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Abstinence is the best course for those who can’t control their drinking. Although not a cure, various supplements may help heavy drinkers overcome their craving for alcohol, support them during the taxing withdrawal process, and set them on the road to recovery.
Constantly seeking opportunities to drink; being unable to cut intake; putting alcohol before family, friends, and work.
Needing more and more alcohol to achieve the same effect.
Reacting indignantly to criticism of drinking; adamantly denying the problem.
Experiencing withdrawal signs (tremors, seizures, and hallucinations) if drinking is stopped.
When to Call Your Doctor
If you drink before breakfast.
If binges last 48 hours or more.
If you have blackouts or falls.
If you routinely turn to alcohol to relieve stress or pain.
If your drinking is ruining your personal relationships.
Reminder: If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor
What It Is
An intense physical and psychological dependence on alcohol is the hallmark of alcoholism — which many consider a chronic disease, like diabetes or hypertension. Though alcohol appears to protect the heart when taken in moderation, excessive drinking over time can damage the liver, pancreas, intestine, brain, and other organs. It can also cause malnutrition when empty alcohol calories replace a nourishing diet.
What Causes It
Drinking has a social component: It makes most people feel talkative and relaxed. Precisely why some people pursue alcohol to excess remains a mystery; psychosocial factors play a role, but there seems to be a strong genetic component as well. Indeed, children of alcoholics are at high risk for the disease, even when raised in nondrinking households.
How Supplements Can Help
The recommended supplements, all of which can be taken together, can play several important roles in weaning problem drinkers from alcohol and helping them through the initial recovery period, which may last for weeks or even months. In addition to supplements, prescription drugs are usually needed to help weather withdrawal symptoms.
Most heavy drinkers are deficient in important nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin C, and amino acids (protein), because they do not consume a healthy diet and because alcohol has toxic effects; it may be beneficial to continue therapy for several months, or longer, to help restore depleted nutrients. Vitamin C can help to strengthen the body during this difficult period, clearing alcohol from the tissues and reducing mild withdrawal symptoms; it is most useful when taken with vitamin E. The B-complex vitamins, the amino acid glutamine, and extracts from the kudzu vine appear to reduce the craving. Researchers at the University of North Carolina noted that in monkeys (considered good stand-ins for humans), kudzu cut alcohol intake by about 25%. Harvard scientists found that in a strain of golden Syrian hamsters that preferred alcohol to water (and could drink the equivalent of a case of wine a day), kudzu cut consumption in half.
Be sure to take extra thiamin to help ease withdrawal symptoms.
The herb milk thistle, the amino acid NAC (N-acetylcysteine), and phosphatidylcholine (500 mg three times a day) strengthen the liver, helping it rid the body of toxins. Studies confirm the protective effects of the herb milk thistle. When people with cirrhosis (liver scarring), a dangerous late-stage complication of alcoholism, took milk thistle, 58% were alive after four years, compared with only 39% who did not use the herb.
The mineral chromium should be taken to prevent fatigue caused by low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), a common problem in alcoholics. Evening primrose oil provides the fatty acid GLA (gamma-linolenic acid); this substance stimulates production of a brain chemical called prostaglandin E, which works to prevent withdrawal symptoms such as seizures and depression. It also assists in protecting the liver and nervous system. The herb kava and the amino acid GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) are both natural sedatives that can aid sleep.
What Else You Can Do
Join a support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
Try acupuncture. It may reduce the craving for alcohol.
Vitamin C/Vitamin E
Dosage: 1,000 mg vitamin C 3 times a day; 400 IU vitamin E daily.
Comments: Vitamin C helps boost the effects of vitamin E.
Vitamin B Complex
Dosage: 1 pill, plus extra 100 mg thiamin, each morning with food.
Comments: Look for a B-50 complex with 50 mcg vitamin B12 and biotin; 400 mcg folic acid; and 50 mg all other B vitamins.
Dosage: Mixed amino acid complex (see label for dosage amount), plus L-glutamine (500 mg twice a day), NAC (500 mg twice a day), and GABA (750 mg twice a day).
Comments: For best absorption, take on an empty stomach.
Dosage: 150 mg 3 times a day.
Comments: Standardized to contain at least 0.95% daidzen.
Dosage: 250 mg 3 times a day between meals.
Comments: Standardized to contain at least 70% silymarin.
Dosage: 200 mcg twice a day.
Comments: Take with food or a full glass of water.
Evening Primrose Oil
Dosage: 1,000 mg 3 times a day.
Comments: Can substitute 1,000 mg borage oil once a day.
Dosage: 250 mg 3 times a day.
Comments: Standardized to contain at least 30% kavalactones.
Source:Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs (Reader’s Digest)