Can Juicing Detox the Liver from Alcohol Abuse?
Most people think of alcohol use disorder, colloquially called alcoholism, when they think of alcohol abuse. However, there are several kinds of alcohol abuse: alcohol use disorder, binge drinking, and heavy drinking. Binge drinking occurs when five or more drinks are consumed within two hours while heavy drinking involves seven or more drinks per week.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), in 2015, 26.9 percent of US adults, ages 18 and older, reported binge drinking within the prior month, and 7 percent reported heavy alcohol consumption within the prior month. Over 15 million adults had a diagnosable alcohol use disorder (AUD), of which 1.3 million received treatment for this substance abuse issue. About 623,000 adolescents, between the ages of 12 and 17, also had AUD, and 37,000 received treatment.
The Path to Wellness after Alcohol Abuse
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 88,000 deaths per year are attributable to effects related to alcohol abuse, from poisoning to car crashes to long-term health problems like liver failure. People who consume alcohol in problematic ways are at greater risk for heart disease, cancer, mental health problems, and cognitive damage, including dementia.
When getting treatment, nutrition is extremely important. Alcohol depletes the body’s ability to process and store thiamine, or vitamin B12.
When a person consumes too much alcohol, especially on a regular basis, they are at risk of developing atrophic gastritis, an inflammation of the stomach that prevents the lining from producing enzymes that secrete intrinsic factor, which enhances absorption of B12.
Alcohol is also considered an appetite stimulant. People who drink regularly are more likely to drink with meals, making them less likely to consume a variety of healthy foods. In addition, people who develop alcohol dependence are more likely to replace meals with alcohol. This reduces nutrition to the body in general, but thiamine absorption is particularly at risk. Without enough thiamine, brain function declines.
The best sources of vitamin B12 include beef, dairy, eggs, shellfish, and salmon. However, fruits and vegetables can supply some thiamine, too, along with other important nutrients that have been lacking in a person’s diet if they are overcoming alcohol abuse. Juicing – the process of squeezing or mashing the liquid and much of the nutrition out of fruits and vegetables – provides a straightforward way for people to get a lot of vitamins and minerals from fresh fruits and vegetables. Juicing can also help detox certain organs in the body, especially the liver, which, along with the intestines and kidneys, processes much of the nutrition for the body.
Juicing and Improved Liver Function
The liver is the primary detox organ in the body. While other organs, like the stomach and intestines, absorb and process nutrition and send it to the bloodstream, the liver processes complex nutrients and filters out toxins. These chemicals can include metabolic end products, free radicals, and even heavy metals. When a person consumes a lot of alcohol, this organ is damaged, and it has a challenging time regenerating those cells. After safely detoxing from alcohol, with the assistance of a medical professional, adding juicing to the rehabilitation process can help to cleanse the liver and improve nutritional balance in the body.
There are a few ways that juicing can help to detox the liver. First, alcohol dehydrates the body, even though it is a liquid; juicing can restore hydration while adding vitamins and minerals back into the diet in an easy-to-digest form. Drinking more complex carbohydrates and fruit sugars through juicing may help to reduce alcohol cravings, too, since alcohol is fermented sugars from grains or fruits.
Fruits and vegetables are important sources of fat-soluble vitamins like K, E, D, and A. Alcohol adds fat to the body without adding vitamins, but vitamins stored in fat for later use will promote long-term health. Mineral deficiencies after alcohol abuse include magnesium and calcium, two of the most important bone-building minerals.
These can be found in abundance in leafy greens like kale and chard, along with whole grains and nuts. Adding kale, almond milk, and chia seeds to a smoothie or juice can greatly improve nutrition.
Juicing and Smoothie Recipes for Liver Health
There are thousands of juice recipes and combinations online, but if one focuses juicing on detoxing and cleansing the liver, then specific recipes may improve liver function more than others.
Here are a few suggestions for fruits and vegetables that are great for the liver, which can be mixed for juices or smoothies:
- Cruciferous vegetables: kale, chard, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli
- Sulfur-rich: onions, shallots, and garlic
- Citrus: lemons, limes, and oranges
The addition of nut milks, seeds, and protein powders may help to maximize full nutritional value in these juices.
Note: It is important to have a juicer or find a local source of these cold-pressed juices, as shelf-life is a factor in nutritional value. Without protective skins and fiber, the vitamins and minerals in juice can degrade quickly, so preparing each batch for consumption within 24 hours is key.
Below are some suggestions for combinations of fruits and vegetables. Run ingredients through a juicer and enjoy!
Deep Green Liver Cleanse:
- 2 cups kale
- 1 cup Swiss chard
- 1 lime, peeled
- Half a cucumber
- Half a lemon, peeled
Detox Liver Juice or Smoothie:
This recipe can be combined in a blender, rather than a juicer, to retain some fiber.
- 2 peeled oranges
- 1 peeled lemon
- ½ cup parsley
- ½ cup dandelion greens
- Half rib of celery
Beet Juice to Boost the Liver:
- 1 beet
- 1 carrot
- 1 peeled lemon
- 1 handful of parsley
- 2 apples
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 lemon, peeled
- 1 carrot
- Half of a beet
- One-inch thumb of ginger
- 4 carrots
- 2-3 apples
- 1 beet with leafy greens
Wash the produce well, but don’t peel the vegetables to retain more nutrition.
- 4-5 celery stalks
- 3 zucchinis
- 1 carrot
- 1 lemon, peeled
- Bunch of parsley
- Handful of green beans
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Important Notes about Juicing and Health
While juicing has many benefits, there are potential downsides as well.
- Pros: Juicing allows a person to consume a larger amount of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (plant nutrients) while eating the same amount of fruits or vegetables would cause a person to fill up rapidly. Juices are gentler on the stomach, so if a person is recovering from alcohol abuse and suffers from gastritis, juices can help them to consume substantial amounts of nutrients without being hard on their digestive system. Juicing is an easy way for people to substantially increase their intake of nutrients.
- Cons: Along with more nutrition comes more calories and sugar. Juicing may not be the best choice for people who are sensitive to sugar, pre-diabetic or diabetic, or trying to lose weight, even while they recover from alcohol abuse. If these people choose to juice, they can focus juices on low-sugar vegetables like celery and kale. While drinking juices may result in higher calorie consumption than just eating fruit or vegetables, juices should not replace meals. Eating solid food regularly to maintain nutritional balance is especially important for those who are recovering from substance abuse, who may have replaced meals with alcohol for days at a time in the past.
Juicing Is One of Many Options to Support Recovery
A standard healthy diet includes nutrient-heavy foods like proteins from dairy, eggs, and meat, along with 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables per 2,000 daily calories. People who have struggled with nutritional balance due to alcohol abuse can benefit from consuming juices, which can improve liver function and cleanse the body. In addition, juices are easy to digest if the person struggles with stomach or intestinal issues after detoxing from alcohol.
Despite potential benefits, juicing is not a replacement for a safe, medically supervised detox and rehabilitation program. While nutritional education and juicing can help the body and mind during rehabilitation, there is no safe way to detox from alcohol abuse alone, at home. Working with a medical professional to manage withdrawal symptoms – which during alcohol detox, can include dangerous effects like seizures – can ensure health and ease cravings.
By entering a rehabilitation program once detox is complete, the person will have access to behavioral therapy and social support through peer groups. Individual and group counseling can help an individual understand how their brain has been affected by alcohol addiction, and how they can identify and change their behaviors so they do not fall back into addiction patterns.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) makes it clear, in their Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment, that no single specific course of treatment will work for everyone. While safe detox and counseling are general principles that work for most people, the details involved in a rehabilitation program must vary so everyone who needs help can receive treatment that works for them.
Nutritional counseling is increasingly one of the options available through many rehabilitation programs, and one of the methods of providing supplemental vitamins and nutrients during rehab can involve juicing. Additionally, continuing to juice at home, once a rehabilitation program has been completed, can continue to bolster health and wellness while the person focuses on long-term recovery and abstinence.
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