Heather Little-White, PhD, Contributor
Increasingly, consumers are bombarded with advertisement campaigns that glamorise alcohol consumption for sexual prowess and for social and business success. Health officials are concerned about the advertising and promotion of alcoholic beverages, which lead to alcohol abuse and eventually addiction.
So what if you become an alcoholic? You will notice that you are becoming malnourished because alcoholics do not eat well resorting to booze for satiety. Damage is done to the liver, stomach and other digestive organs. In this regard, it is difficult for vitamins to be utilised and many minerals are passed out leaving a deficiency in essential nutrients. While it is important to treat the psychological causes of alcoholism, nutritional therapy is a better way to fight alcoholism.
It is well established that most persons who actively use alcohol are malnourished. Nutrition has to counter the poor habits of eating and malnutrition of drinkers. The science is that the 'empty calories' that alcohol gives alcoholics gives them a sense of 'fullness' while they have had very little to eat. Alcohol actually keeps the body from properly absorbing and breaking down nutrients and expelling toxins leading to health problems.
Nutritional deficiencies associated with alcoholism include vitamin A and zinc, causing damage to the liver, the primary site of alcohol metabolism. Boosting vitamin A intake would help to correct ailing night vision which is common among alcoholics. Vitamin B can also reduce the craving for alcohol. Alcohol depletes the body of vitamins and minerals, so a multi-vitamin/mineral plus B supplements can be especially helpful and taken with meals for better absorption. To further reduce insatiable craving for alcohol, the amino acid glutamine is also recommended.
Tryptophan is integral to the production of serotonin, which has a calming effect and is important for proper sleep. It is found in foods such as bananas, milk and sunflower seeds as well as turkey meat.
The meal plan
1. Balanced meals are important for supplying a range of nutrients.
2. In addition, alcoholics need to eat heartily, with lavish amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables to give them the minerals and vitamins they need.
3. Healthy snacking. Nutritional studies recommended that people in recovery eat small amounts of food throughout the day to maintain energy levels and moods.
4. Drink decaffeinated coffee and herbal teas to decrease caffeine intake which causes mood swings.
5. Eat foods made of whole grains.
6. The diet should have more beans and grains.
7. Keep red meat to a minimum as it is harder to digest.
8. Eliminate, or keep to a minimum, foods that contain sugar and caffeine such as cocoa, condiments and over-the-counter and prescribed medications.
Recovery-friendly meal suggestions:
Alcoholics have poor eating habits and may end up with gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhoea, constipation, an inability to digest foods properly, along with a poor appetite. As a result, they will need high- nutrient foods to rebuild damaged tissues, organs and regain appropriate functioning of the various systems, including the nervous and gastrointestinal systems.
The diet should contain 25 per cent protein, 45 per cent carbohydrate, 30 per cent fat, with calories not exceeding 2,000.
Breakfast - porridges, including plantain, green banana and peanut, oatmeal muffins, omelette, yoghurt
Lunch - Sandwiches, salads, home-made soups
Dinner - Soups, chicken, fish, vegetables, ground provisions, lasagna with vegetable
Dessert - Yoghurt, fruit, oatmeal cookies, custard
While an alcoholic must change behaviour, good nutrition and exercise are important to recovery. Making healthy food choices is important to returning to a healthy lifestyle.