One of the most common questions we get asked by patients is whether there is any particular alcohol detox foods and drinks that should be specifically eaten or avoided in order to help along the recovery process.
Especially if you’re going through a detox at home programme, it is often the case that many patients sit at home wondering what the best things they could do to help the process may be.
While the simplest answer is to eat as healthy as possible and avoid too much salt, sugar and fat, there are a ton of things going on inside your body when you’re going through withdrawal, and replenishing the right nutrients can certainly make things go easier on you.
As a result, we’ve assembled a list of the top 10 best alcohol detox foods to eat in order to make things as easily as possible when recovering from alcohol dependency.
You’ll find those a little further down, but first:
Alcohol Withdrawal and Food Cravings
It is fairly common for recovering alcoholics to desperately crave sugar to the point that they struggle to eat anything else.
Often things like neurotransmitter imbalances, fluctuations in blood sugar content, or just addictive personalities are to blame.
Realistically, it’s probably a combination of all of the above, as the brain and body struggle to get over their addiction and begin to look for other sources of serotonin and other “feel good” chemicals.
Of course, these same chemicals can cause you to crave drinking again, which can be a serious problem for ex alcoholics for obvious reasons. Even when alcohol is no longer in your system, cravings can continue due to these imbalances.
If you have recently quit drinking or drugs or are going through withdrawal at home and regularly experience any of the below, you may well have a serotonin deficiency:
- Cravings for sugary treats
- Cravings for carbs and candy, especially in the evening or night
- Depression or anxiety
- Panic attacks
The cravings for sugary treats could just as easily be cravings for coffee, for drugs, for carbs – the point is, when your body stops receiving the serotonin boost it’s addicted to, it will try to find it by other places, causing these extreme cravings.
In this sense, going through an alcohol and junk food detox is arguably the quickest way to overcome your withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol Withdrawal: Food to Avoid
Unfortunately, the most important foods to avoid when overcoming withdrawal symptoms are greasy, fatty foods and too much sugar.
First and foremost, regular alcohol use over time destroys some of the body’s vitamin stores, leading to deficiencies in vitamin B6, thiamine, folic acid and more.
As a result, you need to eat extremely well with lots of fruits, vegetables and other nutrient rich foods in order to build up your stores again and keep your body healthy enough to fight off your withdrawal symptoms.
The other reason to avoid eating too much sugary or fatty foods is the one we already mentioned above.
During your period of experiencing withdrawal and for some time afterwards, your body is craving serotonin. Giving in to it too often can simply cause one addiction to become another, as you get addicted to getting serotonin from a different source entirely.
Eating healthy foods and being sure not to eat too much junk makes this a non issue, while keeping your body healthy – with that in mind, why wouldn’t you do it?
Alcohol Withdrawal: Best Foods
Now that you know why it’s so important to avoid your cravings for junk, what foods help with an alcohol detox?
Let’s take a look at the best foods you can eat to help you stay nourished and full of energy while getting your life back on track!
In no particular order:
Berries such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries etc give a boost of healthy natural sugars to help fight off your cravings for junk and satiate you, but they are also full of a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
As a result, berries are a great way to keep snacking throughout the day without any of the negatives that usually come with that!
Whole grains are rich in fibre, which is crucial for the body when going through withdrawal.
Not only does fibre take longer to digest, therefore reducing hunger cravings, but it also gives a slow release of sugars, keeping your blood sugar at a steady level and helping to prevent mood swings.
Once you also take note of the fact that whole grains tend to be high in carbohydrates, you have a wholesome and beneficial family of foods that you should try to eat a portion of at least once per day, if possible.
Green vegetables are some of the most beneficial foods you can eat at any time, so it’s no surprise they are also one of the best foods for an alcohol detox!
Green vegetables like brocolli, asparagus and romaine lettuce are extremely high in vitamin B. Since alcoholism can cause vitamin B deficiency, you should aim to eat this vegetables as regularly as you can to start building your nutritional stores back up.
It’s also worth looking out for green leaves such as parsley and spinach – these are high in L-glutamine, which stops cravings for both sugar and alcohol.
Be careful though as cooking L-glutamine destroys it, so you should only eat the vegetables raw if you’re looking for this benefit specifically.
Cayenne pepper helps to fight cravings and can even increase your appetite, which is very helpful if nausea symptoms caused by your withdrawal are making it difficult to eat.
Even better, cayenne can help reduce those feelings of nausea, so adding it to your meals regularly can get you up and eating normally again earlier.
Vitamin D is another nutrient that you’ll likely be low on and should be rebuilding your stores of, and healthy fats are an excellent way to help satisfy your junk cravings while still eating healthy and avoiding the considerable downsides of eating lots of fats.
Luckily, fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon are high in both vitamin D and healthy fats such as omega-3.
On top of that, they are extremely high in protein, which helps your body recover from damage and helps you feel satisfied after a meal, all of which makes them an excellent regular addition to your diet.
Sunflower seeds raise your dopamine levels.
It is lows or crashes of dopamine that is one of the leading causes of alcohol cravings in recovering alcoholics, so raising them is an excellent way to protect yourself from these desire.
Not only that but seeds in general, from hemp seeds and and pumpkin seeds to sunflower seeds, are amazing detox foods that are high in fibre and nutrients but low in sugar and fats.
Who knew the humble sunflower seed could do you so much good?!
Foods High in Zinc
Zinc is a natural healer, working wonders for things like wounds and the immune system.
As a result, it will be a huge help for your recovery process and help your body get things back in order more quickly.
Some foods that are high in Zinc include beef, beans and nuts, so try to fit these into your diet whenever possible.
Bananas help to raise dopamine levels and fight cravings in a similar manner to sunflower seeds.
They are also high in potassium, which is a huge benefit for heart health and the caridiovascular system.
Since heavy, long term drinking can put a lot of stress on the heart, this is equally important and a banana a day might well keep the doctor away when it comes to your heart recovering from all the stress it’s been through.
Whole Wheat Bread
Not only is wholewheat grain full of fibre and carbs just like wholegrains themselves, but it’s also full of magnesium and an amazing way to easily and quickly satisfy your hunger.
Making the switch from white bread will give you a constant, regular source of fibre and help stave off hunger and alcohol cravings more than white bread ever could.
However, magnesium is also a powerful energy boost and helps protect the health of the muscles and the nervous system – two things that will need all the help they can get when going through withdrawal.
Foods High in Iron
Iron is how our body moves oxygen around.
Since it can be heavily depleted by drinking alcohol, you may be low on iron which will make your body struggle to move oxygen around as freely as it should.
Some foods that are high in iron include chicken, tofu, beans, and lentils.
Conveniently enough, you can pretty much make a complete meal with those, so make sure to use them in your alcohol detox diet as often and as liberally as possible.
That’s it for today, but we have experienced nutritionists on hand at all times do don’t be afraid to contact us if you wish to discuss nutrition when going through alcohol withdrawal, or anything else related to quitting drinking or drugs!