Nutrition During Alcohol Detox: What To Eat

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on October 4, 2021

Nutritional deficiencies are common in people with alcohol use disorder. During detox and the early stages of recovery from alcohol abuse or addiction, taking in enough nutrients through a balanced diet can help promote physical, cognitive, and mental health.

Proper Nutrition During Alcohol Detox

Alcohol detoxification and withdrawal can cause symptoms such as nausea, anxiety, and general sickness that can make it difficult to take in enough food.

Even so, it’s important to take steps to avoid becoming too dehydrated or malnourished during detox, whether that involves finding a medical detox program or eating a balanced diet at home.

Poor diet and dehydration during alcohol detox can contribute to existing nutritional deficiencies and potentially increase the risk for severe, withdrawal-related complications.

Learn more about how to detox from alcohol

What To Focus On During Alcohol Detox—And How Diet Can Help

Getting in enough nutrients through the adequate intake of food and fluids can offer several benefits both during and after the alcohol detoxification process.

Because detox can deplete the body of nutrients as well as toxins, it’s important to focus on priorities of restoring essential nutrients and ensuring adequate hydration.

What can be done to accomplish this:

  • eat a balanced diet
  • replace electrolytes lost through sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • drink plenty of water (and drinks with electrolytes, like Gatorade)
  • take vitamin supplements
  • seek medical attention if necessary
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Why Nutrition Is Important During Alcohol Detox

Nutritional deficiencies, or a lack of nutrients in the body, is common among people with alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder.

Eating a balanced diet with healthy foods during detox can help promote physical wellness and reduce alcohol cravings in the early stages of detox and addiction recovery.

What To Eat During The Early Stages Of Alcohol Detox

Feeling nauseous, anxious, and generally experiencing a loss of appetite during the first few days of detoxing from alcohol is normal.

During this time, it may help to focus on getting nutrients in through liquids, calorie-dense foods, and foods that are easier on the stomach.

What may be helpful to eat during early alcohol withdrawal:

  • bananas
  • smoothies
  • soups and stews
  • oatmeal
  • crackers
  • rice
  • nuts and nut butters

If possible, try to avoid foods that are highly processed or low on nutrients. Whole grains, protein, and generally nutrient-rich foods are the best foods for alcohol detox.

Complex Carbohydrates For Alcohol Detox

Complex carbs, such as lentils, whole-grain bread, and fruits and vegetables offer several benefits for people who are in this early stage of alcohol addiction recovery.

Benefits of complex carbs during alcohol detox include:

  • can help stabilize blood sugar levels
  • may offer essential nutrients (e.g. potassium, B vitamins)
  • reduce upset stomach
  • help with digestion

Getting In Protein During Alcohol Detox

Protein-rich foods such as lean meats, fish, eggs, yogurt, and tofu can help support the healthy function of various organs, including the liver, kidney, pancreas, and heart.

Good Snacks While Detoxing From Alcohol

Eating light meals or focusing on eating snacks throughout the day instead of big meals may help support physical recovery while dealing with the loss of appetite or nausea.

Suggested snacks to support healing during alcohol detox include:

  • protein or energy bars
  • nut butters or sunflower butter
  • smoothies
  • fruits and vegetables
  • yogurt with fruit
  • whole-grain toast with peanut butter
  • fruit and vegetable juice
  • oatmeal with nuts, fruit, and milk

What To Avoid Eating During Alcohol Detox

Certain foods may thwart the detox process by unnecessarily upsetting your stomach or dehydrating individuals who are experiencing moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms.

In general, it’s best to avoid:

  • spicy foods
  • foods or drinks containing caffeine
  • highly processed foods
  • high-sugar foods

Highly processed foods may not be able to offer the same nutrients as those that are less processed. Furthermore, they may contribute to gastrointestinal distress.

Best Vitamin Supplements For Alcohol Detox

When it comes to getting in enough nutrients during the detox process, diet isn’t everything. It can also be helpful to take certain vitamin and mineral supplements.

Common supplement recommendations for alcohol detox include:

  • thiamine (B3)
  • other B vitamins
  • magnesium
  • folic acid

A multivitamin containing potassium, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin C, and other essential nutrients can also support physical recovery during and after detox.

Read more about the best supplements for alcohol detox

What Are The Dangers Of Malnutrition During Detox?

Malnutrition isn’t uncommon among people with alcohol use disorder. It’s well-known that excessive alcohol consumption can disrupt nutrient absorption, as well as affect eating habits.

Unfortunately, malnutrition is associated with a range of health consequences, which is why nutritional support during the detoxification stage can be very beneficial.

Risks and dangers of malnutrition during detox include:

  • dehydration
  • poor mental health
  • depression
  • severe alcohol withdrawal (e.g. delirium tremens)
  • higher risk for seizures
  • poor skin health
  • impaired liver function or liver disease

A good alcohol detox diet is just one component of a supportive care plan for people who are detoxing from alcohol.

Although some people try to detox from alcohol at home, the safest and most effective way to do this is to find a medical detox program through a detox facility or alcohol treatment center.

Find Alcohol Abuse And Addiction Treatment

Searching for tips on how to detox from alcohol safely is a common practice of people who are struggling with a drinking problem and their loved ones.

Alcohol detox and withdrawal can be dangerous without medical support. If you’re looking for alcohol detox and substance abuse treatment options, we may be able to help.

Call our helpline today to learn more about alcohol detox options and how to find a treatment program for alcohol abuse that’s right for you.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on October 4, 2021

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Plymouth, Massachusetts

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