Hangovers are only part of the problem. Regular alcohol consumers tend to eat poorly, thereby limiting the supply of essential nutrients. This affects both the energy supply and the structure of your cells. Also, it interferes with your nutritional processes like digestion, storage, and utilization of nutrients.
Bit first. What is nutrition? And what kind of effects does alcohol have?
Nutrition is a process that is required for providing energy and maintaining the overall body structure and function.
Alcohol affects the following with respect to nutrition in your body:
A. Inhibits the breakdown of nutrients: Alcohol decreases the secretion of digestive enzymes from the pancreas thereby hindering the break down of nutrients into usable molecules.
B. Inhibits nutrient absorption: Alcohol damages the cells lining the stomach and intestines thereby disabling the transport of some nutrients into the blood
C. Decreased vitamin stores in the liver: Especially vitamins such as vitamin A
D. Increased excretion of nutrients: There is an impaired utilization of nutrients such as fat
And so, if you are one for alcohol its time to think about your nutrition right away! Here are 9 nutrients to watch out for in your diet.
Research indicates that alcohol affects protein nutrition by causing impaired digestion of proteins to amino acids, impaired processing of amino acids by the small intestine and liver, impaired synthesis of proteins from amino acids, and impaired protein secretion by the liver.
But proteins are important because they mostly make up the cells. And so, an adequate protein diet is important for maintaining cell structure, especially if cells are being damaged.
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Vitamins regulate many physiological processes in the body. Because of this, they are essential to maintaining growth and normal metabolism. Chronic heavy drinking is associated with deficiencies in many vitamins because of decreased food ingestion, impaired absorption, metabolism, and utilization.
3. Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
Thiamine or vitamin B1 helps break down carbohydrates, proteins and fat. It also helps in the production of hemoglobin (the protein that binds oxygen in red blood cells). Alcohol reduces the ability of the body to absorb this vitamin.
A severe deficiency in thiamin leads to a life-threatening brain disorder called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, characterized by memory loss, confusion and trouble maintaining balance. In really serious cases, it can even lead to permanent brain damage.
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Must eat: Meat and poultry, whole grain cereals, egg, nuts, dried beans, peas, and soybeans
Folate is essential for the growth of new cells. Alcohol inhibits the absorption of folate and other vitamins by killing the cells lining the stomach and intestines. These cells mediate the absorption of these nutrients.
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Must eat: Wheat germ, kidney beans, spinach, broccoli, calf liver, egg, soybeans
5. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is important for the health of both nerve cells and red blood cells. Alcohol reduces the absorption of this vitamin. Excessive intake of alcohol can cause a grave deficiency in this vitamin that can lead to a nerve disease called peripheral neuropathy. The symptoms of this disease are tingling sensations and/or pain in the extremities.
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Must Eat: Milk and milk products, egg, cheese, liver, salmon
6. Fat-soluble Vitamins
Fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D and E. All these are important to the body.
Alcohol inhibits the absorption of fats, which in turn inhibits the absorption of these vitamins. Vitamin A deficiency leads to night blindness; vitamin D deficiency leads to bone softening; vitamin E deficiency leads to nerve problems.
Must Eat for Vitamin: Carrot, sweet potatoes, spinach, apricots, peach, egg, butter, whole milk
Must Eat for Vitamin D: Sunlight, Salmon, tuna, eggs, butter
Must Eat for Vitamin E: sunflower seeds, wheat germ, sweet potatoes, safflower oil, almonds
Chronic alcohol consumption has major harmful effects on bone development and maintenance at all ages. For young ages, the effect on growing bones is especially deleterious, because alcohol reduces peak bone mass and can result in relatively weak adult bones that are more susceptible to fracture. [Alcohol and bone effects modulate and are modulated by hormones, PTH, calcitonin, and growth hormone, as well as by other substances, such as vitamin D.]
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Must Eat: Milk and milk products, eggs, soybeans, cabbage, broccoli, salmon, gingelly seeds, etc.
Magnesium deficiency is quite common in heavy drinkers. It causes heart and neuromuscular problems.
Also Read About - Keep heart disease at bay with a healthy diet
Must Eat: almonds, walnuts, peanuts, soy flour, sunflower seeds, lentils, wheat germ, spinach
Zinc enhances the antioxidant capability in the liver, as well as boosts a main metal detoxifying compound called metallothionein (MT). And so, its deficiency impairs the ability to break down alcohol, increasing potential harm.
Must Eat: Lentils, green peas, corn, oatmeal, eggs, calf liver.
Article by Annieraj Merlin, M.Sc (Dietetics)
Consultant Dietitian, CallHealth
Have a question? Consult Annieraj Merlin online.