The effect of alcohol on nutrition

Of course, good nutrition is essential to provide energy and maintain body structure and function. However, many alcoholics often eat less food than necessary to provide adequate carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals.

Most importantly, alcohol itself interferes with the nutritional process by affecting the digestion, storage, utilization and excretion of nutrients. As a result, long-term alcoholics suffer a double health blow-they do not consume enough nutrients, and the nutrients they consume are not used well.

Therefore, many drinkers with alcohol use disorder have at least mild malnutrition, and if their disease is severe enough to require hospitalization, they will usually be severely malnourished. Restoration of nutrition is one of the most important features of the 28-day hospitalization plan. Improved diet also helps brain function, which is important for improving the willpower required for recovery.

How nutrition should work

The digestive system should work in this way: the body begins to break down food into usable molecules in the mouth and continues this process in the stomach and intestines with the help of the pancreas.

The nutrients in the digested food are absorbed from the intestine into the blood and transported to the liver, where it is ready to be used immediately or stored for later use.


Alcohol inhibits the natural breakdown of nutrients in many ways:

  • Reduce the secretion of digestive enzymes in the pancreas.
  • It affects nutrient absorption by destroying the cells of the stomach and intestinal lining.
  • Prevent certain nutrients from being delivered to the blood.
  • By changing their transportation, storage and excretion to prevent those absorbed nutrients from being fully utilized.
  • Alcohol can also interfere with the body’s microbiota.
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If people who drink too much drink poorly, their lack of nutrition will change the cells in the inner wall of the small intestine, thereby affecting the absorption of nutrients.

Energy supply

A balanced diet can provide the body with the necessary calories for energy, but some alcoholics consume large amounts of total daily calories from alcohol.Therefore, fewer calories are obtained from nutritious food sources, which means fewer vitamins and minerals are consumed.

Alcohol does provide calories, but the body processes and uses alcohol energy differently from the calories in food.


If you use alcohol instead of carbohydrates and calories instead of calories, the person will lose weight instead of gaining weight. This means that they get less energy from alcohol calories than food calories.

Among malnourished alcoholics, drinking can cause blood sugar to drop, which can lead to serious injuries. Hypoglycemia, even if it is transient, can cause the brain and other body tissues to lose the glucose they need to function.

Function maintenance

Protein, vitamins and minerals are essential for maintaining normal body functions. Alcohol can cause nutritional deficiencies and destroy the “machines” the body uses to metabolize nutrients, thereby affecting normal body functions.

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Vitamins help regulate many physiological processes in the body that are essential for maintaining growth and normal metabolism. By impairing the absorption, metabolism and utilization of vitamins, long-term heavy drinking can lead to vitamin deficiencies.

Drinking alcohol can cause vitamin A, C, D, E, K, and B vitamin deficiencies.

These defects can cause night blindness, bone softening, slow wound healing, decreased blood clotting ability, and severe nerve damage in the brain.


Alcoholics have been found to be deficient in calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Studies have shown that drinking alcohol itself does not limit the absorption of minerals, but alcohol-related problems will. Mineral deficiencies may be caused by other alcohol-related diseases:

  • Poor fat absorption leads to reduced calcium absorption.
  • Improper diet leads to magnesium deficiency.
  • Magnesium loss due to excretion, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Bleeding in the digestive tract leads to iron deficiency.
  • Zinc loss associated with other nutrient deficiencies.

Medical complications

If you drink more than the recommended guidelines, you may also not eat well. Below is an overview of how this can affect your nutrition and cause medical complications.

Liver disease

Alcohol itself is the main cause of alcoholic liver disease, but malnutrition reduces the nutrients normally present in the liver, leading to alcohol-related liver damage. Studies have found that dietary fructose and ethanol can promote liver inflammation.

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Alcohol also consumes carotenoids, which are the main source of vitamins A and E in the liver.


Some studies have found that a protein-deficient diet can exacerbate the damaging effects of alcohol on the pancreas. Other studies have shown that malnutrition increases the risk of alcoholic pancreatitis.

Brain Injury

Nutritional deficiencies can have various serious and permanent effects on the way the brain works. Thiamine deficiency is especially common in people with severe alcohol use disorders, which can lead to severe neurological problems, dyskinesias, and memory loss.

There are indications that insufficient omega-3 fatty acids may also affect brain function in people with alcohol use disorder.


Drinking during pregnancy not only has a direct toxic effect on the development of the fetus, but also the nutritional deficiencies associated with alcohol can also affect the fetus, thereby increasing the risk of impaired development.Alcohol has been shown to limit the flow of nutrients to the fetus.

take care of yourself

Excessive alcohol in the body may cause various negative health effects on your body. In addition, you may also be at risk of malnutrition.

If you do drink alcohol, make sure to take care of yourself by consuming adequate nutrition, a balanced diet, and possibly supplementing your diet with a daily multivitamin suitable for your age and gender. Good nutrition promotes good brain function, which can firstly prevent alcohol abuse.