Nutritional Therapy for Alcoholism: Evidence about Effectiveness

Nutritional Deficiencies

There is strong evidence that alcoholism and alcohol abuse can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Alcoholics are often deficient in vitamins A, B1, B3, C, D, E, and K. They also tend to be lacking in the minerals calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Therefore, using nutritional therapy for alcoholism treatment has a logical basis.

nutritional therapy for alcoholismNutritional therapy for alcoholism identifies nutritional deficiencies in the alcoholic patient. It then works to correct those deficiencies.

Other Nutritional Substances

In addition to those listed above, practitioners often recommend the use of nutritional substances.

  • Beta-Carotene
  • Branched-chain amino acid
  • Carnitine
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • D-alpha tocopherol
  • Folic acid
  • Glutamine
  • Glutathione
  • Lecithin
  • Methionine
  • Phosphorus
  • Selenium
  • Vitamins B2, B6, B9, & B12

Effectiveness  of  Nutritional Therapy for Alcoholism

It is reasonable to suggest that eliminating those deficiencies might be a good therapy. That’s why much medical research has focused on this subject. But the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has found that “Although various nutritional approaches have been touted as ‘cures’ for alcoholism, there is little evidence to support such claims.”

Of course everyone, including an alcoholic, benefits from adequate nutrition. This is essential for good health. But nutrition is not, itself, an effective therapy.

It’s unfortunate that nutritional therapy for alcoholism has virtually no evidence of effectiveness.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Some other popular therapies are often little better. For example, Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) has a self-reported success rate of only about 5%. Thus, only one of every 20 alcoholics achieves sobriety through A.A. This is less than the natural cure rate of as much as 36%. About one of every three people is successful with no therapy of any kind. AA seems to inhibit recovery for many people.

Alternatives

The good news is that there are programs that have much better success than A.A. Those seeking either to abstain from alcohol or to reduce their consumption have many choices. They include Moderation Management. HAMS (Harm reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support). LifeRing. Women for Sobriety. SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training). And Rational Recovery, among others

For those who want a non-12-step alcohol rehab, there’s a wide choice. To see a list, visit Non-12-Step Rehabs. Information useful in selecting a facility can be found at Alcohol Programs and Rehabs. How to Choose the Right One, Rehab Accreditation is Important, and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors. Accept Nothing Less.

Readings on Nutritional Therapy for Alcoholism

Biery, J., et al. Alcohol craving in rehabilitation: assessment of nutrition therapy. J Am Dietetic Assn, 1991, 91, 463-466.

Gant, C. and Lewis, G. End Your Addiction Now: The Proven Nutritional Supplement Program that Can Set You Free. NY: Warner, 2002.

Hoffer, A, and Saul, A. The Vitamin Cure for Alcoholism. North Bergen, NJ: Basic Health, 2013.

Larson, J. Seven Weeks to Sobriety. The Proven Program to Fight Alcoholism through Nutrition. NY: Ballantine, 1997.

Lieber, C. Hepatic, metabolic, and nutritional disorders of alcoholism: from pathogenesis to therapy. Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci, 2000, 37(6), 551–584.

NIAAA. Alcohol and Nutrition. Bethesda, MD: NIAAA, 2000.

Shuman, S. Research into the place of Nutritional Therapy and Exercise in a Program of Recovery from Substance Addiction and Process Addiction. Ph.D. diss. Union Inst, 1999.

Reference

1. NIAAA. Alcohol and Nutrition. Rockville, MD: NIAAA Alcohol Alert No. 22, p. 1