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 Detoxification Programs: Nutritional Program for Alcohol Detoxification 

Nutritional Support for Drinkers
The basic support plan for an active drinker varies only a bit from that used during alcohol detox. A generally balanced, nutritious diet will help minimize some of the potential problems from alcohol. Regular nourishment is important, although even the best diet and supplement program will not fully protect us and our liver from the toxic effects of ethanol. When our liver has to deal with alcohol metabolism, it is helpful to avoid fried foods, rancid or hydrogenated fats, and other drugs, such as cocaine, all of which are hard on the liver. Thioctic acid as a supplement of 100-200 mg. daily may help protect the liver against some of the drug toxicity.

Alcohol abusers need more nutrients than most other people to protect them from malnutrition. Obviously, basic multiple and antioxidant formulas are important. Part or possibly most of the toxic effects of alcohol may be caused by production of free radicals, so higher than RDA levels of vitamins A, C, and E, beta-carotene, and the minerals selenium, zinc, manganese, and magnesium are suggested (see supplement table). The nutrients that are commonly deficient with alcohol use also need extra support. Thiamine and riboflavin, in dosages of 50 mg. twice daily, and niacin, in dosages of 50 mg. three times daily, help circulation and blood cleansing and can reduce the effects of hangovers. Folic acid is needed in amounts of 800-1,000 mcg. per day, more than twice the RDA; leafy greens and whole grains, both rich in this vitamin, should be added to the diet

. Water and other nonalcoholic liquids are needed to counteract the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Calcium is also supportive, as is extra zinc, 45-75 mg. daily, as its absorption is diminished and its elimination is increased with alcohol use. Zinc is commonly deficient in drinkers. This supplemental intake should be balanced out with 3 mg. of copper. The essential fatty acids and gamma-linolenic acid from evening primrose oil or borage seed oil support normal fat metabolism and protect against inflammation caused by free radicals and prostaglandins (PGEs). Alcohol decreases the levels of the anti-inflammatory PGE1, and these oils will increase them. Glutathione helps prevent fat buildup in the liver by its enzyme activities, so the tripeptide glutathione (or L-cysteine, which forms glutathione) may be supplemented along with basic L-amino acids. Many alcohol users are not able to get enough glutamic acid to their brain; additional L-glutamine will help get it across the blood brain barrier.

Social drinkers can use a lighter program, but still, I believe, need protection. A good diet is, of course, recommended. B vitamins, including 50 mg. each of B1, B2, and B3, 400 mcg. of folic acid, and 100 mcg. of B12, 15-30 mg. of zinc, and 300-500 mg. of magnesium should all be taken before drinking, along with some food. Drinking should be limited to two drinks per day.

A number of things can be done to prevent getting too drunk or developing a hangover. Our blood level of alcohol is affected by how much and how fast we drink. If we drink fast on an empty stomach, absorption is immediate. Ideally, it is best to have some food in the stomach unless we limit consumption to one drink and want a quick "buzz" before dinner. Food definitely helps prevent us from getting sick. Drinking slowly is suggested. Women seem to be more quickly affected by alcohol than men and so get drunk more easily with less alcohol, even taking body weight into consideration. Foods to eat before drinking should be low-salt complex carbohydrates, such as bread, some crackers, or even vegetable sticks. Carbohydrates delay alcohol absorption. Fat-protein snacks, such as milk or cheese, will decrease alcohol absorption and thus help reduce drunkenness and hangovers. Some people drink a little olive oil before parties to coat their stomachs so that they can handle their drinking better. A few capsules of evening primrose oil will also help.

It does take a while for alcohol to clear from the blood after it gets in there. With heavy drinking, extra coffee and exercise, such as walking, do not really help, other than by making more active drunks; however, with mild intoxication they can increase alertness. Definitely avoid other psychoactive drugs with alcohol; these include tranquilizers, narcotics, sedatives, antihistamines, and marijuana, all of which may increase the alcohol effect.

Blood levels of alcohol have been studied to see varying effects of this drug. Legally this level can be determined through testing and used to clarify degrees of safety or drunkenness. Usually one or two drinks will keep most people in a safe range, but over that can create problems.

Hangovers are caused by the dehydrating effect of alcohol and some toxic effects of the chemical congeners that are created during fermentation or are added to the beverages before, during, or after processing. Allergies to some of the ingredients, such as corn, wheat, barley, or yeast, may intensify hangovers and withdrawal.

Alcohol Blood Level Status
0.05 percent"Cruising," feeling good,
some positive effects
0.05-0.1Beginning loss of balance,
speech or emotions
0.08Legally drunk
0.2Passed out
0.3Comatose, unresponsive

There are many old remedies for hangovers. The best is to prevent them by not overdrinking and taking supportive fluids and nutrients. Cream, coffee, oysters, chili peppers, and aspirin are common, occasionally helpful hangover remedies. Time is the best, along with rest and fluids. If alcohol intake has been excessive, drink two or three glasses of water before going to bed, along with vitamin C and a B complex vitamin which helps to clear alcohol from the blood. The vitamin C can be in the form of mineral ascorbates containing potassium, calcium, magnesium, and even zinc, or 15 mg. of zinc can be taken separately. Do this again upon awakening; it can really help. Further benefit may be obtained by taking evening primrose oil and flaxseed oil, which is a rich source of the essential fatty acids. A morning-after plan suggested by Dr. Stuart Berger includes 100 mg. of thiamine, 100 mg. of riboflavin, 50 mg. of B6, 250 mcg. of B12, 1,000 mg. of vitamin C, and 50 mg. of zinc.

Overall, we need to watch ourselves when drinking and especially not let alcohol use turn into abuse and addiction. We need to pay special attention to children and teenagers and offer them education regarding alcohol and drugs, but if we do not lead them by example, and they model themselves on our drug-, alcohol- and smoking-oriented society, how can we expect them to lead a drug-free life? Let us all live so as to provide an example of how we would like the world to be now.

Alcohol Nutrient Programs

Support Withdrawal Detox/Recovery
Water2 1/2-3 qt. 3-4 qt.3 qt.
Protein60-80 g. 50-70 g.75-100 g.
Fats30-50 g. 30-50 g.50-65 g.
Fiber15-20 g. 10-15 g.30-40 g.

Vitamin A10,000 IUs 5,000 IUs10,000 IUs
Beta-carotene25,000 IUs 20,000 IUs20,000 IUs
Vitamin D200 IUs 400 IUs400 IUs
Vitamin E400-800 IUs 400 IUs800 IUs
Vitamin K300 mcg. 300 mcg.500 mcg.
Thiamine (B1)100 mg. 50-100 mg.150 mg.
Riboflavin (B2)100 mg. 50-100 mg.150 mg.
Niacinamide (B3)50 mg. 50 mg.50 mg.
Niacin (B3)50-150 mg. 100-1,000 mg.200-2,000 mg.
Pantothenic acid (B5)250 mg. 1,000 mg.500 mg.
Pyridoxine (B6)100 mg. 200 mg.100 mg.
Pyridoxal-5-phosphate50 mg. 100 mg.50 mg.
Cobalamin (B12)100 mcg. 200 mcg.250 mcg.
Folic acid800-1,000 mcg. 2,000 mcg.800 mcg.
Biotin300 mcg. 500 mcg.500 mcg.
Choline500 mg. 1,000 mg.1,500 mg.
Inositol500 mg. 1,000 mg.1,500 mg.
Vitamin C2-4 g. 5-25 g.5-10 g.
Bioflavonoids250 mg. 500 mg.500 mg.
Calcium850-1,000 mg. 1,000-1,500 mg.1,000 mg.
Chromium500 mcg. 500-1,000 mcg.300 mcg.
Copper3 mg. 3 mg.3-4 mg.
Iodine150 mcg. 150 mcg.150 mcg.
Iron20-30 mg. 10-18 mg.20 mg.
Magnesium500-800 mg. 800-1,000 mg.600-800 mg.
Manganese5 mg. 15 mg.10 mg.
Molybdenum300 mcg. 300 mcg.300 mcg.
Potassium300-500 mg. 500 mg.300 mg.
Selenium300 mcg. 150 mcg.200 mcg.
Silicon100 mg. 50 mg.200 mg.
Vanadium150 mcg. 150 mcg.150 mcg.
Zinc45-75 mg. 50-75 mg.50-100 mg.
Flaxseed oil1 teaspoon 2 teaspoons2 teaspoons
Gamma-linolenic3 capsules 3 capsules6 capsules
acid (40-60 mg./cap.)
L-amino acids1,000-1,500 mg. 1,500-3,000 mg.5,000-7,500 mg.
L-glutamine500-1,000 mg. 1,500-3,000 mg.1,000-2,000 mg.
L-tryptophan500-1,000 mg. 2,000-3,000 mg.500-1,000 mg.
(if needed for sleep)
Thioctic acid100 mg. 100 mg.200 mg.
L-cysteine250 mg. 250 mg. 250-500 mg.
Glutathione250 mg. 500 mg.250 mg.
(if available)
Digestive enzymes 1-2 after meals
Goldenseal root 3 capsules
White willow bark1-2 tablets 4-6 tablets2-4 tablets
(if needed)

(Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition ISBN: 1587611791)
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 About The Author
Elson Haas MDElson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
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