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Alcohol Dependence, Alcohol Abuse: Vitamin B and Alcohol

Vitamin B and Alcohol

Most people know there is some correlation between Vitamin B and Alcohol or Alcohol Abuse.

People who are alcohol dependent, daily alcohol users, and alcohol abusers are susceptible to vitamin deficiencies. The primary vitamin of concern is the vitamin B family. Vitamin B1 – Thiamine – is not absorbed because alcohol blocks absorption. A deficiency in Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12 is also found in chronic alcohol users.

Conditions related to vitamin B deficiencies are: Beriberi, Wernickes encephalopathy (brain damage), and pernicious anemia.

Beriberi is caused by a deficiency in Thiamine and it’s symptoms, according to Google Health are:

  • Difficulty walking
  • Loss of feeling (sensation) in hands and feet
  • Loss of muscle function or paralysis of the lower legs
  • Mental confusion/speech difficulties
  • Pain
  • Strange eye movements (nystagmus)
  • Tingling
  • Vomiting
  • Awakening at night short of breath
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath with activity
  • Swelling of the lower leg

The best treatment for Beriberi is Thiamine supplementation and stop drinking alcohol.

Vitamin B and Alcohol

Wernickes Encephalopathy is a very serious neurological disorder caused by a thiamine deficiency. The Thiamine deficiency results in lesions on the brain that can cause confusion, short term memory loss, ataxia, and other unpleasant symptoms. It may be reversible in it’s early presentation, but can also result in long term institutional care and eventual death. It’s presentation can eventually mimic a dementia or Alzheimer’s like disease.

Pernicious Anemia is an anemic state (Low or immature red blood cells) that may be caused by the malabsorption of Vitamin B12. Chronic alcohol use can cause the malabsorption of Vitamin B12. Shortness of breath, and low energy may be symptoms of Pernicious Anemia. This disorder may need to be treated with an injection of Cyanocobalamine. A physician can easily determine this with blood tests.

Many people who suffer from alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse are prone to Vitamin B deficiency. A physical exam is highly recommended, a Vitamin B supplement that includes Thiamine, Folic Acid, and other B vitamins may assist with Vitamin B deficiency, and a decision and follow through to stop drinking alcohol will definitely benefit the chronic alcohol user.

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