Nutrition Bytes

Cravings & Gelatin

The brain’s reward system plays a significant role in the development and maintenance of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). The increased release and/or the reuptake inhibition of neurotransmitters like dopamine or serotonin, which help to keep us happy, are associated with the reward system, the excessive intake of alcohol, cravings and relapse. Studies (2006) have shown that the amino acid - glycine, which acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain, and glycine reuptake inhibitors act to reduce alcohol intake in AUD. There are a few mechanisms by which glycine is believed to achieve this reduction. 

Glycine reuptake inhibitors increase dopamine release and in doing so reduce alcohol intake. Glycine may substitute for alcohol and/or glycine, by desensitizing glycine reuptake inhibitors, which prevents further alcohol-induced dopamine activation. Glycine may also act to interfere with N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors which results in a reduction in alcohol intake. 

Glycine has also been shown to control neuron excitability, and glycine reuptake inhibitors have been used to treat some mental health disorders.  One cup of gelatin contains more than 1300 mg of glycine along with good quantities of several other amino acids, restorative in recovery from AUD.  
Regular excess alcohol consumption burdens and impairs the normal functioning of the liver. The liver makes cholesterol in the body. If the liver is not working properly, it can cause cholesterol to build up in the body and the liver. Research has shown that medications (statins) used to lower cholesterol may also work to lower cholesterol in the brain. ⁣
Studies (2009) show cholesterol in the brain is used to trigger the release of neurotransmitters that affect the data-processing, and memory function (how smart you are and how well you remember things) and lower brain cholesterol impedes this process. However, more cholesterol in the blood does not make you smarter because the cholesterol in the blood cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. ⁣
Perhaps a better way to lower blood cholesterol is to incorporate more vegetables like green beans (really a legume--but whatever). Steamed greens beans may provide cholesterol-lowering benefits by binding together with bile acids. When the components of green beans bind with bile acids, the liver works to replace them by mobilizing cholesterol and breaking it down into bile acids. As a result, circulating levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream are reduced. ⁣

Brain Cognition & Green Beans

Chronic Stress & Roast beef

Stress…it’s in us to experience. Our body is capable of reacting to all the stressors we encounter or manifest. To do that it relies on hormones and neurotransmitters to execute the ‘fight, fright or flight’ response and get us out of the way of the real or perceived danger. Inner conflict is a perceived danger that we can’t run from so we are forced to stay and fight it out. And while you may be able to go a couple of rounds eventually you’ll need a break otherwise the chronic stress begins taxing other processes in your body.

Adrenaline (a.k.a epinephrine) is the stress hormone that kicks in the physical responses to stress, like elevated blood pressure and the release of blood sugar so you can flee or fight. Tyrosine, an amino acid, is one of the nutrients used in the body to create adrenaline. It also just so happens to be used to create our ‘happiness’ hormone and neurotransmitter, dopamine. The body has to prioritise the perceived risk of life-threatening harm over your desire to be happy. So if you are experiencing chronic internal stress it’s eventually going to become more and more difficult to feel happy as the body draws on its limited resources to produce the hormones and neurotransmitters to keep the balance.

Roast beef contains over 150% of the RDI of tyrosine. So buy yourself the best cut of beef you can and nourish your mind.
Women over 40 who consume alcohol regularly are at an increased risk of forming gallstones. Do you ever get a pain under your chest plate that makes it difficult to breathe? Symptoms of gallbladder issues can be a little scary especially if it comes on suddenly and with rapidly intensifying pain. If you experience this symptom it’s recommended to see your medical doctor as soon as possible.

These symptoms can be an indication of gallbladder stones (gallstones). Regular alcohol consumption can contribute to the formation of gallstones by compromising the health of the liver. When an overburdened liver is unable to secrete bile into the gallbladder there is an increased risk of the formation of gallstones. Choline has been shown in studies to induce an increase in bile flow and bile acid secretion (1998) contributing to a reduction of gallstones.

Collard greens are a good source of choline, that have also been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels and they are one of the least expensive members of the cruciferous vegetable family!

Gallbladder & Collard Greens

Morning Fatigue & Shiitake Mushrooms

Do you wake up in the morning feeling really tired, as though you haven’t gotten any restorative rest?

This can be common among women who consume excess wine or cocktails nightly. Excessive alcohol consumption can be a risk factor for copper deficiency (2017). Copper is an essential element that is absorbed in the small intestine and distributed throughout the body via the liver. Both of these organs are damaged with regular alcohol intake.

Copper acts as a coenzyme for many enzymes playing an important role in bone marrow (where red blood cells are created) and the nervous system. Copper deficiency can result in red blood cell abnormalities like anaemia which can leave you feeling tired upon waking and lacking energy throughout your day.

Shiitake mushrooms are a great source of copper. About 15 grams of dried mushrooms contain 89% of the recommended daily intake of copper.

Studies have shown that women with higher levels of estrogen, which occurs during the follicular phase (the first 14 days following the start of their period) of their menstrual cycle, become more sensitive to the addictive effects of alcohol due to its impact on the brain’s reward centre. 

Alcohol becomes MUCH more ‘rewarding’ (increase in the activity of dopamine and alcohol sensitive brain cells) when estrogen levels are high (2017).

Lignans which are a type of phytoestrogen found in foods like cucumbers have been shown to exhibit anti-estrogenic activities. The phytoestrogens are estrogen-like compounds that work to bind to estrogen receptors and help regulate estrogen levels in the body. 

The lignanas also act as antioxidants to lower inflammatory markers.

Brain Reward Centre & Cucumbers

Opioid Receptors & Spinach

Another reason to get excited about spinach! It helps to maintain abstinence. Opioid receptors in the brain play a role in the development and maintenance of alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol stimulates the release of opioid peptides in brain regions that are associated with the reward and reinforcing effects of alcohol. The rubiscolin peptides found in spinach work in a similar way to cross the blood-brain barrier and activate the known beneficial pathways in the brain without activating the negative side-effect pathways (reinforcement) of the opioid receptors (2020). These peptides are so powerful that researchers are looking at them to form synthetic medicines to treat alcohol use disorder.

The next time you make a smoothie you may want to add some fresh spinach to the mix and get happy!

Radishes are crisp and peppery tasting making them a great addition to a salad or as a snack on their own. They also contain a good source of anthocyanins, a flavonoid antioxidant that provides plant pigment.

But what is super cool about this root vegetable is that the anthocyanins can cross the blood-brain-barrier and distribute in the cerebellum, cortex, hippocampus and striatum - the areas of the brain that are susceptible to alcohol exposure, where they have neuroprotective effects (2009).

The radish anthocyanins and their metabolites are able to scavenge alcohol-induced reactive oxygen species (free-radicals) and improve and relieve the alcohol-induced damaged to the brain and central nervous system including lipid peroxidation (oxidative stress), inhibition of neuronal differentiation (cell form and function) and spatial memory deficits.

Brain Cell Regeneration & Radishes

Memory & Zucchini

If you have ever grown zucchini you know that it is easy to grow and can produce an abundance of beautiful summer squash. But did you also know that it can help improve your memory, especially in the case of alcohol-induced memory loss? 

Zucchini and particularly the green outer skin is loaded with the carotenoid lutein. Lutein is a powerful antioxidant that can prevent neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive deficits.

Regular alcohol intake creates a memory deficit and increases acetylcholinesterase activity. Acetylcholinesterase acts to terminate neurotransmissions (transmission of chemicals from one brain cell to another). One study has shown that lutein reduced the alcohol-induced memory deficit as well as acetylcholinesterase activity induced by alcohol (2019). And as an added bonus this powerful antioxidant also protects against alcohol-induced liver injury (2012).

If you have included a nightly ritual of wine or cocktails for a few years or longer you may have started to notice some of its not so subtle health effects. One of these is the effects it has on your stomach and intestinal system. 

Have you noticed you’re experiencing regular indigestion, stomach discomfort or gas/bloating? Do you suspect you may have an ulcer?

Cabbage is packed with nutrients that help to improve the health of the stomach in abstinence including glucosinolates which are used by the body to produce isothiocyanates.

Isothiocyanates help to regulate the bacterial populations inside the stomach that can contribute to ulcers and your discomfort. 

Stomach Ulcers & Cabbage

Cravings & Pork Chops 

Glutamate is the most abundant free amino acid in the brain and its concentrations are tightly regulated. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter which normally increases brain activity and energy levels. Chronic alcohol intake suppresses the release of glutamate. 

Studies show that compounds that upregulate the glutamate transporters (particularly GLT1) of the glutamatergic system within the brain can help to reduce alcohol-seeking behaviour and the intake of alcohol in cases of chronic alcohol intake (2015). 

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) has been shown to upregulate GLT1 (2016). Ensuring an adequate supply of dietary cysteine which is used to form NAC in the body may help to reduce alcohol cravings. Pork chops are a great source of cysteine (cystine) containing more than 207% of the daily recommended intake.

Studies tell us that women face a 30-50% increase in breast cancer risk from the consumption of alcohol even with as little as 1-2 drinks per day (2013). 

Red cabbage contains beneficial compounds which play a significant role in the treatment of diseases such as breast cancer. 

One study (2015) demonstrated that serum derived from red cabbage was effective in inhibiting the growth of breast cancer cells and in accelerating the death of cancer cells via apoptosis induction while it had no effect on normal cells. 

The study concluded that red cabbage can be considered an effective treatment for breast cancer.

Breast Cancer & Red Cabbage

Fatty Liver & Blueberries

The liver is one organ that is well understood to be affected by regular alcohol consumption. The liver is responsible for more than 500 functions and it's working for you all the time, so it is vital that you offer it as many nutrients that will help to support its ability to recover from the onslaught of abuse thrown at it. 

The oxidative stress caused by alcohol metabolism results in the death of liver cells. Antioxidants combat oxidative stress and can relieve alcohol-induced liver cell death. 

Blueberries contain quinic acid which demonstrates high antioxidant activities by improving DNA repair in liver cells (2016). If you struggle to add a lot of berries to your diet consider adding blueberries to your salads, steamed veggies, and as a side dish to breakfast, lunch or dinner. 
You likely recall hearing “Never drink on an empty stomach.” This is because food in the stomach helps to increase alcohol elimination and lower the concentration of alcohol in the blood, where it is free to enter the brain and cause damage.

Food does this by delaying the emptying of alcohol from the stomach into the small intestine significantly reducing the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. Specific food and nutrients can help to increase alcohol elimination even further. 

Alanine, an amino acid found in tomatoes, is believed to facilitate alcohol oxidation in the liver for removal. What researchers have discovered is that alanine combined with the insoluble dietary fibers of tomatoes work to absorb alcohol, delaying the emptying of the stomach and further enhancing alcohol elimination (2016). 

Blood Alcohol Levels & Tomato

Low Moods & Cucumber

Low moods, the inability to feel pleasure and an abnormal lack of energy lasting for two weeks or longer are an indication of depression. Chronic alcohol use can cause or worsen symptoms of depression.

Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol have been linked to low moods and sadness (2008). Lipids (fats) and particularly cholesterol are fundamental to neuronal (brain) function, with numerous roles including the regulation of membrane fluidity and permeability, neurotransmitter release, cell integrity and plasticity. Abnormalities of these functions have been linked to depression and may be associated with the role of lipids in protein function at the molecular level (2017). Women with low levels of HDL may be vulnerable to depression (2014).

Cucumber seed extracts have been shown to increase the ‘healthy’ cholesterol (HDL). 
Did you also know that probiotics like those found in kimchi (pickled vegetables) can support your recovery from alcohol use disorder?

The probiotics do this by reducing the levels of alcohol-induced inflammatory cytokines and reactive oxygen species production in the liver and intestines (2019). 

Probiotics have also been shown to decrease elevated liver enzymes (AST & ALT) in patients with mild alcohol-induced liver injury (2008). A healthy liver is key to hormone and neurotransmitter balance.

Kimchi is loaded with probiotics and can easily be made in your own kitchen, but you can also pick some up from the refrigeration section of your local health food store.

 Alcohol-Induced Liver Injury &  Kimchi

Immune System & Winter Squash

Winter squash including acorn squash is a great source of carotenoids including beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and others which are converted into active forms of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is metabolized to retinol and then to retinaldehyde and finally to retinoic acid and is stored primarily (about 90%) in the liver.

Alcohol metabolism and Vitamin A metabolism follow a parallel pathway through oxidative metabolism. This may be part of the reason why alcohol intake has been shown to negatively affect retinoic acid balance and levels in the body (2012). Interestingly blood levels of Vitamin A can appear normal while liver stores are depleted.

Vitamin A plays an important role in the functioning of the immune system where it has been shown to optimize the functioning of the white blood cells, support the health of the mucous lining barriers, stimulate mucus production, and block the activity of certain viruses (2006).

Alcohol-Induced Cellular Toxicity & Asparagus

We know that alcohol negatively impacts every cell of your body and reversing that effect will help you on a cellular level to progressively move toward your goal. One way to help reverse that cellular toxicity is to enjoy an abundance of green vegetables.

One of the powerhouse vegetables to include in your nutritional arsenal is asparagus. The amino acids and inorganic minerals in the extract of asparagus have been shown to reduce cellular toxicity induced by alcohol (2016).

The insoluble fibre and flavonoids in asparagus have also been shown to improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce oxidative damage in the liver cells.

Chronic alcohol abuse results in brain injury which is accompanied by brain shrinkage, reduction of brain cell connective tissue, and psychological problems. 

Various studies demonstrate an increase in levels of inositol in individuals with alcohol use disorder during detox and subsequent abstinence. This rise may be associated with the brain's attempt to stabilize the intracellular environment (environment inside brain cells) or the activation of the brain cell connective tissue as the brain works to repair itself (2000).

Low levels of inositol have been shown to be associated with low moods (2010). Inositol may also be involved in the regulation of neurotransmitters including dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. The neurotransmitters that cause you to feel good and have energy. 

Brain loss and long-term impairment with chronic alcohol use can be repaired in many cases and the ideal diet is instrumental in maximizing that repair. Blackstrap molasses are a great sweetener to use because they are a great source of inositol along with iron, calcium and B-vitamins all of which are often deficient with chronic alcohol use and needed for proper brain function.

Low Moods & Blackstrap Molasses

Reward Function & Beef

Ideal dopamine levels are critical to the proper regulation of the reinforcement and reward functions in the brain. This is of particular importance when practicing abstinence from alcohol.

Ghrelin has been shown to increase the incentive value of motivated behaviors (2012a) and may also defend against symptoms of stress-induced depression and anxiety (2012b) in individuals with alcohol use disorder. Ghrelin’s role in motivational behaviour may be the result of its function in activating the brain stem to release acetylcholine which in turn causes the release of dopamine.

Ghrelin is a gut-brain peptide produced largely in the lining of the stomach. Chronic alcohol intake damages the stomach contributing to a decline in ghrelin. The ghrelin molecule is comprised of 28 amino acids including phenylalanine, serine, and glycine among others. 

Roast beef is an excellent source of these three amino acids to support the creation of ghrelin and dopamine.
Anxiousness is a normal and in some cases ‘healthy’ part of life. So long as we nurture and support our stress response system (a.k.a our neuroendocrine system).

One nutrient we need to support our stress response system and reduce our anxiety is choline. 

Choline is present in some form in all cells. It is used through methylation in methionine synthesis to contribute to the creation of two hormones used in our response to stress norepinephrine and adrenaline (2008). One study (2009) of mild-aged and elderly women and men demonstrated that symptoms of anxiety (ex. difficulty relaxing, frustration, irritability, difficulty sleeping, etc.) were the highest in middle-aged women with the lowest levels of choline (blood plasma).  

Shrimp is one of the richest sources of choline with more than 35% of the daily recommended intake. 

Anxiousness & Shrimp

Liver Cirrhosis & Dandelions

Alcohol Use Disorder takes a heavy toll on the body causing metabolic damage to every cell including, and perhaps most directly the cells of the liver. Because alcohol does not undergo the normal digestive process in the stomach but instead is absorbed via the stomach and small intestine immediately into the bloodstream, it travels directly to the liver. 

There about 95% of alcohol is processed at a rate of about a quarter to half an ounce per hour. During this time the liver literally slows all of its other detoxification functions including blood filtration, pesticide breakdown, hormone breakdown to name just a few. Repeated alcohol consumption and the creation of its toxic by-products and oxidative damage weaken the liver cells ability to function and conditions including fatty liver, steatohepatitis, fibrosis and cirrhosis can develop. 

Dandelion greens and roots have been shown to promote liver detoxification and support improvements in cirrhosis.

Pork loin is an excellent source of an abundance of amino acids including tyrosine which is commonly depleted with Alcohol Use Disorder. Chronic alcohol consumption affects receptor tyrosine kinases which are components of signal pathways that mediate cell-to-cell communication. 

A deficiency of tyrosine is a contributor to depression experienced by as many as 40-65% of individuals with AUD and contributes to feelings of lethargy, fatigue, sleeping too much and feelings of immobility. In the brain, tyrosine is converted into catecholamine neurotransmitters including dopamine, norepinephrine - the brains form of adrenaline, and epinephrine. 

Tyrosine's excitatory and antidepressant role in the production of dopamine and norepinephrine may explain one author's remark that "tyrosine improves mental and physical performance under stress better than coffee". 

Depression & Pork

Anxiety & Pumpkin Seeds

If you've ever felt a quickened heart rate, rapid shallow breathing or sudden distracted thinking when presented with the possibility of attending a social gathering where 'normal' social drinking will occur, then you are aware of the physical stress of anxiety and how it can be a stepping off point onto a path of uncertainty, threatening your abstinence. 

Anxiety is common in individuals with AUD and research suggests that anxiety disorders and AUD co-occur 2 to 3 times more often than would be expected by chance alone. Anxiety issues are associated with increased severity and persistence of AUD and an increased risk of relapse. 

Magnesium is known as the "anti-stress mineral" because of its function in relaxation and action in the prevention of excitotoxicity (over-stimulation) in the nerve cells. 

Pumpkin seeds contain more than 45% of the daily recommended intake of magnesium. 
Heavy alcohol consumption typically puts a significant strain on the body’s liver detoxification processes. When the liver is overburdened and its detoxification processes are pushed to their limit the kidneys are left to “pick up the slack”. Under healthy conditions, the kidneys filter the blood, about 150 quarts (140 liters) a day to produce urine filtering out waste products including urea, uric acid, water-soluble toxins, and various neutralized chemicals like medications. 

When the kidneys become weakened from the extra load or from the direct effects of alcohol, toxic waste by-products like heavy metals, or those from pesticides and beauty products, can be returned to the blood rather than eliminated, or build up in the kidney tissue leading to impaired function, tissue damage or kidney disease. Signs that may indicate the kidneys are overburdened can include back pain in the region of the kidneys, cloudy or dark-coloured urine, high blood pressure, or puffiness under the eyes. 

Parsley contains phytonutrients like apiole and myristicin which help in the kidney detoxification processes by stimulating them to produce urine and cleansing the kidneys of toxins and fats.    

Kidneys & Parsley

Breast and Colon Cancer &  Horseradish

It is common for individuals with alcohol use disorder to also crave spicy foods. This correlation may in part be the similarity in alcohol and spicy foods to utilize the same pathway to activate the opioid reward system in the brain which contributes to the release of endorphins (the feel-good hormones) such as dopamine. It is the analgesic (pain relief) effect of spicy foods which increases the activity of this opioid system (2012).  

Freshly grated horseradish offers a smooth pungent spicy flavor. Horseradish has been shown to be beneficial in both breast and colon cancer, two cancers prevalent in individuals with AUD. 

In a 2015 study horseradish (encapsulated nanoparticles) was shown to reduce human breast cancer cells by 80%. A 2005 study demonstrated that horseradish rhizomes inhibited the proliferation of human colon cancer cells by as much as 68%.
Individuals with alcohol use disorder often lose their temper easily and swing between depression and hyperactivity, lacking emotional balance. 

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are depleted with regular alcohol intake and often lacking in the diet of individuals with AUD. When it comes to emotional balance both EPA and DHA are critical to the formation of neurotransmitters like serotonin which stabilizes moods, regulates social behaviour, and helps to make you feel happy. They are also both needed in the creation of dopamine which is involved  in feelings of pleasure or reward; as well as, GABA which is needed for relaxing and feeling at ease) and the creation of prostaglandins (hormone-like substance) which regulates the release and performance of these neurotransmitters. 

Salmon is arguably one of the best whole sources of both EPA and DHA. One 6-ounce serving can contain approximately 1700 mg of EPA and 1200 mg of DHA. 

Emotional Stability & Salmon 

Alcohol Cravings & Peppers

The phytonutrient, caffeic acid, in bell peppers is a phenolic compound that has been shown to have a protective and beneficial effect in reducing the adverse effects of alcoholism on the liver and kidneys (2007). 

Caffeic acid has also been shown to reduce the accumulation of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, liver, and kidney tissues (2008) in Alcohol Use Disorder. 

Some studies also indicate that peppers can lower blood sugar levels thereby helping to reduce sugar and alcohol cravings. One author suggests that consuming the juice of half a cup of green bell peppers twice a day with meals can eliminate alcohol cravings. And because bell peppers do not contain capsaicin they may be much gentler than other pepper varieties, on the stomach and other mucous membranes, which may be particularly sensitive to burning sensations during early abstinence. 
Depression is a common mood disorder among individuals with alcohol use disorder. A study of the connection between chlorogenic acids (a phytochemical), depression, and alcoholism, suggests that the opiate antagonistic effect of chlorogenic acid may act as a preventative agent blocking opioid receptors in the brain and decreasing the craving for self-reward that can be involved in the mechanism of depression and/or alcoholism (2014). The free radical scavenging properties of chlorogenic acid have been shown to protect against depressive processes by reducing oxidative stress. 

The antidepressant effects of chlorogenic acid may also be attributed to its ability to promote the release of serotonin which is commonly low in individuals with various forms of depression. Rosemary’s ability to improve circulation to the head and brain and its chlorogenic acid content may contribute to this herbs antidepressant and neuroprotective activity. 

Depression & Rosemary

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