By Ali Wilde
Malnutrition is common among people who use alcohol to excess, with many of those struggling with addiction consuming high volumes of calories with little nutritional benefit. This presents something of a Catch-22 for optimal recovery, which requires the treatment of biochemical imbalances that create barriers to recovery. A process of biochemical repair is needed to redress the balance between body and brain, and this requires the brain to receive a range of high-quality nutrients. For the Sinclair Method to be used most effectively, fueling the body with the nutrients it needs to break down barriers associated with alcohol dependency – such as depression and anxiety – will make for an easier road to full recovery when moderating alcohol consumption.
The Gut-Brain Connection
The gut is a complex microbiome, containing a whole world of bacteria that play a crucial role in our health. This complex system can be inadvertently altered when we receive an imbalance of nutrients or introduce dangerous bacteria into the digestive system: for example, by eating contaminated food when it has made contact with the floor or been improperly cooked. Distress in the intestines sends signals to the brain, which can cause depression, anxiety or stress. These conditions can create a barrier to treatment. A heavy dependency on alcohol often means that good nutrition falls by the wayside, and can also deplete essential vitamins, so redressing the balance of the gut microbiome is an important element of recovery.
Depleted Nutrients With Heavy Alcohol Use
Dr Craig McClaine of the University of Louisville’s Alcohol Research Center treats patients recovering from alcohol dependency, and notes that many show signs of a zinc deficiency. A study presented in Nutrition in Clinical Practice shows links between depleted zinc levels and irritability, confusion and depression, which many people struggling with alcohol addiction experience. The reason for this is twofold: often individuals with a heavy dependency on alcohol do not receive adequate nutrition, and therefore don’t consume enough natural sources of zinc, such as whole grains, dairy products and nuts. Meanwhile, excessive alcohol use decreases the body’s ability to absorb zinc in the gut, while simultaneously losing the mineral through urine. Inadequate quantities of zinc paired with heavy drinking can mean that the gut ceases to provide a sufficient barrier between the intestine and the blood stream, which can lead toxins into the liver, causing disease.
B vitamins are also commonly depleted in heavy alcohol users, according to nutritionist Melissa Blackburn-Borg from the Canadian Health Recovery Centre. When Vitamin B6 is depleted, the brain’s supply of serotonin and dopamine can be slowed. These chemicals are important in helping us to manage cravings, and are strongly associated with good mood. Alcohol triggers a spike in dopamine, helping users feel good when their body’s natural production of the chemical is slowed. Ensuring that sufficient B vitamins are consumed through leafy vegetables, fruits, legumes, eggs and dairy products is an important part of restoring gut health to maximize recovery, and restore the natural production of the feel-good chemicals. This can make the process of alcohol reduction easier and minimize the risk of cravings.
Alcohol And Your Gut Health
Heavy alcohol use encourages an overgrowth of harmful bacteria while reducing the population of helpful bacteria. This can lead to inflammation, and allows toxins to enter the bloodstream. A disruption in the balance of gut bacteria can cause health problems such as leaky gut syndrome and gastrointestinal symptoms.
Conversely, moderate alcohol use can have positive effects on gut health. A study conducted by Caroline Le Roy at King’s College, London, found that subjects who drank a moderate amount of red wine had a greater diversity of gut bacteria compared with those who drank other alcoholic beverages. This is largely attributed to the polyphenols present in red wine, which can also be found in berries, nuts and seeds. For this reason, those who reduce their alcohol consumption using the Sinclair Method can still reap the gut benefits associated with red wine, but for those who choose abstinence at the end of their treatment, it is still possible to obtain the same benefits through food.
The Sinclair Method has a 78% long-term success rate. To maximize the likelihood of moderating alcohol consumption, careful attention should also be paid to diet. By cultivating a diverse microbiome and ensuring that the body receives sufficient nutrients, it’s possible to improve both physical and mental health, therefore improving symptoms of conditions like depression and stress, which can be challenges faced by those in recovery. By taking a holistic approach to recovery and combining the Sinclair Method with good nutrition, moderating alcohol consumption can lead to freedom from addiction and a full picture of good health.