Deciding to get sober was the best decision you ever made, and it’s important to keep that in mind through the challenge of detoxification. Your system needs to cleanse itself of toxic chemicals while healing the damage that alcohol addiction has inflicted on your brain and body. It won’t be easy, but it is the first, crucial step to reclaiming your life from addiction. Below we have outlined the six foods to eat while detoxing from Alcohol.
During the detox phase of your recovery from alcohol addiction, it is especially important to take excellent care of your health through quality medical care, good sleep, and regular exercise. A healthy diet that includes all the best foods to eat while detoxing from alcohol is also essential. Getting healthy physically is absolutely essential to getting healthy mentally, and psychologically. Your body needs the right fuel to sustain your recovery, and the right building blocks to repair your body and brain.
Detoxing at Home
If you are detoxing at home, you should expect to stay house-bound for the first week, or at least for the first few days, when withdrawal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, headache, depression, anxiety, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, tremor, and jumpiness will likely be at their peak.
Stock up on enough supplies to last through the early stages of detox. You won’t feel up to running out to the grocery store during this time, and it’s better to avoid the temptation to start drinking again by keeping yourself away from places that sell alcohol.
Prepare for a successful home detox by making sure you have the right foods to eat while detoxing from alcohol on hand from the very first day you give up drinking.
Six Foods to Eat While Detoxing from Alcohol
1. Water is Essential for Detox
Although not technically a food, water is one of the most vital elements of a healthy diet, especially for alcoholics. Any alcohol detox should begin with a focus on water and proper hydration. Alcohol dehydrates your body, but because it is a liquid, alcoholics rarely feel the need to actually drink it. This puts you in a state of chronic dehydration. Not only is dehydration harmful to your health, putting you at risk of kidney disease and seizure, unpleasant symptoms of dehydration such as fatigue and confusion will only compound the alcohol withdrawal symptoms you’re already suffering.
Another reason water is key during the detox phase of your recovery is that your body needs water to flush toxins from your system. You cannot properly detox from alcohol while you are in a dehydrated state. If you aren’t a big fan of plain water, try drinking it with a splash of fruit juice. Sports drinks and coconut water are also good choices.
If you’re feeling nauseous, which is common in the early stages of alcohol withdrawal, carry a refillable water bottle with you at all times, taking small sips at regular intervals. This will keep you hydrated without overwhelming your stomach with too much liquid all at once.
2. Vegetables: Start with Broth-Based Soups
Alcohol affects your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. This includes the fat that is necessary for you to absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K, which are vital for a healthy immune system. Alcohol also inhibits your absorption of B vitamins, such as folic acid, B-12, and thiamin, which you need to convert food into energy, and to create new, healthy cells to replace the cells that have been damaged by your addiction.
Vegetables to eat while detoxing from alcohol:
- Salad Greens
- Collard Greens
- Bell Peppers
- Tip: Start with broth-based soups
All vegetables are important, but green leafy vegetables like kale, salad greens, broccoli, spinach, and collard greens are especially useful foods to eat while detoxing from alcohol. Not only are they rich in folic acid, B6, and Vitamin K, they are excellent sources of iron, and are more calcium-rich than milk.
Minerals like calcium and iron are absorbed more efficiently when you pair them with Vitamin-C rich foods, so drinking orange juice with your greens, or cooking them with lemon, bell peppers, or tomatoes can increase their nutritional punch.
You may have difficulty keeping food down for the first 24 to 72 hours of detox, so try getting some of your vegetables in broth-based soups. Not only are they lighter on your stomach, but the high water content will provide you with additional hydration.
3. Fruit Provides Lighter Food Options
Your appetite may be quite low in the early days of detox, but it is important that you still eat enough to maintain your strength and fuel the detoxing and rebuilding process that your body is undergoing. Fruit is a light food that may appeal to your taste buds when the thought of heavier food turns your stomach.
Fruit to eat while detoxing from alcohol:
- Fruits high in Vitamin C
- Tip: Start with fruit juices
Fruit is an excellent source of the nutrients you need to get healthy, such as Vitamin C, folic acid, and Vitamin K, as well as fiber and water. They also contain a range of antioxidants to help prevent and repair cell damage. To make sure you get the widest range of vitamins and antioxidants possible, eat as many different colors of fruit as you can. This rule applies to vegetables as well. When it comes to buying produce, the more colors of the rainbow you bring home to eat, the better.
Fruit is also packed with healthy sugars. Alcohol contains a lot of sugar and you may find yourself experiencing strong cravings for sweets after giving up drinking. Fruit is a healthier way to satisfy your sweet tooth than processed sugar, which can cause a host of health problems from inflammation to diabetes. Try not to give into the urge to binge on sweets, but don’t attempt to give up processed sugar right now—giving up alcohol is enough of a challenge.
Desserts that combine fruit with more decadent ingredients can be excellent an way to satisfy sugar cravings while still taking care of your health—far better to eat a big bowl of strawberries topped with chocolate syrup and whipped cream than down a whole sleeve of chocolate chip cookies in one sitting.
4. Proteins Replenish Healthy Bacteria
Many alcoholics are protein-deficient, as well as lacking in muscle tone due to poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle. You need quality protein to repair your body, and to build up the physical and mental strength necessary for a successful recovery. Protein-rich foods to eat while detoxing from alcohol, as well as for general good health, include fish, lean meats, eggs, and dairy, as well as plant proteins like beans, lentils, quinoa, and tofu.
Proteins to eat while detoxing from alcohol:
Yogurt and kefir are excellent sources of protein that also provide probiotics to replenish the healthy bacteria in your gut. Numerous studies have shown that improving gut health has a dramatic, positive impact on mental health.
Fish such as tuna, halibut, mackerel and salmon not only provide protein but are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to growth and development and lower your risk of disease. Most importantly, omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to brain function, both in regards to cognition (memory and performance), and behavioral health. Omega-3 fatty acids help you think clearly, make good choices, and stay in a more positive frame of mind—in other words, they help fuel your brain for addiction recovery.
5. Complex Carbohydrates Help You Maintain Energy
Carbs have gotten a bad reputation in recent years. The good kinds of carbohydrates—the complex ones like whole grain bread, rice, beans, and potatoes—are essential to your health, and should not be confused with simple carbs like sugar and white flour, which have a negative effect on your energy levels, insulin, and blood sugar.
Carbs to eat while detoxing from alcohol:
- Whole grains
- Complex carbohydrates
- Brown rice
Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains have fiber and will help you feel more satisfied after meals. Complex carbs also give you energy, both physical and mental. Avoid low-carb diets while detoxing from alcohol. They will make you feel sluggish and depleted while also giving you brain fog—pretty much the opposite of what you need while recovering from alcohol abuse.
6. Cayenne pepper and Turmeric
It may sound strange to recommend spices on a list of foods to eat while detoxing from alcohol, but both cayenne pepper and turmeric have been shown to reduce alcohol cravings, counteract inflammation, and improve brain function. Turmeric also soothes the stomach, protects your cells from free radicals, and helps your body rid itself of the toxins you need to flush out during detox. You can take supplements containing cayenne pepper and turmeric, but it is more affordable, enjoyable and nutritionally beneficial to simply cook with them.
The Pros and Cons of Supplements
What about taking vitamin and mineral supplements to speed up the rate at which you replenish your body’s depleted nutrients?
Vitamin, mineral, and fish oil supplements can be a good way to make sure you get all the essential building blocks for your recovery, especially if you’re having trouble eating enough food. Consider asking your doctor what supplements they would recommend, and stock up on those at the same time that you stock up on foods to eat while detoxing from alcohol. On the other hand, the nutrients in supplements are always inferior to the nutrients you get directly from food. It’s much better to get what you need from your diet.
Also, don’t buy into the misapprehension that because vitamins and minerals are good for you, high doses will super-charge your health. Best case scenario, that kind of thinking will give you very expensive urine, as you pee out all the excess water-soluble vitamins that your body is unable to process. Worst-case scenario, you will develop supplement-induced health complications, such as fibrosis from too much Vitamin A, or joint pain and depression from too much iron. Overdosing on minerals and fat-soluble vitamins can be very dangerous.
Follow the Detox Plan That is Right for You
Although many people successfully detox from alcohol at home, you may be better off checking into an alcohol or detox treatment center with 24/7 medical monitoring if you are at risk of developing more serious withdrawal symptoms.
If you have been dependent on alcohol for ten or more years, or have been heavily drinking (1.8 to 2.4 liters of wine, 3.3 to 3.8 liters of beer, or 1/2 liter of liquor every day) in the months previous to giving up alcohol, you are at risk of experiencing an incredibly dangerous form of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens, also known as DTs.
Symptoms of delirium tremens usually begin within 48 to 96 hours after your last alcoholic drink but can appear as late as 10 days after you give up drinking. Symptoms include:
- Delirium (sudden, severe confusion)
- Body tremors
- Changes in mental function
- Agitation and irritability
- Deep sleep that lasts for a day or longer
- Excitement or fear
- Quick mood changes
- Restlessness and excitement
- Sensitivity to light, sound, and touch
- Stupor, sleepiness, and fatigue
- Seizures, which can be fatal if left untreated
Once these symptoms appear, they can worsen very quickly, so you should seek immediate medical help if you suspect you are experiencing DTs.
While the preceding list is presented as foods to eat while detoxing from alcohol, don’t give up these good eating habits once your withdrawal symptoms have passed. All of these foods should become a regular part of your diet to support lifelong good health.
Managing addiction is an ongoing practice, and there will always be tough times or potential triggers in your life to tempt you to start drinking again. You should keep your body and brain as healthy as possible so that you will have the necessary strength to turn away from alcohol and towards healthy coping skills such as visualization, exercise, or attending an AA meeting.
Be Patient with Yourself
Keep in mind that some symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can linger for a year or more—improving, yes, but not entirely going away. These symptoms include difficulty sleeping, fatigue, and mood swings. Be patient with yourself and understand that the way you feel is sometimes beyond your control. Focus instead on what is under your control, such as seeking recovery support, taking care of your physical and emotional needs, and maintaining your health.
If you or your loved one is suffering from alcohol addiction, understand that help is available and nearby. Call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 800-654-0987 to speak with a caring addictions counselor who can discuss your options for local alcohol detox centers ready to guide you along the path to lifelong sobriety.