Alcohol Addiction and Malnutrition

Heavy drinkers exhibit physical symptoms very similar to those living in extreme poverty. Alcohol damages the body in many ways, especially as it relates to nutrition. Many of these effects can be life threatening, such as severe vitamin deficiencies, impaired appetite and damage to the way the body processes, stores and uses nutrition. Scientists are continuing to discover new ways that alcohol affects the body and brain. This new information changes the way alcoholism is treated.

Alcohol and Appetite

One of the first effects heavy drinking has is a significant impact on appetite. While light drinking often stimulates appetites, heavy and long-term drinking slows appetite to a crawl. This happens for the following reasons:

  • The empty calories in alcohol satisfy the body’s need for energy without providing any nutrition
  • The sedative effects of alcohol slow the metabolic and digestive processes

As alcoholism changes a person’s nutritional intake, he risks several serious physical and mental repercussions.

Alcohol Abuse and Vitamin Deficiencies

Malnutrition causes serious vitamin deficiencies that can have catastrophic implications for the alcoholic’s health. Though most alcoholics end up lacking in almost all nutritional categories, the most significant may be the following:

  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
  • Folic acid (iron)

The most successful alcohol addiction recovery programs include vitamin replacement therapy along with other nutritional support as alcoholics begin treatment.

The Effects of Alcohol-Induced Malnutrition

Alcohol-induced malnutrition carries numerous health implications, including damage to nearly every internal organ, significant deterioration of the immune system and the onset of a variety of diseases. For example, Korsakoff’s syndrome, also called wet brain disease, comes from a lack of thiamine and causes short and long-term amnesia. In some cases alcoholics then invent false memories to fill in gaps in their recollections. To them these fake memories seem completely real. This type of malnutrition can cause other types of serious brain damage that can lead to lack of coordination, loss of eye movement, debilitating tremors, seizures and death.

Help for Alcoholism and Malnutrition

An important part of the treatment process for alcoholics is nutritional support, but this will not have any long-term benefit if the individual cannot overcome drinking. Full and lasting recovery requires the following types of rehabilitative therapy:

  • Medically supervised detox
  • Private, individual counseling
  • Group recovery meetings and support sessions
  • Exercise therapy
  • 12-step programs
  • Coping and relaxation skill development
  • Education
  • Aftercare support

If you have noticed symptoms of malnutrition from alcoholism in either yourself or a loved one, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our counselors are standing by 24 hours a day to answer any questions you have and to connect you with successful recovery programs. Even advanced cases of alcoholism can be treated and recovery is definitely possible for all. The body and mind are resilient. Healing is possible when you have the kind of support you need.

Alcoholism destroys life long before it actually takes it. Call today for free, confidential advice and let us help you find freedom from this terrible disease.

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