Alcoholism treatment: What role does nutrition play?

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Alcoholism treatment: Can diet aid recovery?

Question

I recently read a book that advocates a nutrition-based approach using supplements to treat alcoholism. The theory is that alcoholism is mainly a physiological problem and not a mental health problem. What is your opinion of this type of alcoholism treatment approach?

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Answer

Because people with alcoholism tend to eat poorly, a common-sense approach to good nutrition is an important part of alcoholism treatment. But there's no credible scientific evidence that any specific nutritional approach is a cure for alcoholism or even a critical part of the recovery process.

Alcoholism is a complex illness influenced by genetic, psychological and social factors. When you become addicted to alcohol, irreversible biological changes occur in your brain, which impair your ability to control your use of alcohol. Even if you've been sober for years, a return to drinking can rapidly lead to impaired control and the biological, psychological and social consequences of alcoholism.

Research has shown that there's no clear "alcoholic personality" that predisposes you to alcoholism. But addiction is very much a mental health problem — and, like all mental health problems, has physical as well as psychological components to it.

Replacement of some specific vitamins and minerals may be important in treating nutritional deficiencies in some individuals. However, the most effective approach to alcoholism treatment involves reducing the shame and isolation that accompanies addiction, treating co-existing medical and psychiatric conditions, directly addressing the craving of alcohol, and creating sober, viable, social support networks.

Last Updated: 03/01/2007
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