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Updated on November 14, 2023
8 min read

Which Vitamins are Essential for Drinkers?

Heavy drinkers often lack vitamins B1, B6, B9, and A, eventually leading to nutrient deficiency. These deficits can cause low energy, skin issues, and oxygen insufficiency, among other health consequences.

While taking vitamins can’t “cure” the consequences of increased alcohol intake, they play a critical role in the recovery of chronic alcoholics.

This article covers the importance of vitamin supplementation for drinkers and how it affects their bodies.

Why is Vitamin Supplementation Essential for Drinkers?

Vitamin supplements are essential for chronic alcoholics because they help reduce vitamin deficiencies1. In addition, they can assist in reversing the effects of the following conditions:

  • Nutrient depletion
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Weakened immune system
  • Impacted cognitive and neurological health
  • Free radical production
  • Digestive issues
  • Alcohol withdrawal

How Does Alcohol Affect Nutrient Absorption?

Alcohol affects nutrient absorption by damaging the stomach lining and intestines’ cells, disrupting nutrient transport2. This becomes even more dangerous for binge drinkers. Excessive drinking can cause malabsorption, causing further vitamin deficiencies.

Here are a few other ways alcohol intake affects nutrient absorption:

  • Nutrient competition: When the body absorbs alcohol, the liver prioritizes metabolizing it over processing nutrients.
  • Impacted folate metabolism: Alcohol can lower active folate levels in the body, decreasing its ability to synthesize and repair DNA.
  • Disrupted gut microbiota: Unhealthy gut microbiomes can negatively impact nutrient absorption and digestion.
  • Gastrointestinal irritation: Alcohol can cause inflammation and damage the gastrointestinal tract, contributing to malabsorption issues.

Another organ negatively impacted by alcohol dependence is the pancreas, which produces digestive enzymes.

Long-Term Impacts of Nutrient Deficiency in Drinkers

Long-term nutrient deficiency resulting from high alcohol intake can have severe and wide-ranging impacts on a person’s health and bodily functions.

Here are a few long-term consequences of nutrient deficiency in drinkers:

Fatigue and Weakness

A lack of vitamin C can deplete bone and muscle strength, leading to chronic fatigue and a lack of energy. In addition, folate deficiencies can cause anemia, wherein the body lacks red blood cells for carrying oxygen to the tissues3.

Skin and Hair Issues

Nutrient deficiencies can manifest as skin and hair problems, with symptoms like dryness, rashes, and poor wound healing4.

Easy Bruising and Bleeding

Because of blood clotting, poor healing, and slow collagen formation, an individual might start to bruise and bleed easily5.

Bone Fractures

Alcohol abuse and nutrient deficiencies can lead to reduced bone density and an increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures6.

Depression

Nutrient deficiencies can contribute to developing or exacerbating depression and other mood disorders, as the body produces less serotonin7. Since alcohol is a depressant, it can easily worsen depression in an individual who drinks excessively.

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What Essential Vitamins Do Drinkers Need?

While people naturally produce some vitamins or receive them from healthy food, taking dietary supplements is a great way to deal with nutrient deficiency.

Taking supplements can help alcoholics in experiencing withdrawal symptoms or undergoing detoxification. Some vitamins can provide significant benefits to counter some of the adverse effects of drinking.

B-Vitamins

Research suggests certain B vitamins can help treat alcoholic liver disease by alleviating alcohol-induced oxidative stress8. B vitamins can inadvertently improve metabolism by restoring optimal liver function and correcting any thiamine deficiency.

Taking B vitamins can also improve:

  • Digestive health
  • Immune function
  • Energy production
  • Mood regulation
  • Neurological health

Thiamine B1 is especially beneficial for alcoholics, as many experience deficiencies related to nerve problems. When alcoholics are admitted to the emergency room, it isn’t uncommon for them to receive an intravenous dose of thiamine to prevent alcohol-induced cognitive deficits.

Other recommended B vitamins include B6 and B12, which boost immunity and keep the blood vessels healthy.

Besides supplements, individuals can reintroduce B vitamins through a balanced diet of:

  • Whole grains
  • Lean meats
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Legumes
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products

Vitamin C

Vitamin C can ease withdrawal by increasing the alcohol clearance rate9. Studies suggest that taking two grams of vitamin C can reduce toxic effects on the liver.

In addition, vitamin C’s antioxidant properties can neutralize harmful free radicals and reverse cell damage.

Vitamin C also plays a significant role in collagen production, which is depleted after heavy alcohol consumption. Restoring collagen levels can improve the skin, blood vessels, and connective tissues.

Dietary sources of vitamin C include:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Strawberries
  • Kiwi
  • Guava
  • Broccoli
  • Bell peppers

Other Vitamins Drinkers Should Consider

Other vitamins ideal for supplementing treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD) include the following:

  • Vitamin D: Alcohol can interfere with the ability to absorb and utilize vitamin D, essential for bone health, wound healing, immune function, and overall well-being. You can receive adequate vitamin D intake through diet, sunlight exposure, or supplements.
  • Vitamin A: Chronic alcohol abuse can impair the body’s ability to store and release vitamin A, potentially leading to night blindness. Consume vitamin A-rich foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens to improve vision, skin health, and immune function.
  • Vitamin E: This vitamin can protect the body from oxidative stress caused by binge drinking. You can eat vitamin E-rich foods like nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Zinc: Like Vitamin D, zinc is imperative for wound healing, DNA synthesis, and healthy immune function. You can eat zinc-rich foods like meat, shellfish, and dairy products.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: These acids found in fish like king salmon, lake trout, and mackerel can counteract the inflammatory effects of drinking. Add flaxseed and walnuts to your diet if you’re not keen on eating fish.
  • Potassium: Because alcohol is a diuretic, it can increase urination, eliminating potassium from the body and resulting in electrolyte imbalances. You can restore potassium levels by consuming bananas, potatoes, and spinach.

Because vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble, taking them in excess can cause headaches, nausea, blurred vision, and other side effects. You should only take the recommended daily dose.

Other Beneficial Supplements for Drinkers

Vitamins and nutrient-dense foods are imperative in treating alcohol addiction and its consequences. However, heavy drinkers experiencing severe side effects might consider the following additional supplements.

Listed below are some supplements you can take to alleviate alcohol’s effects:

Magnesium

Magnesium supplements can improve cognitive deficits caused by chronic alcohol abuse by improving cerebral blood flow10.

In addition, ensuring adequate magnesium intake through diet or supplements may help reduce the risk of muscle-related issues.

Glutamine

Glutamine is a recommended supplement for drinkers since it’s an essential amino acid that synthesizes proteins in muscles, immune cells, and the gut lining. AUD can deplete this nutrient, leading to muscle wasting, impaired immune function, and gastrointestinal problems.

While glutamine supplements won’t cure alcohol-related liver disease, they can detoxify the liver to remove excess ammonia11. Glutamine can also modulate cognitive processes affected by alcohol use.

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How to Balance Alcohol and Supplements

Balancing social drinking and dietary supplements requires careful consideration of your overall health and nutritional needs.

Here are some tips for taking multivitamin supplements as a social drinker:

  • Schedule vitamin intake around drinking to minimize potential interactions. You can take your vitamins in the morning alongside a nutritious diet. Avoid taking them shortly before or after drinking.
  • Prioritize B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, and other nutrients susceptible to alcohol-related deficiencies.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Monitor how your body responds to this combination. 
  • Consult a healthcare professional who can assess your specific needs.

Are There Risks Associated with Mixing Alcohol and Supplements?

Mixing alcohol and supplements does not cause direct interactions but can lead to significant vitamin deficiencies.

In addition, mixing these substances can cause liver strain and gastrointestinal distress. Consult your doctor about drinking and any medications or supplements you are currently taking. The best way to avoid side effects is to stop drinking entirely.

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Common Questions About Vitamins for Drinkers

How can vitamins help with detox?

Vitamins can play a supportive role in alcohol detox by assisting the body in processing and eliminating alcohol and its byproducts. In addition, essential nutrients can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation caused by chronic consumption.

What are the signs and symptoms of vitamin B deficiency in drinkers?

Signs of vitamin B deficiency in drinkers may include fatigue, weakness, neurological issues like tingling or numbness, memory problems, and mood disturbances. Severe deficiency can lead to conditions like Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, characterized by confusion, coordination problems, and memory loss.

Are there specific vitamins that can help with alcohol withdrawal syndrome?

While vitamins alone cannot treat alcohol withdrawal syndrome, B vitamins, especially thiamine (B1), may be administered as part of medical treatment to address nutritional deficiencies. Taking B1 can reduce the risk of complications during withdrawal.

How does alcohol lead to nutritional deficiencies?

Alcohol interferes with nutrient absorption, damages the gastrointestinal tract, and impairs the liver’s ability to metabolize nutrients. It also displaces nutrient-rich foods.

Can vitamins protect the brain from alcohol’s adverse effects?

No. Vitamins can only provide some protection against oxidative stress caused by alcohol. However, they cannot entirely prevent the adverse effects of chronic alcohol abuse on the brain.

Summary

Heavy drinkers are prone to nutrient deficiencies that can cause fatigue and weakness, skin and hair issues, metabolism problems, bone fractures, bruising, bleeding, and depression. Fortunately, taking vitamins regularly and achieving good nutrition can help alleviate some of these adverse effects.

While taking vitamins can help manage symptoms caused by chronic alcohol use, they are most effective alongside detoxification and rehabilitation. Keep in mind that taking supplements while continuing to consume alcohol can overwork your liver and lead to other medical complications.

Consult your healthcare provider if your drinking can compromise the medication or supplements you’re currently taking and vice-versa. If you’re having issues with your drinking habits, don’t hesitate to seek out treatment options to help you stay sober.

Updated on November 14, 2023
11 sources cited
Updated on November 14, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Sandoval et al. Vitamin Supplements as a Nutritional Strategy against Chronic Alcohol Consumption? An Updated Review. Antioxidants (Basel), National Library of Medicine, 2022.
  2. Thomson et al. ”Alcohol-Induced Malabsorption in the Gastrointestinal Tract.” Alcohol and the Gastrointestinal Tract, CRC Press eBooks, 2017.
  3. “Folate-deficiency anemia: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, 2022.
  4. Rembe et al. ”Effects of vitamin B complex and vitamin C on human skin cells: is the perceived effect measurable?” Advances in Skin & Wound Care, 2018.
  5. Galimberti, F, and Mesinkovska, N.A. ”Skin findings associated with nutritional deficiencies.” Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 2016.
  6. Burt et al. ”Effect of high-dose vitamin D supplementation on volumetric bone density and bone strength: A randomized clinical trial.” JAMA, 2019.
  7. Anglin et al. ”Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis.” British Journal of Psychiatry, Cambridge University Press, 2018.
  8. Singal, A.K., and Charlton, M.R. ”Nutrition in Alcoholic Liver Disease.” Clinics in Liver Disease, 2012.
  9. Caputo et al. ”Diagnosis and treatment of acute alcohol intoxication and alcohol withdrawal syndrome: position paper of the Italian Society on Alcohol.” Internal and Emergency Medicine, Springer Link, 2018.
  10. Liu et al. ”Magnesium-L-threonate alleviate colonic inflammation and memory impairment in chronic-plus-binge alcohol-feeding mice.” Brain Research Bulletin, ScienceDirect, 2021.
  11. Huang et al. ”Probiotic and glutamine treatments attenuate alcoholic liver disease in a rat model.” Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, 2019.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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