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Vegan vs. Vegetarian Diet as an Intervention for Alcohol Recovery?

  • anonymous Asks ...

    Are there any issues with a vegan diet for a person who is coming off a long bout with alcoholism? I am about to receive my cousin to come stay with us on our organic farm. We are all vegan here so he will also eat that way. He intends to stay for a long while while he recovers his health. I know that alcoholics can have some particular vitamin deficiencies so I want to be sure that our diet here, which is healthful for an average person, will be up to his nutritional needs.

  • Delisted Expert Says ...

    According to About .com Health’s Disease and Condition and its Medical Review Board, it defines moderate drinking to be one alcoholic drink for women per day and two alcoholic drinks for men per day. With moderate drinking, the risk for auto accidents, others accidents, high blood pressure, stroke, violence, suicide, birth defects, and certain cancers can be raised. There is some evidence that one drink per day can elevate the risk for breast cancer. Heavy drinking and alcoholism opens the doors for more complicated medical problems to include, liver disease, hepatitis, obesity, and diabetes; to name a few. What implications could this have for a choosing a diet which could restore an alcoholic to healthiness and wholeness? For more information about this, please go to:

    Many treatment centers are addressing the nutritional deficiencies with their recovering alcoholics; such as Accelerated Recovery Centers in Atlanta, Georgia http://www.iwanttostopnow.com/. Recovery centers and substance abuse professionals recognize that alcoholics and drug abusers suffer from serious malnutrition and poor eating habits.

    Alcoholics Victorious makes suggestions for the Recovery Diet for alcoholics. The guides for the Recovery Diet are:

    1. Use the USDA's Food Pyramid as a guide to prepare well-balanced meals.
    2. Eat 3 snacks and 3 meals per day
    3. Drink decaffeinated coffee and herbal teas to decrease caffeine
    4. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables
    5. Eat foods made of whole grains
    6. Eat more beans and grain products, limit the amount of red meat eaten. Red meats are harder to digest
    7. Eliminate or keep to a minimum foods that contain sugar and caffeine
    8. Be aware of hidden sugar in cocoa, condiments, and over the counter medications
    9. Be aware of caffeine in over the counter and prescribed medications

    Composition of the Recovery-friendly Diet:

    • Protein - 25%
    • Carbohydrate - 45%
    • Fat - 30%
    • Total calories 2,000

    Sample Meal Suggestions:

    • Breakfast - oatmeal muffins, pancakes, quiche, omelet, yogurt
    • Lunch - Sandwiches, salads, soups
    • Dinner - Soups, chowders, rice & beans, chicken and vegetables, tortillas, lasagna with vegetable
    • Dessert - Yogurt, fruit, oatmeal cookies, custard

    A Note on Vitamins

    Because drugs and alcohol deplete the body of vitamins and minerals, multi-vitamin/mineral plus B supplements can be especially helpful.

    Vitamins and dietary supplements should be taken with meals for optimum absorption.



    Nutrition In Recovery by Margaret Soussloff, M.S. & Cara Zechello, R.D., Massachusetts Food Banks and Maria F. Bettencourt, MPH, Massachusetts Department of Public Health


    I do recognize that the USDA’s food pyramid does not reflect the vegan diet and lifestyle, since vegans do not use any animal products or byproducts; such as eggs, cheese, yogurt, milk, etc. However the food pyramid can be used to a limited extent, minus meat and dairy. For your information, there is a vegan pyramid at: http://www.happyvegetable.com/nutrient-check/vegan-food-pyramid/

    The main problem with a recovering alcoholic eating vegan is that most alcoholics are protein deficient. One of the challenges of the vegan diet is to find alternative meat protein sources and Vitamin B-12. Here is a resource called the Vegan Detox diet which has many suggestions for vegans who want to rebuild their bodies and meet their body’s nutritional needs at: http://www.livestrong.com/article/127471-vegan-detox-diet/. The idea of treating alcoholism nutritionally is not new as purported by the book, “Seven Days to Recovery”.

    The vegan diet is wonderful for those who have adequate food sources and good balance in their diet. However, for someone who has primarily been drinking alcohol and tries to go on a vegan diet, not vegetarian diet, could promote failure. Perhaps, your cousin could start with a vegetarian diet and consider vegan later. A vegetable-based diet has been known to significantly reduce cravings for alcohol to its credit. A vegetarian diet could be more adaptable and could more easily provide your cousin’s nutritional needs than a vegan diet. There is a vegetarian food pyramid so you can compare it to the other two pyramids listed above.

    I am impressed that you would seek outside opinion and information about diet for your recovering cousin. This level of sensitivity and care for another will be more supremely important than diet. I have little doubt that with your resources, openness, and care for your cousin, there will be much difficulty. You are right to consider there could be adaptability problems for your cousin who has discontinued an alcohol-centered lifestyle for a vegetable-based diet and lifestyle.

    Try to include your cousin in any plans for addressing his dietary needs to further his success. I hope this information which be found to be useful. If I can be of further assistance to you and your cousin, please let me know.

    Sincerely yours,

    John W. O’Neal, Ed.S, MSW, MA, LPC, NCC

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