Ask any drug and alcohol counselor, or for that matter any person in recovery, and they will tell you that there is no cure for Alcoholism. The most recent thought about alcoholism holds that it is a chronic but manageable disease. Managing this disease requires daily maintenance and is only possible when one is not drinking.
Causes of Alcoholism
Today it is widely believed that two factors are required for developing the disease of alcoholism. These are a predisposition to the disease and drinking sufficient quantities to set off the disease. Numerous studies have shown that alcoholism runs in families and studies such as those of twins separated at birth demonstrate that this is biological rather than environmental. Of course, predisposition is not itself enough; there must be the presence of alcohol. One problem is that no one knows how much alcohol is required for a person who is predisposed to the disease to become an alcoholic and so, for the person who may is predisposed, there is no safe level of drinking.
Signs and Symptoms
The alcoholic can be thought of as always being in one of two phases of the disease, active or inactive. During the active phase, the alcoholic drinks and - in spite of negative consequences - is incapable of not drinking alcohol. In fact, this concept of lack of control is one common way of determining if a person is an alcoholic. That is to say if a person’s drinking causes them problems, and in spite of these problems, the person is unable to stop drinking - then they are said to be to be suffering the disease of alcoholism. It hardly needs to be said that during the inactive phase the alcoholic is no longer drinking, though they may relapse at any time.
Three primary conditions exist for the alcoholic in the active phase. First, their body builds tolerance to alcohol. This means that as they drink over a prolonged period of time they need more alcohol to feel the same effect they used to get with less alcohol. The next condition is one of dependence. Dependence occurs when the body’s tissue comes to literally “depend” on alcohol for homeostasis. A person dependent on alcohol needs alcohol to feel normal. When an alcoholic dependent person stops drinking, it sets into motion the third condition, withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms may vary by individual as well as the length of time and amount of alcohol that one drinks. Withdrawal symptoms can be mild such as an inability to sleep, anxiety, or feeling ill after eating, but they can also be more serious including hallucinations, diarrhea, vomiting, tremors and seizures.
With prolonged, chronic, and heavy drinking, the alcoholic can develop a wide range of health problems. Common health problems in late stage alcoholism include an enlarged and debilitated liver, pancreatitis, neuropathy, myopathy, and kidney disorders. The ultimate goal of managing this disease is to get it stopped before it enters late stages and manage it to prevent relapse.
Treatments for Alcoholism
Natural therapies may have much more to offer in the way of supporting long-term recovery from alcoholism. During and after prolonged (at least 90 days) psychological and behavioral therapy natural medicine can do much to support the alcoholic in their recovery. First natural therapies will pay attention to diet. Frequently, the alcoholic has come to rely on alcohol above food which leaves them relying on a diet of empty calories. These are calories of little or no nutritional value to the body. Additionally, alcohol interrupts the body’s ability to use the vitamins and minerals of the food that the alcoholic does eat. The combined effect is to leave the alcoholic nutrient poor. A diet high in vitamins B1 (thiamin), B3 (niacin) and B5 (Pantothenic Acid) and vitamin C along with additional supplements will be highly beneficial for the recovering alcoholic.
Another common problem for alcoholics is that alcohol is high in sugar. Thus, the alcoholic gets used to higher levels of sugar than most individuals might experience. Just as people build tolerance and dependence on alcohol, they can do the same for sugar. Often the cravings felt by an alcoholic are cravings for sugar. Natural medicine practitioners might recommend chromium with copper and zinc otherwise known and Glucose Tolerance Factor to normalize levels of blood sugar. The roots and flowers of kudzu which have long been used in Chinese herbalism to help lessen the desire for alcohol can be taken as a supplement or in a tea. If in supplement can be combined with coptis, a primary cleansing and liver-supporting herb from Chinese herbalism to support balanced blood sugar levels and enhance energy levels
Finally, recovering from alcoholism is a stressful process that leaves many people physically and emotionally exhausted. Natural therapies that support the adrenal process can be vital. Important to this is a lifestyle that incorporates sleeping at regular intervals and for adequate periods of time, physical exercise, meditation and attention to emotional states.