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Home :: Alcoholism :: Effects of Alcoholism

Alcoholism Disease - Causes, Signs & Symptoms And Alcoholism Treatment

With an estimated 75 percent of the American population consuming alcohol, it is hardly a surprise that one out of ten people suffers adverse consequences of alcohol consumption. Alcoholism is a chronic condition marked by a dependence on ethanol (ethyl alcohol). This dependence can be physiological, psychological, or a combination of the two. There are two separate classes of alcohol-related problems: alcohol abuse, or "problem drinking," and alcohol dependence, or alcoholism. Problem drinkers use alcohol on a regular basis, and although they may need a degree of support or guidance, they are not as physically and/ or emotionally dependent on the drug as chronic drinkers, or alcoholics. We will use the term alcoholism loosely below for practical purposes, but it is important to remember this distinction.

Causes of alcoholism

The cause of alcoholism is not well established. There is growing evidence for genetic and biologic predispositions for this disease, but this research is controversial. Studies examining adopted children have shown that children of alcoholic biological parents have an increased risk of becoming alcoholics. Usually, a variety of factors contribute to the development of a problem with alcohol. Social factors such as the influence of family, peers, and society, and the availability of alcohol, and psychological factors such as elevated levels of stress, inadequate coping mechanisms, and reinforcement of alcohol use from other drinkers can contribute to alcoholism. Also, the factors contributing to initial alcohol use may vary from those maintaining it, once the disease develops.

Sign and symptoms of alcoholism

This signs and symptom information for Alcoholism has been gathered from various sources, may not be fully accurate, and may not be the full list of Alcoholism signs or Alcoholism symptoms. Furthermore, signs and symptoms of Alcoholism may vary on an individual basis for each patient.

  • Damage of liver.
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of control: The inability to limit one's drinking on any given occasion.
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Heavy menstrual flow

There are many other health consequences of alcoholism as well. Alcoholics often experience damage to their peripheral nervous systems. This damage may show up initially as a loss of sensation in the hands or feet, with an accompanying difficulty in walking. Chronic drinking also causes inflammation of the pancreas. This further hampers the body's ability to digest fats and other nutrients, and can lead to diabetes. Alcoholics face an increased risk of mouth, furoat, and stomach cancer due to the direct toxicity of the alcohol. The risk of liver, colon, and breast cancer may also be heightened by alcohol abuse. Smoking, which often goes band-in-hand with drinking, increases the risk of cancer by as much as 50 percent. Problem drinkers may also experience high blood pressure, reduced testosterone production, visible dilation of blood vessels just beneath the skin's surface, and pathological enlargement of the heart that can progress to congestive heart failure.

The social consequences of alcoholism can be very destructive as well. Alcohol abuse takes a tremendous toll on society through traffic and other accidents, poor job performance, and emotional damage to entire families.

Drinking during pregnancy is particularly dangerous. The consumption of alcohol during pregnancy can cause birth defects and increases the chance of miscarriage. Alcohol passes through the mother's placenta and into the fetal circulation This toxic substance depresses the central nervous system of the fetus. Further, the fetal liver must try to metabolize the alcohol, but since the fetus's liver is not fully developed, the alcohol remains in the fetal circulation. Women who drink during pregnancy generally give birth in babies with lower birth weights. Their growth may be retarded or stunted; their brains may be smaller than normal, and they may be of lower than normal intelligence, or even suffer mental retardation. Limbs, joints, fingers, and facial features may be deformed. Heart and kidney defects, and abnormalities of the skin, may occur. Some children exposed to alcohol in utero become hyperactive at adolescence and exhibit learning disabilities. Every drink a pregnant woman consumes increases her child's risk of being born with fetal alcohol syndrome, and also increases the chance of miscarriage. Even moderate amounts of alcohol may be harmful, especially in the first three to four months of pregnancy.

Alcoholics who stop drinking often experience withdrawal symptoms, especially during the first week or so that they abstain from alcohol. Insomnia, visual and auditory hallucinations, convulsions, acute anxiety, a rapid pulse, profuse perspiration, and fever can occur. With time and appropriate supervision, these symptoms pass and the alcoholic is set free to begin the lifelong work of recovery.

Dietary supplements, while important for everyone, are especially vital for alcoholics. Alcoholics need to supplement all the known vitamins and minerals. Evidence has shown that some of the diseases associated with alcoholism may be avoided by improving the nutritional health of the body. The program outlined below is designed to help recovering alcoholics to improve their nutritional condition. There are also some supplements that help with the psychological aspects of recovery by decreasing the desire for alcohol. You should begin with a high-potency multivitamin and mineral complex, and then add the nutrients listed below that are not included in the complex.

Natural alcoholism treatment

Suggested dosage
Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) 100 mg 3 times daily. Aids the body in alcohol detoxification. Needed to counteract stress
Vitamin B1 200 mg 3 times daily. Alcoholics often are deficient in B vitamins, especially B1.
Calcium and magnesium 2,000 mg daily, at bedtime.
1,000 mg daily, at bedtime daily.
A vital mineral that has a sedative effects.
Works with calcium. Magnesium is depleted from the body with alcohol use.
  • Alfalfa is a good source of needed minerals.
  • Burdock root and red clover cleanse the bloodstream.
  • Dandelion root and silymarin (milk thistle extract) help to repair damage done to the liver. Silymarin acts as a powerful antioxidant.
  • Some programs, such as Moderation Management, are available to help problem drinkers (not true alcoholics) reduce their drinking without completely stopping. This program entails a thirty-day abstinence period. After that, you may consume no more than four drinks a day and no more than fourteen drinks per week (three per day and nine per week for women).
  • For true alcohol addicts, more stringent programs like those offered at Virginia alcoholism treatment centers and other similar facilities in other parts of the US are the recommended course.
  • Valerian root has a calming effect. It is best taken at bed­time.
  • Eat a nutrient-dense diet of fresh whole foods, organically grown if possible, and follow the nutritional supplement program outlined above. Your primary foods should be raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
  • As much as possible, avoid stress. Cultivate patience; this will be needed for the long, slow road to recovery.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid, a powerful antioxidant, has been used successfully to treat alcohol-induced liver damage. It aids in protecting the liver and pancreas from alcoholic damage.

Considerations and prevention tips

  • Poor nutrition can enhance the adverse effects of ethanol. Alcoholics are at much greater risk of malnutrition than other people, since as much as 50 percent of their caloric intake may come from ethanol at the expense of other nutritious foods. Alcoholics are commonly deficient in folic acid, and mal absorption due to pancreatic insufficiency is often a major problem.
  • Department of Health and Human Services study showed that tobacco smokers and alcohol drinkers who regularly use high-alcohol mouthwash may be more likely than other people to get oral and pharyngeal cancers.
  • Chronic alcohol consumption alters red blood cell membranes and causes various other types of cells, including gastrointestinal cells, to lose their normal flexibility.
  • Avoid people, things, and places that are associated with drinking. Make new friendships with people who do not drink. Taking up a hobby, becoming involved in sports, exercising promote self-esteem and provide a productive outlet for energy.
  • Avoid saturated fats and fried foods, which put stress on the liver. For essential fatty acids, use primrose oil supplements plus small amounts of cold-pressed organic vegetable oils.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid, a powerful antioxidant, has been used successfully to treat alcohol-induced liver damage. It aids in protecting the liver and pancreas from alcoholic damage.
  • Limiting one's drinking to beer or wine does not protect against alcoholism or damage from alcohol. Twelve ounces of beer or 5 ounces of wine is comparable in alcohol to 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. Because it is more concentrated, straight liquor is absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly than beer and wine are.
  • "Hangovers" are thought to be caused by a combination of several factors, including dehydration, overeating. and disturbed sleep. Even small amounts of alcohol can sometimes cause unpleasant side effects the next morning in some individuals. Usually, the best remedy includes rest and rehydration. Drinking a large glass of water before retiring and another in the morning may help take the edge off "the morning after." Taking over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxin, or aspirin before hangover symptoms begin sometimes helps with the headache; however, extreme caution must be used, as they are not risk-free. When combined with alcohol, these medications may irritate your stomach and can even be toxic to the liver. This is why there is now a required warning label on over-the-counter painkillers, and medications that contain them, cautioning against using them if you consume more than three alcoholic drinks per day. Mixing alcohol with any medication is not recommended.

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