alcohol abuse

Alcohol and Malnutrition

Alcohol and Malnutrition

Alcohol is a social drink that’s acceptable for most people. We consume it at weddings, after a hard day at work, when we want to let off steam, and on other occasions. Yet excessive consumption of alcohol is harmful to our health. We know about the likelihood of addiction and problem drinking. Most people don’t realize that excessive alcohol use leads to malnutrition. 

How does alcohol cause malnutrition? 

Alcohol leads to malnutrition because it affects the internal environment of the body. Excessive use of it alters gastrointestinal function resulting in issues such as:-

  • Leakage of nutrients. 
  • Hinders salt and water absorption. 
  • Increases gut motility

Image 1: Effects of Alcohol on the body

Malnutrition takes place in two forms. The first is when you are not giving your body sufficient nutrients to meet its needs. The secondary form of malnutrition is when your body either uses too much of the nutrients within you or expels many of the nutrients you take. 

Alcohol can lead to malnutrition, even when consumed in small amounts. Alcohol has no nutrients. It is purely ‘empty calories.’ It has no fats, carbohydrates, protein, no minerals or vitamins. So when you consume alcohol, you may face malnutrition because the calories in your drink replace the nutrients and minerals you get from food. Alternatively, alcohol may damage the gastrointestinal tract, impairing nutrient absorption [1]. 

Alcohol can cause cracks in the gastrointestinal tract resulting in a leaky gut. The metabolites in alcohol lead to inflammation of the intestines, thus triggering a process that eventually damages the gastrointestinal tract. 

Also, considering that alcohol is a diuretic. It results in dehydration, and the frequent urination that alcoholics experience often leads to the loss of essential minerals such as zinc, potassium, and magnesium. Excessive alcohol use is known to cause liver cirrhosis. It is in the liver that the body manufactures vitamin A. Therefore, when the liver is damaged, the body cannot convert vitamin A. 

 Is Drinking alcohol associated with malnutrition? 

Many alcoholics are malnourished either because they have a poor dietary intake of nutrients or because the metabolism of alcohol in their body is preventing their digestive system from properly absorbing, digesting, and utilizing those nutrients. As a result, alcoholics frequently experience vitamin deficiencies (especially vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B1–thiamine, and folate). Moreover, the alcohol breakdown in the liver generates toxic products that interfere with the normal metabolism of nutrients and contribute to liver cell damage [2]. 

Recovery from alcohol and malnutrition 

It is possible to recover from alcohol-related malnutrition. A doctor will advise you to take supplements such as antioxidants. A full physical exam at the hospital will help doctors better create a personalized nutrition plan to help your body gain the nutrients it is lacking. 

It is possible to reset your body from alcohol and its harm. You can opt for a 30-day abstinence to either stop or cut down on alcohol use. Abstinence will help your body which needs a break from toxins. 

A balanced diet can also help. You can work with a dietician or research online to create a health plan to address your unique health situation, weight and personal needs. Alcohol affects people differently, including factors such as consumption level, gender, and other factors. For chronic alcoholics, the best approach is rehab. Once you attend rehab, you can work with a licensed practitioner to help you develop a balanced diet that meets your needs. 

Rehab for alcohol and malnutrition 

Malnutrition can open the doors to other detrimental effects. You could end up struggling with depression, fatigue, loss of appetite, dental issues, infections and other medical problems. Not forgetting the social effects of alcohol, e.g., family breakdown, unemployment, debt, social ostracism, etc. 

Seeking alcohol rehab treatment provides an opportunity for you to receive nutrition therapy. For instance, in Kenya, we have Lishe Living Nutritionists or Nutrition Therapy by Lucy. Nutrition therapy in alcohol recovery is crucial as it helps the body heal fully. Creating a meal plan that’s balanced and satisfying is one way to help you overcome alcohol abuse. Yet it is essential to note that even short-term addiction can lead the body to work overtime as it tries to eliminate the toxic substances and protect itself against the damage caused by alcohol. 

A side note here: Your body is your temple. It would help if you took care of it by controlling your alcohol use. Habits like binge drinking, alcohol misuse/alcoholism, or any unhealthy alcohol use negatively affect the body, and malnutrition is one of the ways that it does that. So far, the average lifespan in Kenya is 62 years. Give yourself a chance to live a little bit longer by adopting healthier practices such as having a balanced diet and taking more water instead of alcohol. 

To Conclude 

There are many ways in which alcohol leads to malnutrition. Alcohol misuse can lead to nutrition deficiencies because the drinker does not ingest enough nutrients. Alternatively, alcohol use can alter the gastrointestinal tract leading to problems such as nutrient leak. When the gastrointestinal tract is compromised, the body struggles with absorbing, digesting, and using nutrients. It is common for alcoholics to experience vitamin deficiencies, especially deficiencies in vitamin A, B1, vitamin B6, Folate, and others. The best way to recover is to reduce alcohol use and avoid binge drinking. Also, creating a personalized nutrition plan helps the body recover from the harmful effects of alcohol. 

Give your body a chance at a longer life by eating a balanced diet and avoiding alcohol. 

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Grace Ntukusoi

    That’s an informative piece

Leave a Reply