Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in the world and in India too alcohol dependence is at an all time high, in fact millions more start drinking every year.
Besides the obvious increase in emotional and behavioral problems like fighting, stealing, drunk driving, feeling depressed, chances of accidents, and relationship and career deterioration, excessive drinking also leads to multiple clear cut physiological issues too like severe nutritional deficiencies, weight gain, organ damage particularly liver and kidney, brain and nervous system disorders, anemia and malnutrition, and skin and hair problems.
While you are trying to cut down on the drinking it also helps to focus on right foods to minimize the damage that alcohol could be causing in your body.
Alcohol impairs absorption of many nutrients particularly B vitamins (B1, B3 and folate), Vitamin A, zinc and calcium leading to severe nutritional deficiencies.
B1 (Thiamine) Deficiency
It can lead to visual and walking difficulties and eventually irreversible dementia if not checked in time.
Eat: Focus on foods that are rich in this vitamin like - fish (salmon), flax seeds, tofu, spirulina, sunflower seeds.
B3 (Niacin) Deficiency
The deficiency of this vitamin can lead to diarrhea, dermatitis and dementia. With the extensive list of niacin foods available it’s easy enough to get in your fix.
Eat: Meat, fish and poultry are some of the richest sources of niacin.
However, plenty of vitamin B3 foods are vegetarian as well, including sunflower seeds, peanuts, mushrooms, seed potato, peas and brown rice.
B9 (Folate) Deficiency
The symptoms of this deficiency include poor immune system (falling sick very often), low energy levels, premature grey hair, pale skin, anemia and excessive irritability.
Eat: Lentils, particularly chickpeas and black eyed beans (lobia), spinach, broccoli, mangoes, tofu, sweet corn and broccoli are some foods that are rich in vitamin B9.
Weight Gain and Bloating
Look Out For: Excess weight gain, especially around the middle (beer belly) is common as alcohol (yes, even wine and beer) has a lot of empty (devoid of nutrition) calories, which all add up every time you drink.
Puffy eyes, swollen fingers, plumped-up legs and bloated belly are also common thanks to the dehydrating effect of alcohol. When the body is dehydrated, it tends to retain water to make up for the loss hence the bloat.
Eat: A nutritious but low calorie diet to keep the weight in check. Cut down on salt intake - table salt, packed soups, ready to eat foods, papads, pickles, mono sodium glutamate (no Chinese cuisine for a while), soy sauce etc. Also up the potassium and magnesium intake.
Eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables.
Look Out For: Alcohol damage shows up as dehydrated, dry and cracked skin stripped of its natural oils, dilated tiny facial blood vessels, bloated, puffy face and sunken, blood shot eyes.
Eat: For internal cleansing eat a diet rich in antioxidant laden fruits like apples, tomatoes, amla (gooseberry), cherries, strawberries, carrots and papaya.
Also eat Omega 3 rich foods (flax seeds, fatty fish, walnuts) as these quickly rehydrate the skin and provide softness and shine to the skin.
Look Out For: People who binge drink are more likely to have high blood pressure than people who never or rarely drink heavily.
Eat: Low sodium foods and high potassium foods and check your blood pressure regularly.
Look Out For: Alcohol has direct toxic effect on liver and also causes leaky gut through which gut toxins reach the liver via blood stream. These toxins damage the liver cells allowing fat to accumulate inside the cells and cause cellular swelling due to inflammation which result in abnormal liver function.
Eat: Begin a good balanced diet to help its regeneration; vegetarian diets are more liver friendly. Go on a low fat diet as too much fat further hampers liver’s functioning by increasing its workload. Avoid bad fats like full-cream dairy products, margarines, processed vegetable oils (hydrogenated fats), fried foods.
Eat instead the “good fats” which contain essential fatty acids found in cold pressed vegetable and seed oils, avocados, oily fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel, raw fresh nuts, raw fresh seeds like flax seeds, sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, sesame seeds, alfalfa seeds, pumpkin seeds and legumes.
Also up the intake of fruits and vegetables as they provide the micro nutrients that are essential for liver repair.
(The author is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don't Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa).
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