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Dr. Sidney Cohen, a drug abuse expert, described alcohol as "the most dangerous drug on earth". There are a variety of drinking patterns and the range of injury among alcohol abusers is great. Some are mildly injured and can recover on their own with the right tools and techniques. Others are critically injured and need hospitalization and prolonged rehabilitation with custodian supervision.
We compare the heavy drinker with an injured person - the body is damaged and must heal. The damage is done by the toxic effects of alcoholic beverages (AB), by nutrient deficiencies and by other adverse effects of the wrong food such as food allergy. Heavy drinkers tend to starve - they eat little or have limited, inferior food choices. They have used up their nutrient stores and are often drawing on their own tissues for fuel
The Negative Effects of alcohol abuse include
Water loss: There is rapid water loss (diuresis) within the first several hours of AB ingestion due to decreased secretion of antidiuretic hormone, a pituitary peptide.
Electrolyte Depletion: Depletion of tissue magnesium (the serum magnesium level may not be reduced). Replacement of magnesium deficits is a recognized part of treatment of post-intoxication states. Hypocalcemia may also result from magnesium depletion by reducing parathyroid hormone-induced mobilization of calcium from bone. Reduced serum phosphate may lead to muscle weakness and degeneration.
Vitamin Deficiency: Folate deficiency occurs in the majority of binge-drinking alcoholics and is a common cause of anemia. Inadequate dietary intake, intestinal malabsorption, and impaired folate storage in the liver all contribute to folate deficiency. Alcohol ingestion also interferes with vitamin B12 absorption. Deficiencies of the two vitamins cause large-cell (megaloblastic) anemia.
Thiamine deficiency may occur in long-term alcohol users as a consequence of both inadequate ingestion and malabsorption of the vitamin. With severe deficiency, major brain disturbance or alcoholic psychosis emerges (Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome). The brain dysfunction is global, with disordered thinking, feeling, remembering, and disturbed motor coordination. Thiamine replacement corrects the grosser dysfunctions of the brain and it has been proposed that alcoholic beverages be fortified with thiamine as a means of preventing this syndrome.
Pyridoxine: (B6) metabolism is disturbed by the process of alcohol oxidation, contributing to anemia. Pellagra, or niacin deficiency, is common in chronic alcoholics. Pellagra is recognized by the three D's: Diarrhea, Dermatitis, and Dementia.
Vitamin A storage is commonly decreased in alcohol-induced liver disease. With ABAB, protein-calorie malnutrition often occurs. Liver disease may lead to low blood protein and decreased serum levels of branched-chain amino acids.
Micronutrient Deficiency: Trace element metabolism may be disordered with regular AB input. Alcohol may increase the urinary loss of zinc and the gastrointestinal absorption of iron. Zinc deficiency aggravates vitamin A deficiency, since zinc is needed in the transformation of vitamin A into its active form. Contamination of beer with arsenic or cobalt has caused death from heart failure.
Liver damage is the best known result of alcohol abuse. The liver will swell with acute intoxication, sometimes painfully, and will show fatty infiltration and enlargement if AB ingestion continues regularly. With excessive AB over many years, the ravaged liver becomes scarred, shrunken, and relatively non-functional. This end-stage cirrhosis is associated with the yellow, demented alcoholic, belly swollen with water (ascites).
Pancreatitis is a consequence of alcoholism. Alcohol stimulates pancreatic secretion. Malnutrition with deficiencies of protein and vitamins contributes to chronic pancreatic dysfunction. Impairment of pancreatic enzyme production spoils digestion and contributes to malabsorption of nutrients. Decreased insulin production may cause or aggravate diabetes.
Alcoholic beverages contribute to malnutrition by replacing foods needed for essential nutrients and by interfering with absorption, storage or metabolism of the essential nutrients. Ethanol may suppress appetite and consumption of food. In some individuals, however, AB's trigger excessive eating instead. Food choices follow an addictive pattern, with nutrient deficiencies based on poor food choices. Bowel distension and diarrhea are common GIT effects and are correlated with increased brain disturbances. The increased absorption of undigested proteins sets the stage for all the food "allergic" diseases.
You are at Alpha Online, the host of the Alcohol Solutions Center. Topics are from the book Alcohol Problems and Solutions by Stephen Gislason MD. Quotations from this online resource should cite the book, Author, Date of the current book version, 2011, and the website URL http://www.nutramed.com/alcohol/
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