**This is a guest post by Chris Bevacqua. Chris Bevacqua is a former addiction counselor turned Holistic Nutritionist who teaches you how to heal from the damage of alcohol abuse and addiction with tasty food, getting sweaty, sitting in silence, and loving yourself.**
I’ve had my fair share of issues with substance abuse. I’ve:
- Fought drug addiction, smoking, and alcohol addiction
- Battled obesity, gallstones, and fatty liver disease
- Lost jobs, friends, and relationships
- Dealt with a jacked-up central nervous system and other vicious withdrawal symptoms
From each battle, I learned new tips and techniques to make myself healthier, stronger, confident, and energized. However, it didn’t happen overnight. It took years of patience, focus, and dedication.
I know what you’re thinking: “Cool but I could never do that. I could never detox myself.”
Don’t sell yourself short. I thought the exact same thing. The change was something that other people did, but not me. I was too lazy, depressed, sick, addicted, stressed, and afraid. If you’re going at sobriety alone here’s how I recommend you stop.
Watch my Ted Talk on what I learned about the relationship between addiction and identity.
If you’ve had loved ones threaten to disown you if you didn’t check into a treatment program, attend AA, or start going to therapy, you can probably relate to what I’m saying. It’s a special type of hell when your life comes down to the ability to stick with recovery.
I realized that the most difficult thing to change isn’t your alcohol consumption, drug abuse, or negative emotions. The hardest thing to change is your mindset, perspective, and habits.
Understanding the link between sobriety and healthy eating is one of the least often discussed keys to a successful recovery. Healthy eating can help your detox from alcohol proceed a lot more easily.
Alcohol is one of the most devastating drugs to the human body. Issues like fatty liver disease, obesity, heart disease, poor digestion, low blood sugar, stress, and inflammation as well as poor brain health are all hallmarks of alcohol abuse.
If long term alcohol abuse continues, much more serious conditions begin to develop like Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome, Delirium Tremens, cirrhosis of the liver, cancer, and eventually death.
Healing the damage of alcohol abuse is essential to your healthy sober life.
One of the top issues I hear from my clients is about their poor mental health. They’ll do anything to stop the erratic mood swings that typically accompany drug and alcohol withdrawal.
Since they feel like it’s in their heads, they feel like they must “think” their way out of these feelings. This is the wrong approach.
The key is understanding that mental health IS physical health; the two cannot be separated. The detox process is as much in the mind as it is in the body. Drug and alcohol cravings have both a physiological and psychological component.
The gut-brain connection is one of the most important issues for good health and sobriety. Your “feel good” neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and GABA are created in your gut. In fact, over 90% of your serotonin is created there!
These neurotransmitters affect your mood, which is why it’s so important to understand this gut-brain connection. You are, in many ways, exactly what you eat.
Eat sugar, seed oils, and processed food. Sickness, depression, and disease follow.
Eat nutrient-dense foods with protein, fats, and vitamins. Good health and mindset follow.
To understand this more deeply, let’s look at 6 ways that proper nutrition helps your body detox after alcohol and substance abuse.
1. Protein is brain food
During detoxification, your brain is one of the first things to heal. It’s absorbed the brunt of the damage from your drug and alcohol abuse, which explains the mood swings that many people experience while detoxing.
Drugs and alcohol negatively affect the way your neurotransmitters work. Your brain will activate (or deactivate) neurotransmitter receptor sites, or over (or under) produce certain neurotransmitters to attempt to bring balance to the brain. This is one of the things that contributes to Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome.
When you stop drinking, your brain will rebalance your neurotransmitters. This rebalancing is largely responsible for the emotional swings experienced during detoxification and is unfortunately where most people relapse. The unpredictable and sudden depression, fear, and guilt is often too much.
From a nutritional standpoint, one of the best ways to manage these emotional alcohol withdrawal symptoms is with quality animal protein.
Dietary protein converts into amino acids. Amino acids are converted into neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. This aids in recovery and reduces the emotional side effects of drug and alcohol detox.
Protein is also essential for healing damaged organs, rebuilding lost muscle tissue, and healing the digestive system. Sobriety and steaks make a great team!
2. Avoiding sugar is key to the alcohol detox diet
Another positive for your brain, especially for dealing with the anxiety and depression that occurs as part of Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, is avoiding sugar.
Alcohol isn’t filled with sugar but the body metabolizes it the same way it does fructose, which is why diabetes and fatty liver disease are so common in long-term drinkers. As alcohol is broken down, it creates dangerous by-products that can cause all kinds of issues and diseases.
This also means avoiding refined carbohydrates.
Refined carbohydrates are any foods made with white flour. For example; bagels, muffins, cookies, pizza, pasta, etc. Essentially, anything that you have to bake. These foods spike your blood sugar, which has a detrimental effect on your physical and mental health.
A different way to get sober
It was a terrifying time when I got sober, but I made it through. I wish someone warned me about the emotional and mental challenges I’d face when I quit drinking.
I wrote this book for people who want to get sober but don’t have any support. I wrote this book to give guidance where there currently is none in our society.Check it out on Amazon
3. Low blood sugar & emotional distress
As you drink alcohol, your blood sugar increases. As the alcohol wears off, it lowers. This low blood sugar state is known as “hypoglycemia” and is responsible for several health issues.
It primarily causes irritability, anxiety, lightheadedness, excessive sweating, and panic. 70-90% of those who abuse alcohol suffer from hypoglycemia.
The stress produced by low blood sugar triggers the release of adrenaline, which signals the liver to release emergency sugar to prevent insulin shock. This compounds unpleasant reactions. Over time, this will exhaust your adrenal glands leading to full-on burnout.
Hypoglycemia makes you crave sugar and processed food. When you experience sugar cravings, eat quality protein and fats instead. Protein is much more satisfying and satiating and contributes significantly to the detox process.
Supplements like Chromium can help with this issue as well.
Chromium is lost through chronic alcohol intake and by consuming too much-refined carbs and sugar. Supplementing with Chromium can help with carbohydrate metabolism and reduce sugar cravings.
This is exactly what we want in our new life without alcohol!
4. Healing fatty liver disease from alcohol abuse
Fatty liver disease is created from those dangerous by-products I mentioned earlier. Those free-floating fatty acids need to land somewhere and often it’s in the liver. When too much fat and alcohol clog the liver, its unable to do its main job, cleaning your system.
Removing sugar and processed foods, in particular seed oils, is huge for liver health. Seed oils (vegetable, soybean, canola, safflower, etc.) are damaging to your entire system, particularly to the liver. Switching to healthier oils such as olive oil, or even animal fats, is going to make a huge difference to your liver health.
Nearly 35% of long-term drinkers will suffer from fatty liver disease. The Alcohol Detox Diet is crucial to maintaining liver health. Additionally, these supplements and herbs are also well studied and effective when combating fatty liver disease.
|![Fatty Liver Disease](/assets/images/posts/fatty-liver-disease.jpg “Fatty liver on the left. Healthy liver on the right. Credit: <em>ID 161876895 © Horillaz||Dreamstime.com</em>”)|
Omega 3 helps with brain and nervous system function, reduces stress and cortisol levels, can improve sleep and help with fatty liver disease. Since alcohol disrupts the body’s ability to metabolize essential fatty acids, it’s a great idea to take this supplement.
Curcumin is a phytochemical found in the root turmeric. It’s a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It’s great for detoxing heavy metals and is incredibly protective and healing for the liver.
Milk Thistle is one of the best herbs to detox the liver. It has been used to protect the liver and manage the fatty liver disease successfully. There’s no evidence that it can prevent the disease from occurring, but it does a great job at managing these conditions, especially when used in conjunction with other herbs or supplements.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is an incredible supplement that’s great for liver health. It is derived from the amino acid Cysteine and is a precursor for Glutathione; our body’s master antioxidant, which helps reduce the amount of oxidative damage done from alcohol. NAC prevents fat build-up in the liver and is one of the most inexpensive and effective ways to support liver health.
5. Fermented foods for digestive health
Digestive issues are another common side effect of alcohol abuse. Bloating, cramping, gas, and general unease are signs of an unhappy digestive system. Another clear sign of digestive distress is skin issues. Dry skin, red itchy hives, and even psoriasis and eczema can be linked to the gut.
Alcohol decreases your stomach acid, making it difficult to break down the food you eat. When you’re unable to properly break down your food, you can’t absorb the nutrients in it. This leaves you with vitamin and mineral deficiencies, another common issue seen in heavy drinkers.
In order to heal the digestive tract and all of these potential issues, you need fermented foods. Fermented foods are filled with happy bacteria that are going to increase your serotonin and dopamine and heal your digestive lining.
Popular fermented foods which help to heal the digestive tract are:
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar is great for increasing stomach acid which helps you to break down your food and absorb all those good vitamins and minerals. It can also aid in heartburn and acid reflux.
Bone broth, whey, and collagen powder are all ideal for gut health. That blast of protein, collagen, gelatin, and amino acids are exactly what a healing digestive system needs.
Digestive health is important to your overall health, and that includes mental health, so start experimenting with these fermented foods to create a positive microbiome.
6. Physical health treatment is mental health treatment
Anxiety, depression, stress, and grief can all be reduced and managed safely via a proper diet.
Most people don’t understand the link between physical health and mental health. By watching what you eat and how you exercise, you can battle back these negative emotions and learn to properly manage them.
As your digestive system is damaged by alcohol, you’re unable to properly break down your food. This leads to serious vitamin and mineral deficiencies that lead to malnutrition and emotional issues like anxiety and depression.
Deficiencies of Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Omega 3, Vitamin B like Folic Acid (B9), and B12 are routine in alcoholics. When the body is unable to reach its full potential due to lack of energy and deficiencies, everything starts to break down including your mental health.
Bonus treat: Non-alcoholic beer
One of my new favorite non-alcoholic beers is produced by a company named Gruvi. They reached out to me a few weeks ago to offer me some of their products to try. I was immediately skeptical because not only do I already have my “tried and true” favorites, I was worried that a new company was just trying to get some free publicity. However, I’m always open to being surprised so I accepted their products and tried them out.
I’m happy to say that Gruvi legitimately blew me away with both taste and quality.
If you want to enjoy the taste of a cool lager, stout, or an IPA but you’re no longer a drinker, I highly recommend that you try their line up. Use discount code Ed10 for a 10% discount. You will not be disappointed.
A Summary Of The Alcohol Detox Diet
A healthy whole food diet focused on quality animal protein and fats, and a reduction in sugar and processed food, is essential to a happy healthy sober life.
The Alcohol Detox Diet will help us with
- Anxiety and depression
- Healing the liver
- Regulating brain chemistry
- Decreasing digestive issues
- Boosting positive mood
- Offer relief and healing from diabetes, fatty liver disease, heart disease, poor brain and digestive health and low blood sugar issues
Your sobriety shouldn’t be defined by what you no longer do but by what you’re currently doing to make yourself healthier, stronger, and more confident. Read more about the benefits of getting sober here.