15 August 2011

Heavy drinking and diet

Excessive alcohol intake can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Heavy drinkers should counteract this by eating healthily and taking supplements.

Excessive alcohol intake can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Heavy drinkers should counteract this by eating healthily and taking supplements.

Step 1: Understanding the relationship between heavy drinking and diet
People who drink heavily often neglect their diet and become deficient in practically all vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.

  • Liver disorders. Heavy drinking can cause hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver. This may eventually lead to cirrhosis, the progressive and irreversible destruction of liver tissue.
  • Gastrointestinal problems. Alcohol can cause inflammation and erosion of the stomach lining (gastritis). It also interferes with absorption of B vitamins and other nutrients, leading to nutritional deficiencies. Heavy drinking can also cause inflammation and damage to the pancreas (pancreatitis). This hinders production of digestive juices and enzymes, and hormones that help regulate metabolism.
  • Diabetes complications. Alcohol inhibits the release of glucose from the liver and can increase the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia). This is dangerous if you have diabetes and take insulin to lower your blood sugar level.
  • Cardiovascular problems. Excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure and heart muscle damage (cardiomyopathy). These conditions increase the risk of heart failure or stroke.
  • Reproductive problems. Alcohol abuse can cause erectile dysfunction and impotence in men. In women, it can interrupt menstruation.
  • Birth defects. Excessive drinking during pregnancy can cause foetal alcohol syndrome. This condition results in birth abnormalities and later developmental disabilities.
  • Neurologic complications. Alcohol affects the nervous system and can result in neuropathy (diseases of the nerves) and dementia (impaired brain function).
  • Depression. About one-third of alcoholics also suffer major depression.
  • Increased risk of cancer of the larynx, oesophagus, liver and colon.
  • Severe alcohol withdrawal includes psychotic symptoms (loss of contact with reality), and may even be fatal.

Step 2: Adopting healthy habits

  • 1. Do not drink excessively.
  • 2. If drinking is out of control and/or interferes with your functioning, seek professional help as soon as possible.
  • 3. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and take supplements.


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