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Dr. Andrew Rynne
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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Article Home Diet and Fitness Diet in alcoholics

Diet in alcoholics

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Alcoholics develop poor eating habits and poor nutrition over many years of drinking. In chronic drinkers the ethanol depresses the appetite, displaces other foods from the diet and decreases the value of food by interfering with digestion and absorption. When the nutrients are absorbed, alcohol prevents them from being fully utilized by the body by altering their transport, metabolism and storage. Alcoholics are more prone for severe malnourishment, protein deficiency.

Nutrients which helpful in addressing alcoholism

  • GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is effective in reducing both alcohol cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Vitamins like A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid and vitamin C and E.
  • Minerals like magnesium, zinc, calcium and selenium.
  • Amino acids from protein.
  • Essential fatty acids.


Nutrition should contain multivitamins and mineral supplements. Alcohol is ethanol a simple carbohydrate that is filling.

A high intake of vitamin C, an antitoxin neutralizes the toxic build-up of alcohol consumption. Vitamin C reverses the fatty deposition, which commonly occurs in the liver of alcoholics. Antioxidants like beta-carotene should also be given.

Common nutritional deficiencies in alcoholics

Excessive alcohol consumption overloads the liver adversely affecting its ability to store fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E and metabolize protein. Alcoholics have low levels of following essential nutrients like calcium, folate, magnesium, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.

Diet tips for alcoholics 

  • Increase intake of antioxidants: Include regular intake of bright colored fruit and vegetables like apricots, peaches, carrots. Include green leafy vegetables like spinach, vitamin C foods like oranges, grapes, tomatoes, vitamin E foods. Five servings of these antioxidant rich fruits and veggies is minimum requirement.
  • Increase protein intake: Eat minimum of 4-5 ounces of quality protein per day. Choose fish (baked/grilled), skinless chicken, soya beans, egg whites.
  • Increase intake of essential fatty acids: Include 2-3 oz of oily fish in weekly diet.
  • Eat more of whole grains rather than refined or white flour carbohydrates like oats, whole wheat bread, and whole wheat pasta.
  • Increase intake of magnesium and zinc like wheat germ, beans, dried figs, lemons and almonds.