America — and arguably a large part of the world — is soaked in booze, making an alcohol detox challenging for those who fear they’ve crossed the line between party and problem.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States: 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffers from alcohol abuse or dependence. Meanwhile several million engage in risky, binge drinking patterns. Nearly every social gathering revolves around booze, from frat parties to one night stands, making alcohol difficult to resist even when you realize that it’s filled with sugar and offers no real benefits. Cutting back or kicking your alcohol habit completely may be crucial in restoring balance to your health and adding years to your life. An alcohol detox can help you do this.
Dangers Of Moderate Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol can directly damage the liver, intestines, colon, stomach, and esophagus while increasing the chances of developing a laundry list of cancers, in part due to its high sugar content. Dr. Robert Lustig proved in a 2015 study that sugar is “toxic irrespective of its calories and irrespective of its weight.” When you drink alcohol, your body reacts to it as a toxin and throws its energy into getting rid of it. This means that other processes are disrupted, including glucose production- – especially in the liver — and the hormones needed to regulate it. Interfering with the liver’s production of glucose can cause problems such as hypoglycemia. Alcohol also contains ethanol, a substance that can alter the mitochondrial structure, which plays an important role in alcohol metabolism. It can also affect the function of several organs, including the liver and the heart.
You don’t have to drink a lot of alcohol for it to have negative effects. Even moderate alcohol consumption can increase the risk for breast cancer, promote mental decline, and impact pregnancy. For instance, premenopausal women who consume 10 ounces (a small glass) of wine, an 8-ounce beer, or an ounce of hard liquor per day have a 5 percent greater chance of getting breast cancer. That number jumps to 9 percent for postmenopausal women, according to a report from the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund. And when you consider that roughly 12 percent of women in the United States and the United Kingdom will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetimes, that’s a significant increase in risk.
Further, researchers from the University of Oxford and University College London found that there is a correlation between moderate drinking and mental decline. Results of their 30-year study showed that people who consumed high levels of alcohol were at an increased risk for Hippocamal atrophy, a form of brain damage often associated with memory-loss conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia, and that moderate drinkers are three times as likely to have Hippocamal atrophy than people who didn’t drink.
Another new study showed that drinking small amounts of alcohol when pregnant could change a child’s features. Researchers found that alcohol affected face shape, specifically around the nose, eyes, and lips, when consumed throughout the pregnancy and in the first trimester.
Why An Alcohol Detox?
Despite its dangers, moderate and heavy alcohol consumption is sticking around. In 2015, millennials drank more than 42 percent of all wine in the US, according to a study from the Wine Market Council. Even the rise in popularity and legalization of recreational marijuana in the US hasn’t negatively impacted alcohol consumption and sales. Colorado tax records show that the two developed a pseudo symbiotic relationship, steadily increasing side-by-side.
If your “one drink” often turns into three or four, you could also be damaging your pancreas, tampering with your body’s sugar levels, reducing communication between your brain and your body, developing an emotional or physical dependency, putting yourself in danger of developing liver disease, and more. You could also be putting some nasty toxins in your body. For instance, a study found that 14 popular German beers are full of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s weed-killer Roundup, and it’s likely present in several other beers that have not been investigated.
Natural Alcohol Detox Methods
So, what can we do to combat the effects of consistent alcohol consumption? It all starts with an alcohol detox. This can be done in a hospital, but you’re guaranteed to be pumped with medications that are cross-tolerant with alcohol and come with their own set of risks such as benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety medications) and anticonvulsants. Thankfully, nature has come through for us once again by providing incredible herbs, plants, vitamins, and minerals like passion flower, milk thistle, vitamin B, and activated charcoal that facilitate a natural alcohol detox process. The following methods don’t reverse the damage of ongoing alcoholism. However, they can kickstart your health journey, whether you want to:
- Get over a hangover
- Cut back on occasional drinking
- Stop binge drinking
- Stop drinking completely
For people who drink occasionally or want to get rid of a hangover, pay attention to numbers two, three, five, and 10 below. For those targeting alcohol withdrawal symptoms from binge drinking, pay attention to numbers one, eight, and six. If you’re trying to quit completely, pay special attention to numbers four, five, seven, and nine. Never try to detox without medical supervision. A professional can help you decide what’s best for your body, and which combination of alcohol detox methods are right for you.
With that said, here are 10 natural alcohol detox methods:
1. Drink Passion Flower Tea
Many people experience insomnia and anxiety during an alcohol detox because when your body goes through a withdrawal of alcohol — a substance it’s used to functioning with and is often used as a way to self-medicate anxiety — your brain starts new chemicals and neurotransmitters that put extra stress on your brain function. Ultimately, this leads to anxiety which can cause restlessness and disrupted sleep patterns. Drinking passion flower tea or taking passion flower extract can improve quality of sleep and anxiety levels. Research shows that passion flower is an effective treatment for insomnia, and when combined with herbs like valerian, hops, and lemon balm is even more effective. High quality products such as these are from Native Remedies: PureCalm (with passion flower, lemon balm and lavender); Zen X (with passion flower, kava and St. John’s Wort) and for sound sleep: SerenitePlus (with passion flower, valerian and melatonin).
Another study found that passion flower helped alleviate anxiety associated with alcohol withdrawals. When researchers gave alcohol-addicted mice experiencing withdrawals passion flower extract, the mice’s withdrawal anxiety was reduced by 90 percent compared to mice that did not receive the extract.
2. Essential Oils
The first stages of your detoxification process will likely include fighting withdrawal. Janice Rosenthal, owner of Garden of Essences and aromatherapy expert, suggests using organic essential oils to soothe your experience. She recommends mixing 15 drops of grapefruit oil (which detoxifies the liver), 15 drops of fennel oil (which detoxifies the kidneys, skin, and digestive tract), and 4 ounces of Shea body butter and applying it to your upper abdomen, sides, and back. “This is a powerful home remedy, which works rapidly to detoxify the liver, as the essential oils permeate the skin and reach the liver’s bloodstream directly within half an hour,” Rosenthal explains.
3. B-complex vitamins
Drinking alcohol can cause your body to burn through B vitamins at a faster rate than normal. Replenishing your body with B-complex vitamins like B-1, B-3, and B-5 reduces alcohol withdrawal symptoms and aids in the detoxification process. Research shows that vitamin B-1, a vitamin that alcoholics are commonly deficient in, can help reduce fatigue and increase effective brain functioning, while vitamin B-5 helps get rid of the alcohol in your body and supports adrenal function. According to Dr. Alex Roher, M.D., vitamin B-3 can also relieve the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal like cravings and insomnia. “Niacin (vitamin B-3) can be especially effective in larger prescribed doses,” Roher says.
4. Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal is a powerful supplement that works to capture chemicals and toxins in the body, which makes it a great detoxifier. Certified Nutritional Consultant, Renee Belz, highly recommends activated charcoal for detoxing from alcohol. “My absolute No.1 (alcohol detox supplement) is charcoal. It binds to toxins in the GI tract (especially alcohol),” she says. Belz claims that activated charcoal is beneficial before and after consuming alcohol. However, studies show that it can also significantly reduce blood alcohol concentrations when taken at the same time as alcohol. Belz says that the typical protocol calls for 1,000 to 2,000 mg of activated charcoal.
5. Add Milk Thistle
Milk thistle is well known for being a natural liver detoxifier and is commonly recommended as a natural remedy for alcohol detoxification. Although results in human studies are mixed, research shows that milk thistle may regenerate damaged liver tissue, remove toxins in the body, and block the absorption of alcohol in the liver. Belz explains that milk thistle dosage can vary based on body weight, but the typical protocol is 50 mg of this potent liver detoxifier. You can consume the milk thistle plant’s leaves and seeds in powder, pill, tea, tincture, or extract form. Liver tonics with milk thistle as a primary ingredient, such as Native Remedies Dr. Liver, provide comprehensive liver detoxification.
6. Add A Dash Of Cayenne
Adding cayenne pepper to your food or taking a single drop dose could help alleviate alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Dr. Samuel Malloy, director at DrFelix and expert in holistic medicine, recommends cayenne pepper for common symptoms. “Cayenne pepper is known to increase your appetite, and it can help with unpleasant withdrawal symptoms like nausea,” says Malloy.
“It can also reduce the pain of any stomach problems brought on by drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, because it’s high in anti-inflammatory substances.” Cayenne pepper can also reduce inflammation of the stomach lining that’s caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Try it in its natural, powdered, cream, or capsule form to reap the benefits of its detoxifying properties!
7. Take Advantage Of Kudzu
Kudzu root is a traditional Chinese herb that has been traditionally used in Japan and Southeast Asia to dull various side effects of excessive alcohol consumption (hangovers, thirst, etc.). However, recent research shows that kudzu root supplements, which are full of potent antioxidants known as phytochemicals, can actually curb alcohol cravings. A placebo-controlled double-blind human study found that participants who received kudzu root drank a significantly fewer number of beers than those who received the placebo.
Its antioxidant properties can also help reduce overall liver damage and regenerate damaged liver. One study showed that kudzu root extract stimulated liver regeneration and made the liver more resistant in adult male rats exposed to a chemical that causes liver toxicity (carbon tetrachloride). If you don’t want to take it as a supplement, try it as a powder. Sneak it into your next sauce or soup!
8. Try Robuvit®—French Oak Wood Extract
Natural health physician and author Dr. Fred Pescatore, recommends Robuvit®, a French oak wood extract, as a natural way to detox from alcohol. Research shows that Robuvit® helps support the liver’s natural detox function by getting rid of toxins faster. Pescatore says that “when we consume alcohol, the temporary overload may exceed the liver’s capacity to process and filter, which can lead to the common “hangover” effects many are familiar with.” A new study shows that Robuvit® helps protect the liver from alcohol-related damage and “to significantly improve symptoms of temporary hepatic damage including fatigue, nausea, and mild liver enlargement,” Pescatore says. “It’s safe, easy, and effective.”
9. Angelica Extract
Angelica extract is a strong anti-inflammatory herb that can greatly reduce alcohol cravings and relieve withdrawal symptoms like headaches and bloating. It’s also an antispasmodic agent, which smooths muscle spasms (particularly in the gastrointestinal tract), assisting the liver and spleen during long-term alcohol users’ recovery processes. Three to five drops in a glass of water usually does the trick. Be careful with this one. Angelica extract could make you sick or nauseous if you return to drinking.
This one may seem obvious, but it’s extremely important to keep yourself hydrated during any detox. Water helps to flush out the toxins in your system, replenish your body’s water levels, and lessen the intensity of symptoms like withdrawal-related headaches. Try mixing in some lemon juice to maximize your alcohol detox. Lemon water provides a healthy source of vitamin C, helps restore your pH balance, and more. You could also try coconut water. It adds alkalinity to your body, and it’s rich in potassium and other electrolytes and nutrients that can soothe an upset stomach or nausea.
Meredith Minor is a freelance writer, dance teacher, avid reader and wife from Nashville, TN.
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