(0.09) What is malnutrition?
(0.40) Can alcohol cause malnutrition?
(1.34) Metabolizing alcohol
(1.54) Long term potential effects of ethanol chart
(2.48) Symptoms of malnutrition
(3.05) What to do next!
This is Part Three of the Alcohol and Weight Gain series.
What is Malnutrition?
Malnutrition occurs when your body is not getting enough of the essential nutrients that it needs to function properly, also known as primary malnutrition. Another way that malnutrition can be caused is through the body using or expelling essential nutrients faster than they can be replaced, or secondary malnutrition.
Can Alcohol Cause Malnutrition?
Yep….even in smaller doses!
Heavy drinkers suffer from malnutrition because they often drink too many empty calories and don’t get enough good food. Alcohol consists of 7 empty calories per gram, almost twice as much as table sugar, but contains no minerals, no vitamins, no fats, no carbohydrates, and no protein = no nutrition….
Another serious problem for heavy drinkers is when the body tries to rid itself of alcohol. The only fuels it can use to deal with alcohol are the limited critical nutrients that are normally used to look after the body. Getting rid of the alcohol becomes a priority for the digestive system because it cannot store it. This means that it deals with the alcohol before anything else.
Your liver must use essential vitamins – niacin, thiamine and other b vitamins in order to metabolize the alcohol. Your metabolism tries to break everything down (metabolize) into what it can use and what it can’t use. It absorbs what it can use and gets rid of what it can’t use….
Alcohol is also a diuretic…it makes you want to piss more. It is thought that this increases the loss of water soluble nutrients such as potassium (which keeps many of your bodily systems functioning properly and maintains electrolyte balances, among other things), magnesium (essential in a wide range of bodily functions including the nervous system, the liver and kidneys, and healthy digestion), and zinc (maintains bones, muscles, hair and nails,…as well as having a hand in a mind-blowing number of other critical tasks!)
Damage can also be caused to the internal organs which in turn will impair the body’s ability to absorb the necessary nutrients.
Two German professors from Hohenheim University, Stuttgart, Christiane Bode, Ph.D. and J. Christian Bode, M.D., have stated in an article that can be read here, that organ damage and malnutrition can be caused from alcohol. They state that alcohol:
“…inhibits the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine and increases the transport of toxins across the intestinal walls, effects that may contribute to the development of alcohol-related damage to the liver and other organs.”
What Are The Signs of Malnutrition?
Some of the symptoms of malnourishment include:
- Lack of energy or constant fatigue
- Chronic diarrhoea
- Skin problems
- Unhealthy nails
- Hair loss
- Poor night vision
- Pain in muscles, joints, or bones
What Should You Do About It?
First up, if you think you drink alcohol regularly and you are getting any of the above symptoms more than normal, you should go to see your doctor.
This is important!
It is crucial that you tell your doctor about your drinking habits and that the symptoms you are feeling may have something to do with those habits.
Your doctor must have this information…
If you don’t supply this information, you are relying on your doctor to come to the correct diagnosis on her own, at best by her intuition, at worse by guesswork.
The wrong diagnosis is not going to do you any good; you might as well have stayed at home.
Be completely honest with her, it won’t go any further than her office, and it could save your life!
Giving up alcohol and sticking to a balanced diet is the perfect solution to alcohol related malnutrition! Even low amounts of alcohol consumption can result in nutritional deficits, which will cause you to have problems.
Failing that, eating a balanced diet will definitely go some way to offsetting some of the effects of alcohol consumption.
You could also benefit from taking nutritional supplements. According to the University Of Maryland Medical Center, good supplements might include:
“…vitamin B complex, vitamin C, selenium, magnesium, and zinc. A combination of amino acids — carnitine, glutamine, and glutathione — may help reduce cravings, blood sugar fluctuations, and stress related to alcohol use.”