Maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet is an important aspect of alcohol detox. The best foods for people detoxing from alcohol are those rich in vitamins and minerals. However, some foods are low in nutrients and provide minimal or zero health benefits.
Detox can be an uncomfortable process for individuals experiencing alcohol addiction. The goal of alcohol detox is to rid the substance from the body. But it is also important to maintain a healthy diet during detox.
During the first 12 to 48 hours of alcohol detox, people may experience withdrawal symptoms that include diarrhea, loss of appetite and vomiting. These symptoms can affect nutrient intake, electrolyte balance and fluid preservation in the body.
Nutrient deficiencies can prolong detox and lead to malnutrition. Substance abuse is associated with vitamin and mineral deficiencies that affect physical and mental health. The body cannot properly heal without an adequate amount of nutrients.
For people experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, eating can prove difficult. But nourishment is important once a physician deems an individual stable enough to eat. Well-balanced, calorie-appropriate meals can help detox patients improve nutrient deficiencies, manage low blood sugar and improve and maintain their body weight.
People experiencing alcohol withdrawal may lose fluids through vomiting, sweating and diarrhea. This puts them at risk for dehydration. During the early stages of detox, it is important to stay hydrated to maintain proper heart and kidney function.
Drinking fluids rich in electrolytes, such as Gatorade, can replenish the body. When drinking water, it is important not to drink too much to avoid water intoxication. Water intoxication, a potentially fatal condition where the body holds more fluid than the kidneys can remove, occurs when the amount of salt and other electrolytes become too diluted.
According to the Institute of Medicine, adults should drink about nine to 13 cups of fluids per day. Because many factors can affect how much fluid your body needs, always ask your doctor or treatment team how much water you should be drinking each day.
B vitamins are imperative for healing during detox. Vitamin B1 ensures proper brain function and reduces brain fog, memory problems and fatigue. A lack of B1 vitamins can lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a brain disorder associated with confusion, vision changes and hallucinations.
Research has found that vitamin B3 also assists individuals in detoxing from alcohol. And Vitamin B5, also called pantothenic acid, converts food into glucose and helps remove alcohol from the body.
Proteins help restore the liver, kidneys, pancreas, brain and heart during treatment for alcoholism. They also repair tissue and stabilize blood sugar.
Protein-rich foods include:
Malnourished individuals in detox should receive moderate amounts of protein. Eating an excessive amount of high-protein foods can strain the liver, which may already be damaged by alcohol abuse.
Complex carbohydrates stabilize blood sugar levels and provide vitamins, minerals and fibers. These foods take longer to digest, which means they provide energy for a long period of time.
Complex carbohydrates include:
Fruits and vegetables are also rich in complex carbohydrates. The United States Department of Agriculture states that fruits and vegetables are filled with vitamins, dietary fiber, folic acid and potassium. Eating fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and Type 2 diabetes.
Incorporating fats into your diet plan helps the body absorb vitamins and nutrients. Fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, avocado and butter provide essential fatty acids that can help prevent numerous health problems, including depression.
Omega-3 fatty acids support neurotransmitters function. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, found in walnuts and salmon, can help reduce anxiety in people struggling with substance abuse.
Not all foods are beneficial during detox. Certain foods should be avoided. People detoxing from alcohol should abstain from foods with “empty calories,” which provide little or no nutritional value. Common foods with empty calories include cookies, sodas and pizza.
During detox, your body craves nutrients. While foods abundant in protein or vitamins have numerous benefits, sugary products contain few or no nutrients. High-sugar snacks include ice cream, candy bars, doughnuts and cookies.
People may crave unhealthy foods high in sugar while detoxing from alcohol. But eating sugary products in place of healthier foods during this time can result in vitamin deficiencies, creating additional stress on the body.
Detox is a stressful process that can lead to alcohol withdrawal insomnia, depression and anxiety. Caffeine can increase heart rate, restlessness and shakiness — all symptoms of anxiety.
Caffeine can also result in headaches, dizziness, heart problems, pregnancy complications and dependency.
Junk food has high levels of sugar and fat. However, these foods often lack vitamins to replenish the body with nutrients.
Junk food products include:
These snacks are often filled with sugar and trans fat. Eating junk food can cause a host of health problems, including weight gain, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, depression, heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.
Alcoholism is a disease that you can overcome with evidence-based treatment. During alcohol detox, your appetite may be reduced. But do not let this discourage you. Alcohol rehab centers are dedicated to assisting you during this difficult time, and a professional treatment team can provide you with healthy foods that can expedite your alcohol recovery.