Discover how vitamins can reduce cravings and other unwanted symptoms related to alcohol withdrawal.
Quitting drinking alcohol can be a nightmare. You get hit from two sides: there’s the physical addiction in the first few days which can wreak havoc on your body. Then there’s the ongoing mental addiction that tugs away at you every day you go without; trying desperately to entice you back into your former bad habit.
Don’t take the decision to quit drinking lightly. I strongly urge heave drinkers to seek medical advice before going cold turkey.
Cravings and withdrawal symptoms can be very “persuasive” at getting you back to your bad old habits. Supplements can play a big role in helping get your body back on track. They may be the difference between successfully staying off alcohol long-term and hitting the bottle again.
This is a long article and can either be read in its entirety or use the table of contents above to skip to a supplement you’re interested in.
Acute withdrawal symptoms
Acute withdrawal occurs in the first week and common symptoms include:
- anxiety and depression
- sleeping difficulty
In more extreme cases the symptoms can be even worse. Delirium tremens (DT) are less common but can cause nasty side effects such as confusion, shaking, sweating and irregular heartbeat.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)
Not everyone will experience PAWS. For those that do experience symptoms, it can last anywhere from a few days through to years in extreme cases.
- Extreme anxiety
- Hyper emotional and/or no emotion at all
- Poor sleep patterns
- Problems concentrating
- Memory loss
- Poor cognitive function
- Dizziness and balance issues
If you want more information about this subject check out my PAWS guide.
But wait, help is at hand!
Fortunately, there are options you can take to reduce the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Meditation, counselling, group meet-ups, exercise and healthy eating are all excellent strategies for aiding your recovery.
Depending on the duration and severity of your drinking, your body is likely to be depleted of certain chemicals. This makes your symptoms worse. That’s where a quality supplement can be a big help.
This article is all about helping anyone who’s quitting alcohol have a smoother journey. I’ll run you through some of the best alcohol withdrawal vitamins and how they help your body recuperate.
A quick few lines about my withdrawals
When I gave up back in 2016 the acute symptoms weren’t actually that bad. I was lucky because I’d been drinking most days of the week for around 25 years. Unfortunately I wasn’t so lucky with the post-acute withdrawals – they were so nasty I was convinced I had a degenerative neuro disease. Loss of feeling in my legs at night, constant brain fog, bad memory loss to name a few. The symptoms were relentless and drove me to the point that I actually wanted to drink again! Luckily I chose another path, sobriety.
I had a good job and a family that needed me to remain functional. I couldn’t tolerate the ongoing symptoms so I went uber healthy. As mentioned above: meditation, counselling, exercise really helped my body get back to its old self. Another major contributing factor in my recovery was vitamin supplementation. These significantly reduced my symptoms and started to make me feel like a human again.
I didn’t start by buying every vitamin on the shelf and taking everything; instead I began to research alcohol withdrawal supplements. I was happy to discover there is a lot of research on this subject which made my job a lot easier. I could narrow down the potential products to 20 products and then test which worked best for me.
Best alcohol withdrawal vitamins
These products will help deal with the acute symptoms as well as PAWS. They can definitely make your life a lot more bearable and, for some, it could be the difference between permanently quitting alcohol or falling off the wagon.
How supplements help with withdrawals
Let’s cut to the chase, excessive alcohol isn’t good for you. It gradually depletes important nutrients from your body. Heavier drinkers will often have more issues with nutrition than low lever drinkers.
Are you a heavy drinker? For men, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 15 drinks or more per week. For women, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 8 drinks or more per week. Source.
You can take part in endless therapy, exercise and healthy eating but it won’t resolve your symptoms if your problem relates to your physiological makeup. You may need a supplement or, in some cases, a pharmaceutical drug to help.
Results may not be immediate
Keep in mind that symptom relief may not happen overnight when taking a vitamin. You didn’t deplete your body of its essential vitamins in 1 day, so don’t expect a full recovery in that time. Stick with your vitamin plan for at least a couple of weeks before assessing effectiveness.
But some vitamins may provide fast relief
There were a couple of vitamins I took that really helped my sense of wellbeing and made me feel amazing. Unfortunately these extreme feelings weren’t a long-term feeling – they plateaued; but it was certainly good while it lasted!
Your body is an extremely complicated piece of machinery which needs a combination of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids to keep it running at peak performance. They’re all important so don’t focus on one particular category.
- Vitamins and minerals
- Essential fatty acids
- Amino Acids
18 Supplements for Alcohol Recovery
Before you go out to the shops or jump online and buy every supplement available, it’s important to take a look at your symptoms. Are there any signs that give a clue as to what you’re lacking? Write down your symptoms in a journal to help. It’s also good to refer to a few months later to check what’s improved.
Have you consulted a Doctor? After you’ve quit drinking it’s a very good idea to see a Doctor and get a full examination. Your Doctor may also be able to offer some advice on nutritional supplements.
Alcoholics are often short on a range of vitamins as the excessive drinking causes leaching of many essential vitamins. Bad eating habits are common with heavy drinkers which exacerbates the problem.
“Among alcoholics, liver function impairment leads to altered serum vitamin A levels, which are related to brain alterations. Vitamin E levels are also decreased, although in relation with liver function impairment, its decrease seems to be more dependent on nutritional status and irregular eating habits.” Research Source.
Choosing a high quality multivitamin is essential for replacing the missing essentials. During alcohol recovery, cravings can be strong; however, these may actually be food cravings which are mistaken for alcohol cravings.
From my experience, I have found sports focused multivitamins work very well. They are designed for athletes who sweat out many essential nutrients and tend to be more effective.
Brand I Recommend: PositivHealth Whole Food Multivitamin
2. B Vitamins
Vitamin B is essential for normal functioning of the nervous system and brain. It is extremely important for helping deal with withdrawal symptoms.
When looking for a good Vitamin B choose a B complex which includes B1, B3 (niacin), B5, B6.
Symptoms of Vitamin B deficiencies include
- Digestive issues
Foods to assist with Vitamin B include meats, grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Brand I Recommend: Pure Encapsulations – B-Complex Plus
3. Vitamin C
Vitamin C plays a major role repairing cells damaged by excessive alcohol consumption. It also helps the body cope with the withdrawal symptoms.
You can look to take a dedicated Vitamin C supplement or choose a good multi vitamin that includes vitamin C.
Brand I recommend: NOW Vitamin C-1000 Sustained Release
4. Vitamin D3
Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, has been shown to be very low in recovering alcoholics. It encourages the kidneys to recycle phosphate back into the blood, which helps the blood stay at the right ph. It is a steroid hormone used in many other processes throughout the body.
How Vitamin D3 assists with withdrawal symptoms
- Reduces fatigue
- Alleviates stress
- Reduces depression
Other sources of Vitamin D3
- Salmon, mackerel, cod
- Egg yolks
- Shitake mushrooms
The best source of Vitamin D3 is sunlight. Studies have shown it is best absorbed between 10am – 2pm. However, this is an issue as it is recommended to wear sunscreen during these hours and sunscreen blocks the positive effects of Vitamin D3.
Brand I Recommend: Bronson Vitamin D3 10,000 IU
Magnesium is a mineral and is responsible for the activation of over 300 enzymes in the body. It is crucial to our well-being and is involved in almost every process in your body, from hormone processing through to muscle movement and relaxation.
“The effect of alcohol on magnesium levels is similar to the effect of diuretics: it lowers magnesium available to the cells by increasing the excretion of magnesium by the kidneys. In studies, clinical magnesium deficiency was found in 30% of alcoholics.” Irwin R, Rippe J. Irwin and Rippe’s Intensive Care Medicine. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins; 2008.
Low magnesium levels can cause
- Chronic fatigue
- Muscle spasms and cramps,
- Irregular heart rhythms
Special tip: Epsom salts and magnesium supplement intake can result is a wonderful night’s sleep. Something that eludes many recovering alcoholics.
Not all magnesium supplements are created equally
Magnesium oxide: Commonly found in stores, this supplement is bonded to oxygen and is the least absorbed form but also highly concentrated so it may be the highest absorbed magnesium per mg.
Magnesium glycinate: This magnesium is bonded to the amino acid glycine. This is excellent for relaxation and mental calm – the holy grail for many recovering alcoholics!
Magnesium taurate: Not so commonly found, magnesium taurate is commonly taken for heart function.
Magnesium L-threonate: This type of magnesium is capable of crossing the blood brain barrier. This is important for assisting with a good night’s sleep and for alleviating cognitive symptoms like memory loss.
Brand I Recommend: MagSRT – Jigsaw Magnesium
6. Omega 3
Omega 3 supplements are hugely beneficial for recovering alcoholics in assisting with brain tissue regeneration and nervous system function.
Low Omega 3 levels can cause
- Poor concentration
- Memory issues
- Mood swings
Natural sources of Omega 3 include oily fresh fish, canned fish, canola oil, flaxseed oil and soybean oil.
Fish or Krill oil is an excellent Omega 3 supplement. Avoid supplements with added filler oils.
Brand I Recommend: Dr. Tobias Omega 3 Fish Oil Triple Strength
“Evidence from literature and our experiment suggests that brain activity, especially the glutamatergic system, might be directly involved in micronutrient concentrations. Therefore, their supplementation to the AWS patient might improve symptom evolution.” Research source.
Glutamine, an amino acid, is depleted by consumption of alcohol.
Symptoms of low glutamine
- Alcohol cravings
- Poor immune system
- Restless sleep
Glutamine supplements are an excellent option for reducing alcohol cravings.
Other sources of glutamine include beef, chicken, fish, dairy, eggs and green leafy vegetables.
Brand I Recommend: AMRAP Nutrition L-Glutamine Powder
“Tyrosine is a nonessential amino acid the body makes from another amino acid called phenylalanine. It is an essential component for the production of several important brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, including epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. “ Source.
Low L-Tyrosine can cause
- Memory problems
- High levels of stress
L-Tyrosine works as a natural antidepressant. Meyers S. Use of neurotransmitter precursors for treatment of depression. Altern Med Rev. 2000;5(1):64-71.
Brand I Recommend: Now Foods L-Tyrosine 750 Milligrams
5-HTP is a naturally occurring amino acid that is used to replenish serotonin, a chemical that contributes to feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Serotonin is often found to be lacking in alcoholics which may be a cause of poor sleep, anxiety and depression.
L-5-hydroxytriptophan offers alleviation of alcohol withdrawal symptoms in patients starting a detoxification therapy: see the research here.
5-HTP differs from antidepressants in the following way: 5-HTP increases your supply of serotonin; antidepressants block the reuptake of serotonin molecules.
It is recommended to take B Complex as your body needs B6 to convert 5-HTP into serotonin. Consult a Doctor if you’re unsure about which supplements will work best for you.
Brand I Recommend: 5-HTP 200 mg Supplement
L-Theanine is a natural amino acid primarily found in plant and fungal species. A popular source of this amino acid can be found in green tea. Theanine provides a unique broth or savory flavor to green tea infusions. Source.
A major benefit of taking L-Theanine is that it reduces stress and can create a relaxing effect without the side effect of drowsiness. This is an excellent supplement to take to relieve the acute withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol as well as PAWS.
L-Theanine is also believed to release a relaxing neurotransmitter, GABA, which is often depleted in alcoholics. This is thought to help reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Brand I Recommend: Superior Labs Pure L-Theanine
11. N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
NAC helps the body produce more glutathione which is often depleted after years of drinking alcohol heavily. Taking NAC can significantly reduce anxiety, a common symptom of alcohol withdrawal. Heavy drinkers that have liver damage may also benefit from NAC as it assists liver function.
Benefits of NAC include:
- Reduces anxiety
- Improves sleep
- Reduces inflammation
- Assists liver function
Brand I Recommend: Vital Nutrients – NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine)
12. Korean Red Ginseng
Korea’s secret superfood is a root known for its remarkable health benefits which includes boosting energy, promoting relaxation, lowering cholesterol and reducing stress.
Korean Red Ginseng attenuates anxiety-like behavior during ethanol withdrawal in rats. See the research here.
Brand I recommend: Asian Panax Korean Root Ginseng
13. Milk thistle
Milk thistle is widely known for its liver detox properties and is a good choice for many recovering alcoholics. It is also thought to offer additional benefits such as lowering cholesterol and offering anti-inflammatory properties.
Brand I Recommend: Gaia Herbs Milk Thistle Seed Liquid
14. Passion flower
Passionflower is a plant that has many health benefits and can be very helpful for reducing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
Benefits of passion flower
- Improves sleep
- Reduces anxiety
- Reduces high blood pressure
- Assists in pain relief
- Reduces inflammation
- Reduces muscle spasms
Brand I Recommend: Herb Pharm Certified Organic Passionflower
15. Rhodiola Rosea
This herb, also known as the “golden root”, is commonly used in Chinese and Scandinavian medicine and can improve cognitive functioning. It also helps restore energy levels through the restoration of adrenal health.
Recovering alcoholics often produce excess cortisol as the result of adrenal burnout. This medical issue can be alleviated through supplementing rhodiola rosea into your diet.
Brand I Recommend: Pure Rhodiola Rosea Supplement
The effect of ashwagandha on alcohol addiction in mice has shown promising anti-addictive potential. See the research here.
Ashwagandha is a natural herb, and works in a similar way to Rhodiola Rosea.
Benefits of Ashwagandha
- Assists adrenal and thyroid function
- Reduces blood sugar level
- Helps balance hormone levels
- Reduces cortisol levels (often high in recovering alcoholics)
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Alleviates depression
Brand I recommend: Organic Ashwagandha Vegetarian Capsules
17. Mucuna Pruriens
Mucina Pruriens is a tropical herb and is also known as velvet bean. For centuries it has been used to positively promote mental health and reduce stress. Modern studies have been shown to support ancient medicine such as this research.
Mucina Puriens help recovering alcoholics by increasing their supply of L-Dopa, a precursor to dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical produced in the brain which plays a major role in emotions, movement and sensations of pleasure and pain. Alcoholics tend to have depleted levels of dopamine so Mucina Puriens can play a big role in improving motivation and mood.
Brand I recommend: Mucuna Pruriens 40% L-dopa Extract
18. Kudzu Root
Kudzu root is derived from a vine and is well known for treating alcoholism. It is used to treat many health issues including headache, dizziness and muscle pain.
Studies have shown that Kudzu root extract suppresses voluntary alcohol intake and alcohol withdrawal symptoms in P rats receiving free access to water and alcohol. View the research here.
Brand I Recommend: Kudzu Root Extract Powder
A word about Benzodiazepines
I decided to include Benzodiazepines in this article for reference. Although not a supplement, it’s worth noting what these are and how they may be necessary for your recovery.
Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are a common choice of drug prescribed by Doctors for treating anxiety. They’re also prescribed to alcoholics, during detox stage, who have been drinking heavily for a prolonged period of time. They help prevent seizures during the acute withdrawal stage of quitting alcohol.
Benzodiazepines enhance the effect of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) at the GABAA receptor, resulting in sedative, hypnotic (sleep-inducing), anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), anticonvulsant, and muscle relaxant properties. Source.
Commonly prescribed benzos for alcohol withdrawal
- Ativan (Lorazepam)
- Librium (Chlordiazepoxide)
- Valium (Diazepam)
Giving up alcohol can be extremely difficult and for end stage heavy drinkers it isn’t a decision to be made lightly. For heavy drinkers, I strongly urge you to visit a health professional to get advice that is relevant to your circumstances. Everyone is different and has varying medical needs.
As you go through the acute and post-acute stages of withdrawal, there’s a very high probability that it won’t be smooth sailing. You could be hit by ups and downs, cravings, emotional lows and a range of other side affects you never would have expected.
There are strategies you can, and should, put in place to make your quitting alcohol easier. In addition to meditation, exercise, being social, counselling and healthy eating, you should consider taking supplements to help reduce withdrawal symptoms.
In 2018, there are a huge range of supplements available and there’s also a growing archive of medical research that is helping us better understand what works and what doesn’t. During my prolonged PAWS, I waded through much of the literature to better understand how I can fully recover. The supplements that worked well for me and countless other recovering alcoholics have been listed in this article. I hope it will help you make a speedy recovery so that you can get back to living a fun, happy life without all the cravings and other awkward, uncomfortable, energy draining symptoms.
Alcoholism is a biochemical disorder that can actually be fixed with the right supplements. Thankfully most natural supplements don’t have nasty side effects; in saying that, I do encourage you to see a Doctor for some professional advice as you research supplements. They can have adverse effects when taken with existing medications so play it safe!
Good luck with your withdrawals (hopefully there are none)
Kicking the booze is hard work, but the end result is well worth the effort, I assure you. The benefits of quitting drinking include saving money, no hangovers ever, more energy, less anxiety and much more. Throw yourself at ending your bad relationship with alcohol. It will be the best move you ever make and will change your life for the better.
What vitamins worked best for you in your recovery? Do you have a natural supplement I haven’t mentioned here that you think should be added? Add your suggestion below as I’m always on the lookout for new ideas to share here.
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