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Addressing Alcoholism with Diet and Nutrition

Posted: Health & Wellness | June 21st, 2004



By Cynthia Perkins

Alcoholism is a very complex problem that is rampant in our society and has many variables that need to be addressed simultaneously. The success rate with mainstream treatment options is poor at best. Nutritional and dietary components are rarely addressed, and most people are unaware of their extreme significance.

It is not widely known that Bill Wilson, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, was aware of the importance of vitamins and hypoglycemia in the treatment of alcoholism. Before his death, he was trying to educate physicians about these issues. (Null 95, Larson 92)

After losing a son having tried all the traditional approaches to alcoholism, Joan Larson researched with the passion of a mother on a mission and wrote a detailed, comprehensive book, 7 Weeks to Sobriety, that emphasizes the importance of addressing diet and nutrition in the treatment of alcoholism.

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Her treatment center, The Health Recovery Center, maintains a 75 percent success rate with an approach that addresses issues such as making dietary changes, eliminating sugar and refined foods, supplementing numerous vitamins, amino acids and minerals which are most often depleted in alcoholics, treating hypoglycemia and treating food allergies.

Her book provides very specific guidelines. She discovered it is necessary to make biochemical repairs in order to achieve success and prevent relapse. It is a must-have book for anyone involved in the treatment of alcoholism.

Alternative theories

Randolph (80) contends that alcoholism is not a mental sickness, but rather it is a symptom of advanced food allergy. In his practice, he has found that it is not the alcohol that one is addicted to — it is the food source of which the alcoholic beverage is made.

Alcoholic beverages are made of food such as grains like barley, corn, cane or grapes. Alcoholics have a food allergy to these. In advanced food allergy, the individual craves the allergenic food.

Randolph proposes that the alcoholic is craving the beverage is made from, not the alcohol itself. The alcohol serves as a catalyst to help the food be absorbed more quickly, because alcohol is absorbed rapidly throughout the gastrointestinal tract.

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This is why most alcoholics struggle to stay sober and relapse is so common. When alcoholics put the alcohol down, they continue to eat sugar, corn, etc.; when they eat these foods, it triggers cravings. The food itself cannot provide the quick fix that the alcohol can provide because of its rapid absorption.

Pfeiffer (80) has found that people with addictions have high levels of histamine, which he states results in compulsive behavior. He has had success using calcium, methioninine and a low-protein, high-carbohydrate diet to treat not only compulsive behavior but also depression.

There is considerable data that supports the notion that most alcoholics are hypoglycemic. (Larson 92, Airola 77) There is a reciprocal relationship between the two. Chronic drinking, just like excessive sugar, contributes to the development of hypoglycemia, just as people with hypoglycemia are potential candidates for alcoholism.

Hypoglycemia can cause irritability, depression, aggressiveness, insomnia, fatigue, restlessness, confusion, a desire to drink and nervousness — many of the same symptoms of an alcoholic. (Larson 92) When an alcoholic gets sober, the symptoms listed above continue to plague him.

If hypoglycemia is not addressed, these symptoms leave him at high risk of relapsing in order to temporarily relieve these symptoms.

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The challenge of preventing relapse

In 1991, more than 60 percent of individuals admitted to traditional treatment programs had been in treatment before, and more than half of those repeating were being admitted for the third time. About half of these were drinking again within one year. Unfortunately, this is a common scenario with treatment in general. Relapse is expected, common and usually the norm. Most people are not successful in long-term recovery.

In a four-year study of 922 men, only 28 percent refrained from drinking for six months after treatment. After one year, 21 percent remained abstinent and after four years, 7 percent remained abstinent.

The missing piece

Only a small subgroup of people is helped by 12-step programs and traditional treatment. Obviously traditional treatment is missing a very large piece of the puzzle. Traditional treatment could be more successful if it implemented a holistic approach to addiction and addressed issues such as hypoglycemia, food allergy and nutritional deficiencies.

I know from personal experience that this is true. As a chronic alcoholic, I entered traditional treatment. Although some of it was extremely helpful, it could not help with the intense depression, anxiety, confusion, irritability and nervousness that I continued to have and that put me at high risk of relapsing.

After a year of pure misery and “white-knuckling it,” leaving me hanging by a very fine thread, I discovered a book that changed my life: The Missing Diagnosis by Dr. Orion Truss. After finding a doctor who was knowledgeable in this area, I learned that I had numerous food allergies, chemical allergies, hypoglycemia and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

It was when I addressed these issues that my life really changed. I discovered that by eliminating sugar and wheat from my diet, I could eliminate my disabling anxiety and depression. By treating all my allergies, addressing my hypoglycemia and deficiencies and changing my diet, I was able to turn my mental health completely around. I was no longer “white-knuckling it” to stay sober. I have been sober for 16 years, don’t attend any AA meetings and don’t have cravings.


    Null G. Ph.D. (1995) Nutrition and the Mind. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows.

    Randolph T.G., M.D. (1980) An Alternative Approach to Allergies. New York: Lippincott & Crowell Publishers.

    Airola Paavo. Dr. (1997) Hypoglycemia: A Better Approach. Oregon: Health Plus Publishers

    Pfeiffer D.D., Ph.D., MD. (1987) Nutrition and Mental Illness. Vermont: Healing Arts Press.

    Larson J.M. Ph.D. (1992) Seven Weeks To Sobriety. New York: Fawcett Columbine.

© Cynthia Perkins

Cynthia Perkins, M.Ed., is a holistic health counselor specializing in issues of living with chronic illness, chronic pain and disability as well as sexual intimacy. She is also author of the inspirational e-book Finding Life Fulfillment when Living with Chronic Illness: A Spiritual Journey. Services, e-books and a free newsletter can be found at her web site at www.holistichelp.net or [email protected].

2 Responses to “Addressing Alcoholism with Diet and Nutrition”

1 C.J. Chimenti says:

Hi Mark,

I just read the article and I always promote the use of supplements and healthy life changes with exercise, sleep, relaxation, recreation and a general well balanced life style. There is a 40 to 60 percent presence of “co morbidity” with other disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, sugar related and other mental disorders. Of course they should all be addressed. The article seems to be slanted away from traditional treatment but I believe that without the combination of all factors there would be less success. No one treatment is the end all answer.

The testimony of one year of white knuckling and then finding nutrition is not new. It is also not new to me to hear people that have tried several rehabs of traditional treatment and then swear by the last one that worked for them. It may just be a case of hearing it enough times in enough different ways that it finally clicks.

I am an Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Specialist in a high volume Drinking Driver Program and have worked in residential treatment centers as well. I have been in contact with and or have treated over 8,000 clients and have witnessed a great deal of success where it is many times a matter of the right circumstances and timing that is the contributor to success.

I would promote this method as much as any other that may help a client.

2 j.t.matthews says:

please send me any contact adresses, e mails and or telephone contacts on the subject of nutrition ,hypoglycemia and there links with alcoholism .. in england many lives are lost im sure through ignorance A.A continues to promote the drinking and eating of sugar to reduce cravings i habve undertaken my own nutrition program based on the reading i have done and have felt enormous relief……

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