Recovering from substance abuse is a long and often difficult process, but one that can be made easier with some understanding of nutrition. Over the next couple weeks, I'm planning a four-part series on how to support someone going through this process. In this first installment, I want to tell you a little bit about the relationship between addications and nutritional deficiencies.
In my experience, cravings and addictions are intimately connected to nutritional deficiencies—and the first step toward recovery should be to boost the body's stores of those lost nutrients.
In people who abuse alcohol, you routinely find deficiencies in most of the water-soluble vitamins (C and the Bs) and minerals, due in part to the diuretic effects of alcohol. A high-dose B-complex vitamin is an essential base nutrient for anyone in recovery. I would recommend additional niacin in the range of 2 to 3 grams daily. Buffered vitamin C should be spread out through the day as well, at daily doses of 3 to 5 grams. It’s best to spread all vitamins out over the day to avoid diarrhea—which would only worsen nutrient loss.
Additionally, many addicts complain of a racing or pounding heart. This can result from a mineral deficiency. Magnesium, manganese, calcium, and various trace minerals will help almost immediately. There are several mineral complexes on the market. I would also suggest taking a complete multivitamin/mineral complex to fill in the gaps.
I’ve found that meat and bone broths are another excellent way to replenish both protein and minerals in the system. While I’ve written about meat and bone broths several times over the last few years, I thought it would be helpful to give you the recipe again. Begin with bones from fish, poultry, beef, lamb, or pork. The bones can be raw or cooked, and they can be stripped of meat or still contain meat remnants and skin. (When making meat broth, I throw everything in the pot: bones, attached meat, skin—including the parts normally not eaten, such as the rib cage and spine, chicken feet, and fish heads.) Ideally, the animal should be raised organically, or at least naturally. While most animals raised for consumption don’t live long enough to have large amounts of toxic metals accumulate in their tissues, animals raised naturally have much lower levels of hormones, antibiotics, and pollutants.
Cover the bones with water in a covered pot. Add a couple of tablespoons of one of the following per quart of water: apple cider vinegar, red or white wine vinegar, or lemon juice. Gently stir and then let it sit for about 30 minutes to let the acid go to work. Then bring the water to a boil and immediately cut back to a slow, steady simmer. Cover and continue to simmer for 4 to 6 hours for fish, 6 to 8 hours for poultry, and 12 to 18 hours for other types of bones. Keep a lid on the pot to avoid having to add water (but add water if and when necessary). A slow cooker works well since the temperature is generally low enough that the lid will keep in the steam and it won’t require much attention. However, I’ve found that slow cookers generally take about 1/3 longer than when I cook on the stove, so that’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself.
If you want just the broth, strain the liquid through a colander and consume a cup of it immediately either by sipping as a tea or soup, or making it into a gravy. Store the rest in the refrigerator. Don’t skim off the fat that collects on top, as it contains valuable nutrients.
Now It's Your Turn: Have you ever helped anyone detox?
Read the Rest of the Series
- Recovering From an Addiction to Alcohol, Part 2—Digestion
- Addiction to Alcohol Recovery, Part 3—Blood Sugar
- Addiction to Alcohol Recovery, Part 4—Detoxify Your Body
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