There are 3 basic nutritional components to food – protein, carbohydrate and fats. After being converted into simpler products by the body, they are what is used for fuel.
Many who drink alcohol heavily or regularly tend to ingest as much as 50% of their calories from alcohol. Unfortunately, this means that other important foods are neglected and heavy drinkers are often mal-nourished.
Alcohol interferes with the nutritional process by affecting digestion, storage, utilization and excretion of nutrients.
How does alcohol consumption do this?
· It inhibits the breakdown of nutrients by decreasing the amount of digestive enzymes in system
· It damages the cells lining the stomach and disables transport of some nutrients into the blood
· Nutritional deficiencies lead to further absorption problems
· It interferes with the body’s control of blood glucose levels
Nutrients are essential for the body’s proper functioning – vitamins, minerals, proteins are the tools the body needs to perform properly. Heavy alcohol consumption disrupts this by creating nutritional deficiencies.
o Alcohol impairs absorption and utilization of many vitamins, especially fat-soluble ones because fat absorption is disrupted. Therefore Vitamins A, E and D are absorbed improperly. Vitamin A deficiency is associated with night blindness and Vitamin D deficiency is associated with softening of the bones.
o Other vitamins such as Vitamins C, K and B vitamins are also deficient in heavy drinkers. These are necessary for tissue and wound repair and neurological function.
o Calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc deficiencies are common in individuals with problematic drinking. These occur due to poor fat absorption, increased urinary excretion, diarrhea and other absorption losses.
It may be a wise idea to take a daily multivitamin to correct these deficiencies. Eating well and hydrating often are also important habits to form.