CONQUERING ALCOHOLISM NUTRITIONALLY
"The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak." Matthew 26:41
An alcoholic is very likely to confirm this statement. One reason why the body is weak is because of nutrient deficiencies.
Another reason is because beverage alcohol is a slow acting poison. Other alcohols are immediate poisons. If you add a carbon atom to drinking alcohol, you get C3 H7 OH (isopropyl or rubbing alcohol) which is toxic. C H3 OH, or methanol, is found in windshield washer fluid and is just one carbon less than drinking alcohol... and again, is very toxic.
Beverage alcohol is a major factor in most violent crimes, notably sexual assault and murder. At least one-third, and some studies indicate as much as three-quarters, of all suicides are alcohol related. Alcohol directly kills about 40,000 drivers each year, not counting their passengers, pedestrians and occupants of other cars. I have no love for the tobacco industry, which kills over 400,000 smokers annually. Still, smoking is unlikely to lead to murder over a piece of meatloaf, and alcohol literally has. (Ray, O. and Ksir, C. Drugs, Society and Human Behavior, Mosby, 1990, page 173)
But, like cigarettes, alcohol does lead to lung cancer. And cancers of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, tongue, throat, and much of the rest of the body. Hard-drinking, cigar-smoking Ulysses S. Grant died of a horrible throat cancer which is obscured by a large, carefully placed scarf in his later photographs.
Given all this, and more, we are surely aware that alcohol is harmful to health. This is why the drinking age is 21, yet a person can legally perform other adult tasks, such as voting, signing a mortgage, and fighting in the military, at 18. If alcohol is harmful, is it any less harmful to a person of 21 than it is to a 20 year-old?
This leaves us with a need to either collectively or individually stop using alcohol. A general ban on alcohol has already been tried. Prohibition is usually written off as a failed social experiment, but the truth is that alcohol-related hospital admissions and deaths did indeed decline during prohibition's early years. Individual action requires no law. Many, many alcoholics have stopped using alcohol by the power of their wills alone. If you are in A.A., it is with the help of the Power of a Will greater than yours. If it works, do it.
I've taught college courses in biology, health, and substance abuse inside two New York State prisons. Quite a few members of my "captive audiences" have had drinking problems. (Incidentally, many are studying to become certified as alcoholism counselors). I believe more alcohol users and abusers could "work the steps" of A.A., or just plain stop drinking on their own, if they were optimally nourished. If you drink too much, then you are not eating right. Here's why:
Alcohol is filling, so it displaces more nourishing foods in the diet. This causes malnutrition.
Alcohol causes thiamin (vitamin B-1) deficiency in particular, and a deficiency of many other nutrients as well.
Alcohol destroys the liver and brain gradually, but profoundly. This damage INCREASES the need for nutrients to repair these organs at a time when the drinker is eating fewer and fewer good foods.
Therefore, VITAMIN AND OTHER FOOD SUPPLEMENTS ARE ESSENTIAL for the heavy drinker.
Which ones and how much of each? I would recommend considering the following, based on the many works of Roger J. Williams, Ph.D.:
1. VITAMIN C may be taken to the point of daily saturation, which is just below the amount causing diarrhea. Vitamin C improves the metabolism of the toxic by-products of alcohol and, in large quantities, is a powerful antitoxin. It has also been shown to be effective against hepatitis. (Smith, L. H., ed. Clinical Guide To The Use of Vitamin C, Life Sciences Press, Tacoma, WA, 1988)
2. B-COMPLEX (50 milligrams [mg], 6 times daily) Beverage alcohol (ethanol, C2 H5 OH) is a simple carbohydrate supplying lots of energy and no nutrition. In this way it is a lot like sugar. Excess consumption of either sugar or alcohol is well known to increase our need for the vitamins necessary for their metabolism, specifically the B-complex vitamins. It is safest, easiest and cheapest to take the whole B-vitamin team together.
The B-vitamins, including much-needed thiamin, help correct a bad diet and also help level out low blood sugar problems. Hypoglycemia is often a factor in alcohol cravings. The body wants simple, quick carbohydrate and we erroneously satisfy that craving with sugar... or booze. Niacin (vitamin B-3) helps the body to calm down. The B-vitamins have been successfully used for decades by orthomolecular psychiatrists to relieve depression and psychoses. Watch what they can do to relieve the D.T.'s. Incidentally, you can create the symptoms of delirium tremens in laboratory animals without alcohol just by inducing B-vitamin deficiency.
3. CHROMIUM (200 to 400 mcg chromium polynicotinate or chromium picolinate daily) Chromium, deficient in 90% of all healthy people, is almost certainly wanting in the alcoholic's diet. Chromium improves your body's sensitivity to insulin, so you can do more with less of it. Remember that alcoholics consume huge amounts of simple carbohydrates. The last thing an alcoholic's body needs would be insulin-resistant cells.
4. L-GLUTAMINE (probably two or three grams daily) This amino acid has been shown to improve brain function in alcoholics, resulting in improved sleep, decreased anxiety and a reduced craving for alcohol.
5. LECITHIN (2 to 5 tablespoons daily) Lecithin makes up one third of your brain by dry weight. Lecithin also provides choline, which your body can make into the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. As with L-Glutamine above, this produces a feeling of well being and self-control so wanting in most alcoholics.
Additionally, lecithin is lipotrophic, which means it can help move fats about in the body. The fatty liver condition so common with alcoholics is likely to improve with lecithin supplementation.
6. Controlled VEGETABLE JUICE FASTING has been successfully used to clear out fatty livers, too. Juice fasting, along with large amounts of the B-vitamins and vitamin C, may be a real long-term help with cirrhosis of the liver. The liver can regenerate to a considerable extent; Max Gerson, M.D. says that it takes about 18 months to do so. It is no surprise, then, that the Gerson Therapy focuses on the liver and on raw vegetable juice therapy for it.
7. A HIGH POTENCY DAILY MULTIVITAMIN AND MULTIMINERAL supplement is needed as well. It should carotene, an antioxidant and safe form of vitamin A. 400 to 800 IU of vitamin E, 50 mcg of selenium, and 50 to 100 mg of zinc gluconate or zinc monomethionine would also be desirable.
8. A DIET OF GOOD VEGETARIAN FOOD and plenty of fresh vegetable juices is important. A vegetarian (or even a nearly-vegetarian) diet effortlessly ensures better health. More fiber and complex carbohydrates; less fat and sugar. No junk food!
I have seen this program work. I've personally observed how charitably dispensed vitamin supplements help street people. I've seen just wheat germ (a modest source of B-vitamins, among other good things) help those in prison. I've also worked with financially well-off alcoholics, and supplements help them, too. Booze and malnutrition have no respect for bank accounts.
Remember: many people want to stop drinking but can't UNLESS THEY HAVE THE BODILY STRENGTH TO DO IT. Since alcohol hurts the body, we have to first fight back with vitamins, and then we can reach our highest goals. Don't tell someone to stop drinking; EMPOWER them to stop drinking. Studies confirm it: good eating stops bad drinking.
Read more about it by tracking down the references that follow. If a book is out of print, as the older R. J. Williams books are likely to be, do ask your librarian for interlibrary loan assistance.
Balch, J. F and Balch, P. A. Prescription For Nutritional Healing, Avery Publishing, Garden City Park, NY, 1990, pp 75-76 and 138-140. (A fine, vitamin-friendly guide with dosage recommendations included.)
Gerson, Max A Cancer Therapy: Results of 50 Cases, Totality Books, Del Mar, CA (Don't let the title limit you: this is the complete instruction manual for the liver-restoring Gerson Therapy. A really outstanding work.)
Pauling, L. How To Live Longer and Feel Better, Freeman, 1986 (The best introduction and support for therapeutic vitamin use that I've ever read.)
Ray, O. and Ksir, C. Drugs, Society and Human Behavior, Mosby, 1990, chapter 9
Werbach, M. R. Nutritional Influences on Illness, Keats, 1988, pp 11-22 and 241-242. (An excellent review of the scientific literature.)
Williams, R. J. Biochemistry of B Vitamins, 1950
Williams, R. J. Nutrition and Alcoholism, 1951
Williams, R. J. Alcoholism: The Nutritional Approach, 1959
Williams, R. J. Nutrition Against Disease, New York: Pitman, 1971
Williams, R. J. Physician's Handbook of Nutritional Science, 1975
Williams, R. J., ed. A Physician's Handbook on Orthomolecular Medicine Keats, 1977 (This is an inexpensive collection of terrific nutritional papers on orthomolecular [more commonly known as "megavitamin"] therapy.)
Dr. Roger Williams knows nutrition and alcoholism the way Charles Schultz knows Charlie Brown: through a lifetime of careful study, hard work and a lot of writing. Begin with him. The entire Roger J. Williams bibliography is posted elsewhere on this website.
Copyright C 1999 and prior years Andrew W. Saul. From the book PAPERBACK CLINIC, available from Andrew Saul, PhD, 23 Greenridge Crescent, Hamlin, NY 14464.