Bill W had found that coffee and sugary treats—often served at AA meetings—worsened his hypoglycemia symptoms and depression. When he removed these foods from his diet, his blood sugar stabilized and his depression cleared. He also became interested in the use of vitamin B6 for treating alcoholism. The board’s decision prevented the widespread sharing of these discoveries, although his wife published a pamphlet on vitamin B6 after his death.
Recently, a number of therapists have looked at nutritional therapy for alcoholism, including Julia Ross, author of The Craving Cure. Preliminary studies indicate that the success rate for a high protein, high-fat diet, often in conjunction with vitamin or amino acid supplements, gives a success rate of 70-80 percent, compared to about 20 percent for conventional therapy and participation in AA.
However, none of these therapies has focused on the principles of Wise Traditions diets, which contains unique foods that can help the body balance the various neurotransmitters and feel-good chemicals. Let’s look at these dietary components to ascertain how they might help the alcoholic discover that he doesn’t actually need to drink anymore.
COD LIVER OIL: A naturally produced cod liver oil will provide natural vitamins A and D. Unlike others who advocate for dietary treatment for alcohol addiction, I like to start with a focus on vitamin A, because the lowfat, high carb diets that most Americans follow can lead to widespread deficiencies, and because vitamin A is crucial to the formation of a variety of adrenal hormones the body needs to deal with stress. People often turn to alcohol for comfort after a traumatic experience or period of chronic anxiety. The adrenal glands make stress hormones out of cholesterol and require vitamin A for this process. Trauma and stress rapidly use up vitamin A, with the result that every little thing is stressful and the temptation to imbibe is great. When the body is replete with vitamin A, we can manage stress with humor and grace.
Vitamin D is a co-factor for vitamin A—we need them both together. A well-known function of vitamin D is the enhancement of serotonin uptake—something that alcohol does as well, at least temporarily. Vitamin D can regulate serotonin—the body’s main feel-good chemical—without causing a hangover!
I would put the replenishment of vitamin A stores as the very first step in the treatment of alcoholism, and cod liver oil is the best way to achieve this. The most efficient and economical way to take cod liver oil is as a liquid—mix with a little warm water, stir, and down the hatch—but you can also take capsules. The quickest way to heal from trauma and stress is to use Dr. Price’s remedy. This consists of putting alternating drops of cod liver oil and high-vitamin butter oil under the tongue, several times per day. The high vitamin butter oil provides vitamin K2, a co-factor for vitamins A and D and key factor for a healthy brain and nervous system. Applied under the tongue they are immediately absorbed, bypassing the digestion, which may be compromised after a long period of alcohol abuse.
BONE BROTH: Alcohol increases dopamine levels—sometimes called the body’s natural cocaine—for a brief period. When our dopamine levels are low, we lack motivation and feel depressed. Alcohol can provide a temporary pep up, but as the mechanism for dopamine production because exhausted, that pep-up may be harder to achieve. As Brick, the famous alcoholic son of Big Daddy in Tennessee William’s play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof would say, that pep up becomes dilatory. Gelatin-rich bone broth provides a natural way to regulate dopamine—bringing it up to a healthy level while preventing dopamine from becoming too high (in which case we become manic).
Bone broth also provides glutamic acid, which the body uses to produce GABA, a “calming” amino acid (it depresses central nervous system activity) often recommended by Julia Ross.
A mug of genuine bone broth morning and evening can be the alcoholic’s best friend, providing key nutrients for neuro-transmitters and calming feel-good chemicals. Beware of substitutes—broth made from bouillon cubes, cheap soup made from powdered “bases,” and any processed food to which MSG in all its guises is added—in other words, all processed foods. MSG works very differently in the body compared to the natural glutamic acid in real broth.
(By the way, another—and surprising–source of GABA besides glutamic acid is putrescine [Sequerra, E. B.; Gardino, P.; Hedin-Pereira, C.; de Mello, F. G. (2007-05-11). “Putrescine as an important source of GABA in the postnatal rat subventricular zone”. Neuroscience. 146 (2): 489–493. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2007.01.062. ISSN0306-4522. PMID17395389.], a stinky amino acid that occurs in fermented meat and fish products—which are popular in Asia–and stinky cheese, popular in Europe. Fermented cod liver oil contains small amounts of putrescine.
RAW ANIMAL FOODS: All traditional peoples consumed some animal foods raw, a practice that is rare in modern cultures, especially in America. Raw animal foods provide our best source of vitamin B6, necessary for the formation of various neurotransmitters impacted by alcohol consumption. Alcoholics tend to be deficient in B6, in part because this vitamin is involved in clearing alcohol from the body through the liver.
Vitamin B6 is rapidly destroyed by heat; it is fully intact in raw animal foods. That means delicious raw meat dishes like steak tartare or carpaccio, or raw dairy products—raw milk, raw kefir, raw yogurt, raw cheese. The recovering alcoholic needs to consume raw animal foods every day.
LIVER: Liver is the most nutrient-dense food in the human diet and provides a host of compounds that help us deal with stress, produce important neurotransmitters, and nourish every system in the body. Poultry liver is best because of its great balance of A, D and K2. The best way to eat liver is to have some delicious pate or liverwurst several times per week. For those who can’t learn to like liver, desiccated liver capsules are a good substitute. Another way to consume liver is to cut pieces of organic or pasture-raised chicken liver into pea-sized pieces and freeze them, then swallow them like vitamin pills.
ANIMAL FATS: Even those who recommend a high-fat diet for alcoholics tend to shy away from advocating animal fats. Instead they suggest loading up on olive oil and coconut oil. But these oils do not contain the key nutrients we get exclusively from animal fats, namely the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K2 and an omega-6 fatty acid called arachidonic acid. Arachidonic acid serves as a precursor for endogenous cannabinoids, which are calming, feel-good neurotransmitters. There is only one place for the body to get adequate arachidonic acid, and that is from animal fats like butter, lard, egg yolks and meat fats.
Another reason to eat animal fats: they supply 18-carbon saturated fatty acids, which support hormone production and cell-membrane integrity. The body needs these saturated fats and needs a lot of them. If we refuse to eat animal fats, the body has a back-up plan: it makes them from refined carbs. The best way to get rid of cravings for these carbs and avoid the blood sugar rollercoaster (low blood sugar often leads to cravings for alcohol) is to eat plenty of animal fats. So, eat your meat with fat, load up on eggs (especially the yolks), enjoy full-fat cheese, eat bacon for breakfast, and put butter on everything!
UNREFINED SALT: The adrenal glands require salt, especially in times of stress. And unrefined salt contains a wealth of trace minerals, all with important roles to play in maintaining optimal health and freedom from cravings.
FERMENTED FOODS: Fermented foods like sauerkraut supply beneficial bacteria to the digestive tract, and these bacteria produce many of the same feel-good chemicals that originate in the brain. In addition, fermented foods are a great source of vitamin C—there can be ten times more vitamin C in raw sauerkraut than in raw cabbage. Vitamin C supports the adrenal glands in times of stress.
INSTEAD OF ALCOHOL: What does the recovering alcoholic drink with meals? What does he take that is more refreshing and more delicious than wine or whiskey? Why, kombucha, of course! Therapists may warn against kombucha because it contains a small amount of alcohol—0.5 percent or less—but the same is true of fruit juices. And if the recovering addict continues to eat sugar and refined carbs, he will make small amounts of alcohol out of those. Kombucha may indeed be a problem if it is too sweet, so look for brands that contain less than 5 grams of sugar per serving. Even better, make your own, to ensure that it is plenty sour.
Another great beverage with meals is a vinegar drink made with raw apple cider vinegar plus sparkling water, and maybe a squeeze of lemon or lime.
ADDITIONAL AIDE: There are many homeopathic and herbal remedies that can help the alcoholic resist alcohol, even develop an aversion to beer, wine and distilled liquors. It may require some trial and error to find the right remedies, but the effort can pay off with important benefits.
In writing this blog, I do not mean to imply that alcoholism is merely a problem with brain chemistry. There is a spiritual component to alcoholism; it is the alcoholic who must take the first step, who must say, “I want to change.” But once that step is taken, the above dietary recommendations can be of immense help along the path to sobriety.
The Weston A. Price Foundation is your source for accurate information on diet and nutrition. For information on our upcoming conference, visit wisetraditions.org.