Best Vitamins & Supplements for Alcohol Detox

Last Updated: January 17, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Although some supplements may reduce cravings during alcohol detox, it’s important to be aware of their limitations.

When you or a loved one detoxes from alcohol, you understandably want to do everything possible to support your recovery. For many, this includes turning to vitamins or supplements to help promote wellness during detox. However, although some vitamins and supplements may help support your health or reduce cravings, many lack clinical studies or extensive safety data behind their use. Further, vitamins and supplements are generally not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

How Does Alcohol Cause Nutritional Deficiencies? 

Nutritional deficiencies are common in those who struggle with drinking. Alcohol can cause nutritional deficiencies in many ways. Each factor can contribute to low nutrient intake in a person who drinks, including:

  • Poor dietary intake: People may get most of their calories from alcohol and make poor nutritional choices.
  • Poor nutrient absorption of many different nutrients: Alcohol can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients even when consumed.
  • One nutrient deficiency leads to another: Nutrient deficiencies can be linked; for example, a folate deficiency can cause cellular changes that further predispose you to deficiencies.
  • Side effects from drinking can cause deficiencies: Vomiting and diarrhea from drinking can lead to magnesium deficiency, and internal bleeding from drinking can cause an iron deficiency.

Some of the most common nutritional deficiencies in a person who struggles with drinking include:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • B vitamins
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Selenium

Can Vitamins & Supplements Help With Alcohol Withdrawal? 

Some people take vitamins and supplements to try to ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms. While no supplements are FDA-approved for this purpose, fixing nutritional deficiencies linked to alcohol can help support your recovery. By building a strong, healthy and well-nourished body as you become alcohol-free, you gain the strength to support your recovery journey.

Best Vitamins & Supplements for Alcohol Detox

Many different vitamins and supplements are taken by people attempting alcohol detox. It is important to remember that no vitamins and supplements are FDA-approved to help with detox specifically, and the FDA does not regulate herbal supplements. That said, some data suggest that certain vitamins and supplements can help support your recovery from alcohol.

B Vitamins

B-vitamin deficiencies are common in those who struggle with drinking. Many different B vitamins exist and can be affected by drinking. However, one of the most dangerous B-vitamin deficiencies is thiamine, also known as vitamin B1. A deficiency in this vitamin can cause a potentially fatal condition called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. As such, doctors often prescribe thiamine to those who struggle with drinking, even in recovery. However, little data exists on whether thiamine impacts alcohol withdrawal or detox.

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is an herb in the daisy and ragweed family. It is sometimes taken to treat liver damage like alcoholic liver disease. Experts think milk thistle may protect the liver and even help prevent liver cancer. However, little information is available about its use or any benefit during alcohol detox.

MCT Oil

MCTs are medium-chain triglycerides, a type of fat often distilled from coconut oil. Triglycerides play many roles in your body, and supplementation may support higher energy levels. However, high triglyceride levels can increase the risk of pancreatitis and cardiovascular disease. MCT oil has not been studied in alcohol detox, so little information on its use is available.

Iron

Iron is a crucial mineral for health and is used by the body to make hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen through your bloodstream. Although some people who struggle with drinking have an iron deficiency, which can be linked to internal bleeding, not everyone who drinks has low iron. About 9% of those who drink heavily have excess iron levels in their bloodstream. For this reason, it is important to avoid iron supplementation unless your doctor has specifically told you that you have a deficiency.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral involved in many aspects of your health, from DNA formation to blood pressure. Magnesium deficiency is common in people who drink heavily, and some may benefit from magnesium supplements if their doctor tells them their magnesium level is low. Magnesium may also help treat fatigue, depression and stomach upset, which can occur during detox. Lastly, magnesium can help reset some of the brain pathways that cause alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Omega-3

Omega-3s are fatty acids that may have some benefits in preventing low mood, cutting the risk of heart attack and lowering cholesterol. Studies have shown that intake of omega-3s can reduce the risk of drinking after detox is complete.

Kudzu Extract

Kudzu is a plant whose flowers and roots are used in traditional medicine to treat conditions including alcoholism. The plant’s actions as a plant-based estrogen may be responsible for its effects. Conflicting evidence exists about kudzu in alcohol use disorder. While some data show that it can help reduce alcohol intake and ease withdrawal symptoms, other studies have found no benefit.

Selenium

Selenium is a mineral with many uses in the body and supports immune system function. Selenium deficiency is common in alcohol use disorder, especially in people with alcohol-related liver damage. Little data exist on whether selenium is helpful in alcohol detox. However, because selenium is an immune system booster, whereas alcohol suppresses it, selenium may be beneficial.

Zinc

Zinc is a mineral used widely in your body and whose role includes supporting the immune system. In addition, your body uses zinc to form an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks down alcohol in your system. A zinc deficiency is possible in those who struggle with alcohol. Further, because zinc can help reset some of the brain pathways that become overly active during detox, zinc may help with alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

L-Glutamine

L-glutamine is a protein-building block. The chemical may help protect the gut during alcohol detox and improve common withdrawal symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. 

Consult a Doctor About Supplements Before Starting

It is important to always talk to a doctor before starting a new supplement. Some supplements can have drug interactions with medications, interfere with lab tests and be dangerous to take in certain circumstances. Further, it is important to be monitored if you take the supplement to try to ease alcohol detox. The safest way to detox is under medical supervision.

Medically-Supervised Detox in the Northeastern United States

If you or a loved one struggles with drinking, help is available. The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper believes that recovery is a continuum, so we support you throughout your recovery. We offer medical detox for alcohol use disorder, fully integrated with rehab services to help keep you alcohol-free for good. Don’t wait: contact us today to see how we can help.

Sources

National Library of Medicine. “Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.” January 23, 2022. Accessed August 13, 2023.

Prior, Pedro Luis; Fernandes Galduróz, José Carlos. “Glutamatergic hyperfunctioning during alcohol withdrawal syndrome: Therapeutic perspective with zinc and magnesium.” Medical Hypotheses, September 2011. Accessed August 13, 2023.

Baj, Jacek; Flieger, Wojciech; Teresiński, Grzegorz; et al. “Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, Sodium, Phosphorus, Selenium, Zinc, and Chromium Levels in Alcohol Use Disorder: A Review.” Journal of Clinical Medicine, June 2020. Accessed August 13, 2023.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Glutamine.” September 13, 2022. Accessed August 13, 2023.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Kudzu.” February 4, 2022. Accessed August 13, 2023.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Milk Thistle.” February 27, 2023. Accessed August 13, 2023.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Magnesium.” May 19, 2020. Accessed August 13, 2023.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Zinc.” May 25, 2022. Accessed August 13, 2023.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Selenium.” December 15, 2021. Accessed August 13, 2023.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Omega-3.” April 21, 2022. Accessed August 13, 2023.

Pauluci, Renata; Noto, Ana Regina; Curado, Daniela Fernandez; et al. “Omega-3 for the Prevention of Alcohol Use Disorder Relapse: A Placebo-Controlled, Randomized Clinical Trial.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, April 8, 2022. Accessed August 13, 2023.

Lieb, M.; Palm, U.; Hock, B.; et al. “Effects of alcohol consumption on iron metabolism.” American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, November 22, 2010. Accessed August 13, 2023.

Cleveland Clinic. “Potential Health Benefits of MCT Oil.” Accessed August 13, 2023.

Lewis, Michael J. “Alcoholism and nutrition: a review of vitamin supplementation and treatment.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, March 2020. Accessed August 13, 2023.

Food and Drug Administration. “Understanding Dietary Supplements.” May 2022. Accessed August 13, 2023.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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