Alcoholism wreaks havoc on mind, body, and spirit. The disease is a long, degenerative process, wherein a person gradually drinks more and more until he or she is addicted. It can be characterized by mental disturbances, cirrhosis of the liver, gastritis, nerve damage, and hallucinations. Stopping cold turkey, without nutritional support, can cause delirium tremens (a sudden, psychotic withdrawal that can result in death).It is important to understand that alcoholism affects not just the alcoholic himself or herself, but that person’s family, friends, coworkers, and employers. Those touched by alcoholism also include victims of drunk drivers. Ultimately, the country as a whole is affected by this massive problem, considering both the human and economic losses incurred. One way of looking at the physiological aspects of alcoholism is to see it as a carbohydrate metabolism imbalance. Complementary physician Dr. RobertAtkins, of New York, explains that people crave alcohol for the sugar. In fact, many people who give up alcohol become sugarholics, or “dry drunks,” as they switch from alcohol to sugar. Orthomolecular physician Dr. Abram Hoffer stresses that nutrient deﬁciencies add to the problem. People do not eat healthfully and are low in essential nutrients, especially minerals, such as chromium, zinc, and manganese.
Conventional alcoholism treatment programs combine drugs that make people sick when they take a drink, such as Antabuse, with counseling and other social supports. Many individuals do have success with Alcoholics Anonymous, especially with the addition of a good diet and supplemental support. The philosophy behind these modalities is that alcoholism is a lifelong disease that can be controlled, but never cured.
The Importance 0f Nutrition
A natural approach to treating alcoholism sees it as a correctable disease; in other words, through physical and emotional rebalancing a person can overcome the condition. Natural practitioners emphasize that good nutrition is key in combating alcoholism; they note that alcohol robs the system of nutrients, which causes free radical damage and degenerative disease. Heavy drinkers accelerate the process, but even moderate drinkers lose valuable vitamins and minerals. Therefore, anyone who drinks, or who is recovering from substance abuse and attempting to rebuild health, can beneﬁt from a full spectrum of supplements. The ones listed here are particularly important:
VITAMIN B COMPLEX
B vitamins work together to restore integrity to the brain and nervous system. Certain members of the B family are especially important for alcoholics; these include vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B6. Pantothenic acid (B5) supports the adrenal glands and helps the body regulate its sugar metabolism.
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
Alcoholics tend to be deﬁcient in these energy-providing substances, which can be taken in capsule form.
Two in particular—glutamine and L-methionine— are especially valuable for detoxifying the brain. And their effectiveness is boosted when they’re combined with vitamins B6 and C. (Note: Glutamic acid should never be substituted for glutamine, as it does not have the same effect.)
Most people are deﬁcient in trace minerals, a problem more prevalent today than it was in the past, because our agricultural soil is often depleted of these essential substances. Getting enough magnesium, manganese, chromium, and zinc is especially important for recovery from alcoholism.
VITAMIN C AND QUERCETIN
Vitamin C is a strong detoxiﬁcation agent and healer, and its ability to heal is greatly enhanced by the addition of the bioﬂavonoid quercetin. High doses of intravenous vitamin C and other antioxidants can protect the liver and improve metabolism.
Lecithin improves functioning of the brain and liver, two organs that alcohol users need to repair.
In addition to nutrient supplements, herbs are valuable to the recovering alcoholic. Milk thistle, in particular, is important because it aids in repairing and rejuvenating the liver. The active ingredient in milk thistle is silymarin, shown in a recent double—blind study to have a liver-protective effect for those with cirrhosis. Valerian root can aid alcoholics in a different way. This is a nerve tonic that helps to heal the emotional stress and pain accompanying alcohol withdrawal. Siberian ginseng should also be remembered when alcoholism is a problem. This herb supports the liver, and has been shown to reduce the occurrence of people falling off the wagon after going through rehabilitation.
According to scientific research, homeopathy can play a significant role in recovery from alcoholism. Studies reveal that patients given homeopathic medicines in chemical dependency programs retain signiﬁcantly higher levels of abstinence for far longer periods of time after release than patients availing themselves of counseling, allopathic medication, and AA meetings without homeopathy. In fact, years later, most in the homeopathically treated group have not returned to drinking.
Part of the reason for homeopathy’s success may lie in its ability to address individual needs. Just because two people are alcoholic does not mean that they are identical, and homeopathic remedies are individualized according to the types of symptoms a person manifests. For instance, the remedy called nux vomica is given to treat hangovers, and is considered appropriate for people who feel woozy or nauseous after drinking too much. Homeopaths prescribe nux vomica as a constitutional remedy for type A personalities-people who tend to be pushy, aggressive, and chilly, with constipation and liver problems.
Another homeopathic remedy given for alcoholism is sulphur. This one is for someone who sits and drinks brandy while reading or contemplating life. The type of patient for whom sulphur would be helpful is considered warm and sweaty, as opposed to the colder nux vomica candidate.
Conventional drug therapies are based on the premise that when people take these products, they will become sick after drinking, and thus break the habit.
Spiritual and social support can make a real difference. Alcoholics Anonyrnous is well known for helping alcoholics recover, and is especially effective when a person combines this therapy with a healthy diet and additional social support.
Supplements are vital. Vitamins and minerals for rebuilding a system damaged by alcohol include B complex vitamins, essential fatty acids, amino acids, trace minerals, and vitamin C.
Herbs to think of in connection with overcoming alcohol dependence are milk thistle, for healing a damaged liver; Valerian root, to counter stress; and Siberian ginseng, which is associated with people remaining alcohol-free after rehabilitation.
Homeopathic treatments can be effective because they are tailored to individual needs.