons)
  • Zinc (brewer’s yeast, pumpkin seeds, eggs)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid (found in walnuts and flaxseeds), eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (found in salmon and herring)
  • Fiber, found in whole grain foods (oats, brown rice, whole wheat pasta)

Limiting sugar and caffeine consumption can help to ease withdrawal symptoms and may help reduce cravings for alcohol. Adequate water intake is necessary to help the body eliminate waste and recover from alcohol-induced dehydration.

Proper nutrition is essential for the health and well-being of all people. Nutritional therapy focused on deficiencies related to alcohol use are usually targeted for people who have been abusing alcohol for a long period of time and whose health is declining as a result.

Strive to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet and limit ‘junk’ foods and convenience foods. Talk to your doctor about your diet and ask whether a vitamin supplement or other dietary modifications may be right for you.

If possible, working with a nutritionist can be helpful. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) website has a “Find a Dietitian” resource that will help you locate a dietitian in your area and includes areas of specialty for each dietitian.


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