Alcoholism: Natural & Alternative Treatments

Alcoholism is defined as an addiction to the consumption of alcoholic liquor, or the mental illness and compulsive behavior resulting from alcohol dependency.

A street sign pointing in one direction to "Hope" and the other direction to "Despair."

The alcoholic has trouble reducing the use of alcohol, suffers from compromised functioning and is unwilling or unable to cease its use in spite of the detrimental effects on his or her life. A little bit of alcohol revs you up. More of it slows you down. Too much (different for everyone) will kill you.

Whether it is a disease or not remains a topic of disagreement among experts. Alcoholism is sometimes broken down into stages (overconsumption, abuse of alcohol, alcoholism, withdrawal from alcohol). Here, it is all grouped together to demonstrate the health effects of overconsumption all the way to disease or death from alcohol poisoning or some condition that one would never have developed if not for the excessive use of alcohol.

As to cause, there are a number of risk factors, but it is not well understood why some drinkers become dependent and others do not. It may be a result of deficient brain neurotransmitters. Risk factors include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Having one parent with alcoholism
  • Low self-esteem

 WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS?

Some or all of these may be present:

  • Blacking out
  • Changes in face color
  • Delayed reflexes
  • Excessive use of alcohol
  • Hangovers
  • Increase in emotional outbursts, even in inappropriate settings (assuming there is any appropriate setting in which to have a hissy fit)
  • Increased tolerance to alcohol leading to increased use
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of a sense of responsibility to others and yourself
  • Oversleeping
  • Repeated unsuccessful attempts to cut back or quit alcohol use
  • Slurred speech
  • Stomach pains, vomiting or nausea
  • Talking without making sense
  • The inability to stop at just one drink
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not consuming alcohol (tremors, convulsions, hallucinations, seizures)

DISEASES AND CONDITIONS CAUSED BY, EXACERBATED BY, OR ASSOCIATED WITH THE EXCESSIVE USE OF ALCOHOL

  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Anemia
  • Blackouts
  • Breathing problems
  • Cancers, various; it may be that the the inactivation of folate in blood and tissue increases the risk of cancer. Folate is essential for accurate cell division.
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Coma
  • Decreased perception and coordination
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Electrical disturbances of the heartbeat
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Gout
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Impaired judgment
  • Impaired memory
  • Impotence
  • Increased violence
  • Infectious diseases due to a weakened immune system
  • Malnutrition
  • Neurological disorders. Alcohol is a neurotoxin and can have a negative impact on the brain and central nervous system. Decreased levels of neurotransmitters negatively affect mood and behavior.
  • Pancreatitis
  • Stomach problems (i.e. gastritis)
  • Stroke (can be caused indirectly by high blood pressure brought on by excessive drinking)
  • Ulcers
  • Unintentional injury
  • Vitamin B1 deficiency
  • Vomiting

PREVALENCE

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) uses the term “Alcohol Disorder” and estimates that in 2015, 15.1 million adults over the age of 18 suffer from this problem in the U.S. For children between the ages of 12 and 17, they estimate 623,000 are affected.

Globally, the World Health Organization reported in 2014 that alcohol contributed to more than 200 diseases and injury-related health conditions.

ALLOPATHIC TREATMENT

Doctors may advise a 12-step program along with medications and psychological interventions. 12-step programs will not be included in self-treatment here for reasons you will find by reading an article by the Baldwin Research Institute, “Alcoholism is Not a Disease.” It’s an interesting history and perspective of the 12-step approach.

SELF TREATMENT

DIET

A healthy immune system is always the first line of defense against disease and imbalanced hormones. Everyone actively using drugs and alcohol is almost certainly malnourished. To promote a healthy immune system, it is important to eat a balanced diet, with as much variety as you can manage, with lots of whole, fresh vegetables and fruits, quality protein, and healthy sources of monounsaturated fat. The Zone is an excellent nutrition plan. Alcohol impairs the body’s ability to digest and utilize nutrients, so it’s an uphill battle to achieve a reasonable level of health while you drink heavily. A good diet will be crucial to recovery.

Alcohol calories cannot be stored but must be burned immediately, so the calories from food eaten at the same time likely will be stored as fat.

FOODS THAT MAY PROMOTE HEALING:

  • Bone Broth
  • L-tryptophan-rich foods in the evenings (i.e. free-range turkey, pumpkin seeds, bananas, milk, sunflower seeds)
  • Whole, living foods in variety

FOODS AND OTHER SUBSTANCES TO AVOID

  • Alcohol of course. While some studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption may decrease risk of certain cancers, if you are an alcoholic, no amount of alcohol is good for you, and risks outweigh any possible benefits.
  • Apples
  • Caffeine– eliminate caffeine, which affects neurotransmitters and promotes hypoglycemia.
  • Grapes
  • Processed sugars–decrease or eliminate sugar which also affects brain neurotransmitters and leads to cravings for alcohol.
  • Psychoactive drugs may increase the effects of alcohol consumption (sedatives, marijuana, antihistamines).
  • Smoking–nicotine is another substance that alters brain chemistry.

TEAS AND OTHER LIQUIDS

  • Lemon water with olive oil and a bit of cayenne pepper
  • Goldenseal root powder
  • Parsley tea

HERBS AND SPICES

  • Borage seed oil
  • Cayenne
  • Chamomile
  • Evening primrose
  • Ginseng
  • Milk thistle
  • Peppermint
  • White willow bark

ESSENTIAL OILS

Administer oils via a diffuser for inhalation, topically in a carrier oil, or add drops to a hot bath.

  • Basil
  • Chamomile
  • Cilantro
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Frankincennse
  • Grapefruit
  • Lavender for anxiety
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Ylang Ylang for anxiety

OTHER SUBSTANCES AND SUPPLEMENTS

It is less expensive in the long run to have tests for nutritional deficiencies than to load up on supplements you may not need. If you drink heavily, though, you will have deficiencies.

  • Amino acids
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Calcium
  • Essential fatty acids
  • Folic acid
  • Gammalinolenic acid (found in steel-cut oatmeal)
  • L-cysteine (an amino acid)-for liver and kidney detoxification
  • L-glutamine
  • L-tryptophan for sleep
  • Magnesium
  • Multi vitamins and minerals
  • Pancreatic enzymes
  • Thioctic acid
  • Vitamin B complex, especially thiamine. A deficiency of thiamine puts you in danger of alcohol-induced dementia
  • Vitamin C

HYDRATION

Alcohol does not count toward your hydration needs.  Water is essential and a main nutrient for the human body. Without it, you cannot survive for many days. Staying hydrated is fundamental for a healthy body, so how much is enough? There are so many differences in people (i.e., how much we sweat), as well as the diets we consume (a lot of water comes from healthy, whole foods), but a general rule is to consume enough water that your urine is clear, but not so much that you dilute your nutrients. If you are taking certain supplements that make your urine yellow, then you can start out with the formula of drinking ½ ounce to 1 ounce of water for each pound you weigh. If you weigh 130 pounds, drink 65 to 130 ounces of water a day. Definitely drink when you are thirsty.

EXERCISE

Exercise will benefit your health in a variety of ways, and is reported to offset the increased cancer risk you have from heavy drinking.   If you are ill, you will want to take it easy, of course, but there is always something you can do to support your body. Do what you can without making yourself feel worse. Exercise is beneficial for more than your physical body; it can lift your mood and promote a sense of well-being.

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT

Stay calm. Anxiety undermines health. Practice relaxation exercises, talk to a friend. Do what works for you to stay mellow.   Try one or more of the methods below.

OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO

Behaviorally, stay away from people and places where drinking is likely to encourage a relapse.  That danger will lessen with time as you achieve balance and maintain sobriety for a long time.

  • Consider environmental toxins and seek to eliminate them from your home or workplace.
  • Diatomaceous earth for detoxification
  • Fellowship with non-drinking friends
  • Nicotinamide (Niacin/Vitamin B3) is sometimes used in mega IV doses for fast detoxification.
  • Psychological counseling (a trigger for alcoholism could be abuse or trauma)
  • Test for allergies, hypoglycemia and hypothyroidism, all of which can affect the brain’s biochemistry. making it more susceptible to dependence on alcohol.

ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES

  • Acupressure for addictions
  • Acupuncture – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5871630/
  • Bright-light therapy, or phototherapy may reduce depression and help the heavy drinker sleep.
  • Chinese Medicine – https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35381041
  • Homeopathy
  • Salvia Ritual – https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/traditional-medicine-from-southern-mexico-offers-help-with-addiction/
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Kudzu (Chinese medicine)
  • Massage can reduce symptoms of withdrawal.
  • Neurofeedback
  • Quinton water
  • Sound therapy
  • Stimulus control
  • Virtual Reality Therapy
  • Watsu (water therapy)
  • Watercures

CAUTIONS

  • Alcohol interacts with many medications (not in a good way).
  • Withdrawal from excessive alcohol use can include tremors, hallucinations and seizures. For individuals who experience these symptoms during withdrawal, medical support is crucial.

PREVENTION

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a wholesome diet
  • Maintain a proper pH level
  • Stop drinking
  • Use natural household products rather than chemicals.
  • Work toward a healthy immune system.

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