Alcohol and Nutrition

The Relationship between Alcohol and Nutrition

The body needs certain nutrients in order to function properly. Poor nutrition leads to ill-health. A balanced diet is made up of all the key components needed by the body to do its job properly. Those who abuse alcohol often fail to get sufficient nutrition. Many of the diseases associated with substance abuse will have malnutrition as at least a contributing factor. It is important for anyone who consumes alcohol to have an understanding of the relationship between alcohol and nutrition.

The Importance of Good Nutrition

Humans need food because it provides them with energy and the chemicals they need to keep the body working and in good repair. The body requires different substances in varying amounts. The nutrients that people need in their diet are:

* Carbohydrates are sugars and these can be simple or complex. This nutrient is required because it provides energy.
* Protein is made up of different amino acids. All the tissue in the body is made up using amino acids, and it is also required for repairing damaged structures.
* Fats is another source of energy in the body. It can act as stored energy. Fat in the body can also offer a protective cushion for organs and help keep people warm.
* Minerals are inorganic compounds that are needed by the body to assist with certain functions such as blood cell formation.
* Vitamins are required because they play a role in different chemical processes.
* Water is the most abundant substance in the human body. The body will not be able to survive for long without regular fluid intake.

If the body does not get the food it needs, it can lead to a situation called malnutrition. Even if the individual is consuming plenty of calories, they can still suffer from malnutrition if they are missing any of the vital components in their diet. If this situation is allowed to continue, it can lead to permanent damage to their health.

Alcohol Metabolism

The body does not require alcohol. Instead, it is treated like a toxin that needs to be removed before it can cause damage to cells. When an individual drinks alcohol, the body gives priority to metabolizing alcohol. This means that other digestive processes are stopped while the alcohol is dealt with. Most of the detoxification of alcohol occurs in the liver. This organ works hard to make alcohol safe.

The extent of intoxication from alcohol depends on blood alcohol levels. The higher the blood alcohol level, the more intoxicated people will feel. Alcohol absorption is affected by body weight, sex, race, age, and, of course, the amount of alcohol that has been consumed, and over what period of time. Individuals who are on certain medications may become intoxicated faster.

Alcohol and Nutrition

The use of alcohol can interfere with the ability of the individual to meet their nutritional needs. Drinking small amounts of alcohol may bring certain health benefits, but there can be dietary problems related to even a modest intake. Over consumption of alcohol can negatively impact nutrition in a number of ways such as:

* Malnutrition due to the calories in alcohol replacing calories from more wholesome food. The individual replaces food with alcohol and this means that they miss out on important nutrients. Chronic alcoholics may get at least half their calories each day from alcohol instead of food.
* Alcohol also_ impairs normal digestion of nutrients _. It does this by causing damage to cells in the digestive tract and by interfering with the secretion of enzymes needed for digestion. Alcohol can also impede the ability of the liver to store important vitamins. It has also been shown that drinking too much can prevent the body from absorbing enough protein.
* Too much alcohol can lead to obesity. There are a lot of empty calories in alcohol. If the individual is drinking a lot on top of their normal diet, it could lead to them becoming overweight.

Malnutrition due to alcohol abuse can lead to a number of serious health complications such as:

* Pancreatitis
* Alcoholic liver disease
* Stomach ulcers
* Impotence
* Increased risk of cancer and heart disease
* Mental health problems

It is also reported that drinking too much alcohol can lead to other chronic conditions such as diabetes.

How to Avoid Nutritional Problems Caused by Alcohol

It is possible to enjoy alcohol without developing nutritional problems. If the following guidelines are respected, then it should never become an issue:

* Those who are unable to control their intake should avoid alcohol completely. If the individual is alcohol dependent, they may need assistance to quit. Lifetime abstinence will be the only solution in a lot of cases.
* The recommended amount of alcohol is 2 units for men and 1 unit for women per day_. Those who consume above the recommend level are at risk of nutritional and other problem. People should not “save up” their daily units so that they can drink a lot in one session.
* People who are overweight should avoid alcohol as it contains too many empty calories. This means that it can lead to weight increase without providing any nutritional value.
* It is important that people avoid drinking alcohol on an empty stomach. This is because the presence of food in the digestive system will help reduce the rate of alcohol absorption.
* Young people and pregnant women should avoid alcohol completely. There is also evidence that tolerance will decrease as people get older. Those who are taking certain medications will be advised to refrain from drink.

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