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CURE YOUR ALCOHOLISM BY CHANGING YOUR DIET

This is a short book I wrote earlier this year (2015). Its brevity comes from dealing with a pretty straightforward but very important, potentially life-changing idea in as direct a way as possible. It doesn't bore you with more than the basics of the theory behind it. Even though the topic it deals with - alcoholism - is very serious and is often made out to be very complex, I believe it can often be quite simple. To put it bluntly, I believe entrenched alcoholism is largely physiological, not psychological. In other words the basic premise on which the contents of this book are based is that alcoholism, like most if not all maladies, stems from our bodies and brains having faulty chemical make-up. Therefore if we alter and rectify the chemical composition, flows and interactions inside our bodies and brains, we can rectify the malady.

There is no need to read through perhaps hundreds of pages of research, scientific theory and complicatedly-given advice when you - assuming you are an alcoholic, or are wishing to help someone you know who is an alcoholic - simply want to know what changes should be made to behavior and habits in order to get rid of a potentially life-destroying addiction to alcohol. If the proposal for the changes the alcoholic needs to make to their diet can be conveyed in just a few pages, is that not better than being pointlessly verbose?

It means you (or the other person, if they are the alcoholic, not you) can get on all the quicker with making the changes necessary to get you off the booze and into a new, physically and mentally clean and healthy way of life, with a mind that no longer gives hardly even the slightest thought to the subject of alcohol.

What matters is the correctness and usefulness of what is written here, not the volume of words. You will have to decide for yourself whether you agree with the basic premise that is being proposed.

What you have here then is what is intended to be a potentially life-changing suggestion for alcoholics to take hold of and use. So let me get on with setting out the idea.

Alcoholism can start from one or both of two general causes - the psychological and the physical. But however it starts, by the time it is deeply ingrained, habitual and entrenched in a person's life, I believe the craving for, and addiction to, alcohol will be largely if not entirely physiological. That is why I believe that a purely psychological approach, such as that employed by support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, or by counseling of various forms, has by itself little chance of lasting success in stopping an alcoholic from drinking or from returning to drinking if they do manage to stop for a certain length of time.

Let me say right from the outset that I believe that for an alcoholic there can never be any such thing as moderation with regard to drinking. Either an alcoholic drinks alcohol excessively, or they don't drink at all.

Alcoholics often claim that there is some psychological reason for their being alcoholic. The reason they give is generally one of two - either, “I'm alcoholic because that's just the way nature made me,” or, “I'm alcoholic because some external event or circumstance, either now or in the past, has made me be alcoholic.”

If someone claims to be a 'naturally born alcoholic', then they just have to decide if they want to carry on being the person they claim naturally to be, or not. If they do, leave them to it. Nothing will stop them. However, if they want to change and become 'clean', let them read this booklet. With the other type of alcoholic who claims it is some external event or circumstance that has caused, or is causing, them to react in such a way that they are now alcoholic, then obviously there can only be two sorts of external 'causes' for their supposedly justifiable current alcoholism - something that happened in the past and is now over, or something that is happening now and is ongoing.

If the claimed cause of an alcoholic's psychological need to drink happened in the past and is now over, the drinker has to make himself or herself accept the fact that nothing can be done about that event or situation and therefore it just has to be accepted, and so it is irrelevant in terms of being used as an excuse for current negative behavior. It is foolish and self-harming to waste time in the present allowing yourself to be adversely affected by something that happened in the past and can never be altered or undone. Forgive, if necessary, and forget. And if you can't forgive, force yourself to keep all thoughts about the event or situation out of your mind. Thinking negative thoughts of any kind only makes your life worse than it need be. Thinking negative thoughts about other people only hurts you, not them.

With regard to drinkers who want to convince themselves and others that their drinking is caused by something external to themselves that exists now and that they find unpleasant and that they therefore react to it, supposedly justifiably, by drinking, the questions they should ask themselves are, “How is my drinking making my situation any better?” and, “If I keep on drinking the way I am drinking now, what will be the eventual consequences for me?” The other thing that could be said to someone who uses some current undesirable situation as an excuse for their excessive drinking is, “Instead of getting drunk in an attempt to blot out the unpleasantness of the situation you are in, why not sober up and try to do something to improve the situation, or even try to get out of the situation altogether?”

Drinking just doesn't help, not in any way whatsoever.

Of course occasionally there is a drinker who is perfectly content with their regular excessive drinking because all other aspects of their life are ticking along perfectly well. Therefore they claim that they can continue drinking as they do now because their situation is great and it will always be great. So what is there to worry about? Why should they change?

Quite frankly, perhaps they don't need to change. So long as they keep an eye on what is happening to their health, they might be able to carry on perfectly happily indefinitely. So long as they're prepared and able to stop at the first signs of alcohol causing chronic health problems, and so long as they're not doing silly or dangerous things when drunk which produce, or could produce, unacceptably negative consequences for them or for other people, then it's difficult to see why they ought to change their ways. If, however, they have doubts about the wisdom of having alcohol as an indispensible part of their lives, perhaps they should read this booklet and try what is suggested in it. Then they can see how they feel about alcohol after that.

The dietary changes proposed here not only help those alcoholics who want to quit actually to be able to do so, and then to stay off the booze for good, but the diet can also have the effect of making those alcoholics who claim to be happy being drunks, and who say they wish to continue being 'alkies', realize that they could actually still be happy and have a good time without alcohol in their lives, and it would have the benefit of freeing up their minds, and their time, for things that are more positive and constructive than drinking alcohol.

However, regardless of what people say, I have yet to meet an alcoholic whose drinking has not caused problems of one sort or another. If you get rid of 'drink', you get rid of the problems it causes.

Even so, at the end of the day if an alcoholic wants to keep on drinking, they will keep on drinking. And let us be honest once again, drinking can be fun and pleasurable. It can make life seem more interesting and more colorful than it would otherwise be. Drinkers usually drink because they perceive there is some sort of benefit to it, and in some respects they can be right. It's just that when drinking becomes excessive and uncontrollable, the disadvantages inevitably outweigh the benefits.

Regardless of the actual or alleged causes of a drinker's alcoholism, and regardless of that drinker's current circumstances, after taking all the above into account, someone who is an alcoholic and who is reading this booklet has either decided seriously that they wish to stop being addicted to alcohol, or they don't yet want to stop but they know from a rational point of view that they ought to. With regard to the latter, if they change their diet as suggested here, they may well find that their craving for alcohol begins to disappear and they will change their mind and see that excluding alcohol from their lives completely will bring them considerable benefits. They will then resolve to give up drinking, and they will be in an excellent condition to do so.

Let us assume for now though that anyone reading this booklet is reading it because a) they feel they drink too much and too often, b) they feel they have lost the ability to control their drinking, and c) they feel the negative consequences of continuing to indulge their addiction will, or indeed already do, outweigh any advantages they feel that their addiction brings them.

Part of the idea that is being presented here is that no matter how a person's alcoholism started - whether it started as an attempt at coping with some unsatisfactory situation, or it came from having the time and money to be persistently drunk and still live in a maintainable, successful way, or it simply developed over time, growing from what were initially reasonably moderate drinking habits - by the time excessive and persistent alcohol drinking has become so embedded that it can be regarded as alcoholism, then, although it may well have some psychological aspect to it, it will certainly have a physiological, biochemical aspect to it. The body needs certain stuff, the brain wants certain stuff, and the alcoholic's body and brain have got in such a condition that the brain believes that its wants, and the body's needs, can be met, in some way or other and to some extent, by ingesting alcohol.

So here's the simple idea - if you change your diet it will change your body and it will change your brain in such a way and to such an extent that your mind will no longer tell you that you want or need alcohol.

Before addressing the dietary changes that need to be made to make this happen, I must acknowledge that there will of course be some people who say, “Rubbish! Alcoholism is entirely an illness of the mind. There's nothing biochemical about it at all. It's purely a psychological sickness. You have to sort the mind out if you want to get rid of the problem.” Such people are likely to advocate counseling, or joining an alcoholics' support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Let me just give a personal opinion about Alcoholics Anonymous and any other similar groups. If you go to their meetings and find that they help you and you enjoy attending the meetings, then that's great, go to them. But consider this. You're substituting one addiction - alcohol - for another addiction - attending meetings. Do you really want to keep on having to attend meetings for the rest of your life? Wouldn't it be better if there was a way to get rid of your craving for alcohol completely and permanently so that you were no longer alcoholic and you had no need for support of any kind? Do you really want to keep having to sit amongst a bunch of people each week saying, “Hi, my name's John/Jane, and I'm an alcoholic,” and then talk about alcohol, which is surely a subject and topic of conversation that you want to get away from and have as little to do with as possible? Do you want to talk about, and therefore remember, the negative things that have happened in your life because of alcohol? Do you want to have to listen to other people talking about alcohol and the impact that it had on their lives? Do you want to have to tell, and listen to, the same old stories each week?

Here's some information about Alcoholics Anonymous that you might find interesting.

Most people know, or believe, that Alcoholics Anonymous was started by a guy who had a drink problem and who decided that the only way to fix it was to be open about it, share the problem with a group of fellow sufferers, and enlist the aid of God in getting rid of the problem. The real story is a bit more complex and interesting than that.

The co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous was Bill (William Griffith) Wilson. The other co-founder was Dr. Bob - actual name Robert Holbrook Smith. The organization was founded in Akron, Ohio. Bill Wilson, through lifelong struggle, did indeed manage to be teetotal. But did he cure his alcohol addiction? No. He had to fight against it all the time. Did he cure his addictive tendencies? No. He just became addicted to other things - nicotine, through smoking, to caffeine, through beverages, to sex - yes, through women - and to religious fervor and proselytizing. So he didn't actually cure himself of anything. He just suppressed an addiction for one thing and transferred it to other things.

Is that a state you want to be in - constantly knowing that you crave alcohol but that you must battle all the time against that craving? Do you simply want to displace your craving onto something else which might perhaps be equally negative or harmful? Would you not instead prefer to make some simple and easy changes to your diet so that you alter the chemical composition of your body and brain in such a way that you no longer have any physical cravings?

Having transferred his addiction to alcohol in part to an addiction to sex, Bill Wilson was able to use the Alcoholics Anonymous to gain access to troubled and vulnerable women so that he could take advantage of them sexually. His sexually predatory behavior was known to people in the organization and it was a cause for concern, but the matter was hushed up so that it wouldn't become known to the public and hinder the organization's push for growth and acceptance.

When I myself was a drinker I occasionally attended AA meetings. I found that for me they were useless. I found the meetings tedious and disliked having to listen to other people talk about themselves and their relationship with alcohol. I wanted to have nothing to do with the subject of alcohol. I wanted to get away from it. Also I had no inclination to talk about myself, either in relation to alcohol or indeed about myself in general. So for me AA didn't work. However, that doesn't mean it might not help you. Give it a try if you want to and see how it goes. Just be aware that although AA might give you some psychological and social support and comfort, it doesn't help you get rid of your desire for alcohol. As I've said, I believe that an alcoholic's craving for alcohol is a biological thing, a chemical thing, so it needs to be dealt with by physical means. If AA actually worked, people wouldn't have to keep on attending meetings for the rest of their lives. The fact that you are expected to do so tells you two things. The first is that AA believes that if you didn't attend their meetings, you would revert to drinking. The second, following on from that, is that it means that you are not cured of your alcoholism. Indeed if you are sitting in an AA meeting you are there as an alcoholic, not as a cured alcoholic.

If Alcoholics Anonymous actually cured people of their alcohol addiction, there wouldn't be anyone to attend their meetings.

Here's a bit more about Alcoholics Anonymous.

During Bill Wilson's drinking days he was treated for his alcoholism at Towns Hospital in Manhattan. The hospital had been set up by Charles. B. Towns as a place where addicts could supposedly be cured of their malady by the administration of belladonna, otherwise known as deadly nightshade. Whilst there, Wilson was visited by a friend, Ebby Thacher, who had once been a drinking buddy of Wilson's but who was now sober, thanks largely to having joined a Christianity-based but essentially non-denominational group called the Oxford Group which urged people to hand their lives over to the control and guidance of God. Coming out of a delirium after one of his belladonna treatments, Wilson accepted Thacher's suggestion that he attend Oxford Group meetings.

The 12 Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous is largely based on principles set out by the Oxford Group, which included having to confess your sins (which in the 12 Step program would be changed to 'defects of character' and 'shortcomings') and the wrongs you had committed, to try to make amends to those you had harmed, to pray to God for knowledge of what He wants you to do, and to tell others about the group and its principles.

Attending Oxford Group meetings and finding that they helped him stay sober, Bill Wilson encouraged another alcoholic, Dr. Bob, with whom Wilson would later co-found Alcoholics Anonymous, to join the group. After that, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob began to invite other alcoholics to join the Oxford Group.

Existing members of the Oxford Group, who were a rather smart crowd, were not too pleased at having amongst them the sort of people that Wilson and Dr. Bob were inviting into the group, so Wilson, Dr. Bob and their fellow alcoholics split away and formed their own group which they called Alcoholics Anonymous. They kept, largely unaltered, the principles of the Oxford Group, and called those principles the 12 Step Program.

There you have it. That's how Alcoholics Anonymous started. It has never claimed to rid members of their alcohol addiction. It isn't even, by all accounts, particularly successful at getting the majority of people who attend their meetings to give up booze. Indeed the majority of people who start attending AA meetings aren't attending one year later. What Alcoholics Anonymous does do, however, is allow you to remain an alcoholic, but within a support group.

If you're alcoholic and want some support, go and join AA. Then you can be not only still addicted to alcohol, but also addicted to going to AA meetings! But if you want to stop being addicted to alcohol so that you have no need of support groups, or indeed of support of any kind, read on.

Although people may start drinking because of some perceived trauma in the lives, or indeed for some other reason such as being in an environment where regular, heavy drinking is expected, that in and of itself is not alcoholism. But if it continues, it may develop into alcoholism, which is where control over the desire for alcohol has been lost, and control over when it is consumed and how much is consumed is also lost.

As stated, we're going to work on the basis that entrenched, long-term alcoholism is a physiological, biological, chemical condition rather than a psychological one. As for you, you've either decided you want to give up alcohol for good, or you haven't, but if you haven't, you know, when thinking rationally, that you should do so for your own good and for the good of others. Therefore you want some sort of change to take place in your mind that will make you decide to give up the booze. That will then be a starting point from which you will try to move forwards and actually give up drinking.

We're going to do two things. First we're going to look at the sort of diet you need to be on consistently and permanently for the rest of your life so that you no longer have a desire for alcohol. Then we'll have a look at a few extra things that you can do to help you get through the transition from being a drinker to being teetotal.

As an alcoholic you have chemical abnormality in your body and brain, and this is what needs to be addressed. The neurotransmitters in your brain are not functioning properly, your blood sugar levels are wrong, your digestive system is not functioning properly, you probably have excessive growth of yeast-based organisms in your intestines and perhaps in and on other parts of your body, you're nutritionally deficient in essential minerals and vitamins and amino acids, and it's also likely that you have some food allergy or allergies - including, by the way, possibly an allergy to alcohol.

Yes, it's odd, but people can be attracted to what they're allergic to.

These are the issues that need to be put right. Once they are, the craving for alcohol - which is just your body telling you that it needs something, and your mind then deciding that alcohol will provide a short term fix which will make that need go away - should disappear, not just temporarily, but for good.

That really is as much theory as is needed. You can go and get long-winded scientific treatises that go into the matter in great depth and detail, but there really is little point in becoming bogged down in the minutiae of the physical failings that alcoholics suffer from when what you really want to know is what to do to cure yourself of those failings and thereby put yourself in a physical state where you no longer have a desire or need for alcohol and are therefore no longer alcoholic.

Think of your body and brain as malfunctioning because your intake of alcohol and your diet in general are making you be nutritionally out of balance. What you need are the nutrients to get everything back in balance. Then you need a diet that will keep everything in balance. Your body and brain will then be functioning properly and they will have no need, and therefore no desire, for alcohol. Your body needs what it needs - nothing else, and no more and no less of it than is needed. It does not want anything that is unnecessary or harmful. Keep your body and brain happy, and you as a person will be happy. You want the neurotransmitters in your brain to be as they should be, to be of the right sort, in the right amount, in the right place at the right time, flowing as they are supposed to do. What you don't need is stuff like alcohol, or nicotine, or other drugs, or sugar, indeed anything that is unnatural from a dietary point of view, messing up your neurotransmitters and making weird things go on in your head and in your body.

When you move onto a 'correct' diet after having been a persistent over-consumer of alcohol for some time, there is likely to be a transition phase where your brain has to put some effort into adapting to your new healthy regime before it eventually settles down into a permanent, stable state in which it has no need or desire for stimulants or suppressants. During this transitionary phase we'll amend and boost the diet a bit. Nonetheless be prepared for a period of a few weeks where your body and brain feel a bit confused and rebellious as they adjust to a new way of life. But stick to what is suggested and all should be well in the end.

I should say here that I cannot claim that moving onto the proposed diet is 100% guaranteed to stop you being alcoholic. The human mind is a powerful and often perverse thing, and if it insists on telling you that you should keep drinking alcohol even though your body and brain have no chemical need for it - indeed even though your brain may at the same time be telling you that continuing to drink alcohol will cause you harm - then quite frankly you will carry on drinking. However, changing your diet in the way that is proposed is going to increase your chances of entirely giving up the booze very greatly. I believe alcoholics who go on this permanent lifestyle diet have something like an 80% chance of stopping drinking altogether and then remaining permanently sober.

With regard to the neurotransmitters in your brain, it's highly likely that, if you have been drinking heavily and persistently for a long time, they are below their required levels. The ingesting of certain substances affects the production and transmission of neurotransmitters, e.g. serotonin and endorphins. What sort of substances have this affect? Alcohol of course, but also sugar, other carbohydrates, and foods that are refined, processed, have additives or are essentially 'unnatural'. Oh yes, and nicotine.

This booklet isn't about smoking, or the intake of any drugs other than alcohol for that matter, but it really is a good idea if you're going to rid your life of alcohol also to rid it of all other mind-affecting substances that alter the chemical make-up of your brain and body.

You should cut artificial foods out of your diet to as great an extent as possible. Avoid sugar. You can get as much sugar as your body needs by eating fruit and other natural foods. So there will be no cakes, no biscuits, no confectionery, no smoothies, no ice cream - nothing that has had sugar put in it. (There's going to be another reason given later as to why you shouldn't have ice cream apart from its sugar content.) Also no fizzy drinks.

With regard to the latter you might say, “But what if I drink the ones that are low calorie and have artificial sweeteners in them instead of sugar?”

The critical word there is 'artificial'. You are supposed to be trying to avoid anything artificial. You want natural ingredients. You want to avoid anything with additives. And there is another element to this. Even though low calorie soda drinks might not be packed with sugars, and you might be prepared to put up with some artificial stuff in your diet just for the sake of convenience, quite often soda drinks have another substance in them that is best avoided, and that is caffeine.

Alcoholics should keep away from caffeine. It's well known that it has a stimulating effect on the brain, but that is exactly what we're trying to avoid. We're trying to avoid anything that unnaturally affects the production, transmission and action of the brain's neurotransmitters. You don't want to exchange one mind-affecting chemical for another one, and you definitely don't want to swap one addiction for another. I've known a few people who have successfully given up drink, but sometimes they have replaced their alcohol addiction with a different addiction. For example it's not uncommon for ex-drinkers to smoke a lot, regardless of whether or not they did during their drinking days. Also caffeinated drinks - tea, coffee, cola and so on - can easily be resorted to as a prop by ex-drinkers. Another thing I've noticed is that some people who give up booze gain quite a lot of weight. This is because they resort to overindulging in carbohydrates. These affect their blood sugar levels, which can peak and trough and become volatile, which affects the activity of the neurotransmitters in their brains. Eating carbohydrates can become addictive, and because they pack a lot of calories, they lead to weight gain.

So, no caffeine, no refined sugar or sugar products, and generally be careful of carbohydrates. The overarching rule here is to aim as much as possible to eat natural food and eat it whenever possible in the condition in which it grows in nature.

Eat good quality, cooked, but otherwise unprocessed, animal protein. Animal protein is good for boosting the amino acids in your body. You should be having eggs, fish, particularly the oily sort, shellfish, and meat. I personally tend to minimize the amount of 'mammal meat' I have - meat from pigs, cows, sheep and so on - but that's more of a personal inclination of mine. That leaves poultry - chicken, turkey, duck, goose and so on - and anything that comes under the heading of 'game' (if you like it and you can get it).

The animal protein you eat should just be the straightforward animal - for example a fish, a chicken, an oyster - or it should a cut from an animal - a steak, for example. Don't go for things like sausages or hamburgers or bacon, with all the additives those things have in them.

If you put all this together, what you should notice is that you are tending towards having a hunter-gatherer diet, or so-called Paleo (Paleolithic) diet. It's a wonderfully natural diet with some restrictions included in it. It hasn't ever been specifically promoted as a diet for alcoholics, I believe (indeed in the Paleo diet you're allowed to have certain types of alcoholic drink in moderation, which is an absolute no-no for alcoholics) but in fact, broadly speaking, it is absolutely the right diet for alcoholics.

There are certain peculiarities about the Paleo diet that debatably are not applicable or relevant to alcoholics, but actually I would apply them to the diet for alcoholics anyway. These are that you're not supposed to eat legumes - peas, beans, peanuts, lentils and so on - you shouldn't have grains, or food produced from grains - this means no bread, no pasta, no rice, no noodles, no breakfast cereals, nothing made from flour - and you should avoid, or at least minimize your intake of, root crop vegetables. That is, any vegetable the edible part of which grows below the ground. This means things like potatoes, of course, which it's nice to avoid anyway because of their high carbohydrate and starch content, and beets and carrots, and even onions. In the case of the latter you can substitute spring onions (scallions).

There's one other suggested major suggested restriction which we'll come to in a minute.

What you have as the ideal diet for an alcoholic then is the Paleo, or hunter-gather, diet, possibly with a bit of flexibility in it with regard to including legumes, root vegetables and grains and grain-derived food products. With the latter, however, I would say this. Firstly, earlier on we said avoid processed foods. Grain-derived food products are by definition processed foods, so really they should be avoided for that reason alone. Also it was mentioned that alcoholics can have problems with the amount of yeast-based growths they have in and on their bodies. Grains and yeast growths (fungal growths) go hand in hand together, so on the basis that you want to discourage anything that aids yeast-type organisms to flourish in you and on you, you should not include grains and grain-based foods in your diet. Another thing to be taken into account is that a not inconsiderable number of people have gluten intolerance. Maybe you're one of them, maybe you're not, but perhaps the mere possibility that you might be is another incentive to make you lean towards excluding grains and grain-based products from your diet.

What about legumes and root vegetables, including potatoes, carrots, and so on? I think here there really is room for choice. They won't as such, I believe, do you any harm. Rather the argument against them is that they tend to be high in carbohydrate and/or starch, which are both things that you want to minimize in your diet. However, you might think that this is not a particularly important consideration, so ultimately the decision is up to you.

One thing we haven't mentioned yet is the inclusion in the diet of nuts and seeds. They're fine. More than fine. Indeed they're very much to be recommended … but in moderation because they can be surprisingly high in calories.

One last thing about the Paleo diet is that it excludes milk and all dairy products. Personally I go for this, firstly because I think there is something unnatural about having milk once one ceases to be a baby, and secondly because I believe dairy produce can cause various health issues. Nonetheless this might still be something that an alcoholic would choose to include in their regular diet.

So then, the diet we end up with to help keep an alcoholic on the straight and narrow is like this: nuts, seeds, fruit, salad, vegetables, eggs, fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, game and water, and if your food can be eaten raw, eat it raw.

That's it! That's the diet in its strictest form. If something is on that list, you can eat it or drink it.

Okay, seriously, for those of you who don't have cast iron willpower (and you wouldn't be giving in to your craving for alcohol if you did, would you?) we can give the diet a slightly more liberal interpretation and add some other things to it and go into a bit more detail. Mostly these extra things have already been mentioned, so, for example, if you want to have root vegetables and legumes, including beans, peas, peanuts and lentils, you can. But perhaps it's best if you don't. Keep trying only to eat natural food whenever possible. That is, food that you would find growing in nature, then eat it in the condition in which you would find it growing there. Frozen food is generally okay. Try not to have food that comes in tins, jars and packets. Try to get fresh, or frozen, alternatives. However, it seems reasonable to buy things like fish in tins, for example. Avoid processed food and refined food. Avoid anything with chemical additives. The rule is that the further food deviates from what grows in nature, the more you should steer clear of it. You don't generally need to add salt to your food. Have grains and grain-based food if you must, but generally that sort of stuff is best avoided. Have milk and dairy produce if you must, but again it's generally best avoided. All this means that when you go to the supermarket you can probably pass by 90% of the food that's on sale.

If you want something other than water to drink you could have herb tea or decaffeinated green tea. Avoid caffeine completely. Don't have commercial soft drinks, even the 'sugar free' ones. Generally avoid fruit juices. They're not quite as natural or as healthy as you might think. Just have the fruit itself and drink some water with it. Fruit juices are, however, a handy to drink to resort to when you're out in company.

Extra virgin olive oil is the general oil of choice. Otherwise try to use oils that are derived from nuts. Margarine is obviously a complete no-no. Butter is permissible if you've decided to allow yourself dairy produce (which, as mentioned, I think you shouldn't).

No packets of biscuits, no bars of chocolate (although you might allow yourself the odd bar of very high cocoa content chocolate), no snacks that come in packets, and generally no food that you can point at and say, “That's junk food,” or, “That's convenience food.”

It's a delightfully austere and natural diet. Indeed your guiding motto should be, “I eat natural food, cooked only if necessary, but otherwise eaten in the state it was in when it was growing.”

Once you've weaned yourself not just off alcohol but also at the same time off the sort of totally unnatural junk food that the vast majority of people in the so-called developed world gorge themselves on these days, you'll not only feel wonderfully sober and clear headed but you'll also feel splendidly physically healthy.

A double whammy then.

But what about going through the transition from the diet of an alcoholic to the healthy diet outlined above that keeps your thoughts and emotions away from craving for alcohol? Once on the new diet - which is of course a permanent lifestyle change and not a temporary change of eating regime to be adhered to for a while and then dropped so that you can revert to eating and drinking whatever you want - things should not only be better but, in terms of mind and body, it should become, as they say, 'plain sailing' and utterly effortless, requiring no thought. If you add in some exercise you then shouldn't need to think much about your body's needs and desires at all. Instead you can concentrate on getting on with your life and doing positive, constructive things. However, the changeover period from being alcoholic to being 'clean' can prove a little stressful and difficult in terms of adhering to the new eating regime. It's easy to waver, to slip back into old habits, to have doubts about whether it really is worth going through with making what is really not just a dramatic change in your lifestyle but a dramatic change to your whole life in general.

But you must persevere. Even if you initially find it difficult to adhere absolutely rigidly to the diet, it is okay to lapse occasionally to some extent or other, but whatever you do you must not have any alcoholic drink “just for old times' sake”, nor to prove to yourself that you can do it and then stop.

Because you won't be able to.

As already stated, the true alcoholic must never drink any alcohol at all, no matter what the supposed justification, no matter what the circumstances, no what invitations or what pressure other people impose on the alcoholic. You can lapse occasionally in all other aspects of your diet, and any harm done will soon naturally be remedied when you return to sticking absolutely to the rules, but you cannot have any alcoholic drink ever again.

Get through the transition period and, once you have got your body and brain cleansed and rebalanced, it should be pretty easy to stay clean. Of course if you've spent a long time, perhaps running into many years or even decades, being a constant user and abuser of excessive amounts of alcohol, it will have wreaked a huge amount of damage on your body and brain, and that damage will need a fair amount of time and effort before it is rectified. Nonetheless once it has been done you can feel confident that the new permanent dietary regime will keep your body and brain in the state they ought to be in, and then all should be well. All you have to do is get through the transition period between living in your old way and living in your new way.

Let's have a look at what can be done to aid and ease the transition from being an alcoholic to being the new 'clean' you.

There are obviously three things to be said about your body and brain when you're living the life of an alcoholic - you've got the wrong stuff inside you, you've got too much of what is undesirable, and you've got too little of what is desirable. Also the neurons in your brain are used to being stimulated and suppressed by unnatural and undesirable means, and also to making the wrong sort of connections which consequently have an adverse effect on the brain and body. From our point of view this mischief is mainly caused by alcohol, but it is also abetted by ingesting drugs, nicotine, sugar and so on, and generally having a poor diet.

So your body and brain must be cleansed and refilled with the right nutrients in the right amounts, and then got into a state of stable and enduring balance. All this should be done as thoroughly, as quickly, and as correctly as possible.

What then do you need to stop putting into your body to assist this process, and what should you put into your body in place of the bad stuff? With regard to the former part of that question, the answer is simple. As soon as you move onto your new diet, you automatically exclude everything that is undesirable. Of course the intake of alcohol stops, but also so does the intake of nicotine, drugs, sugar, food additives, excessive amounts of carbohydrate, and so on.

So you now have nothing undesirable going into your body. Therefore your body will naturally, although gradually, purge itself of whatever is currently inside it that is undesirable, and it will get itself into a balanced state that is physically and mentally desirable. However, we want to make this transition period between having the body and brain of an alcoholic and having the body and brain of a 'clean' person as brief as possible, so to speed the process up you need some extra 'good stuff' to go into you. You need to replace the nutrients, the chemicals, that are missing, and you need to boost those chemicals of which you are made up which are depleted and which are below the levels that are desirable for them.

So, what 'stuff' is it necessary or beneficial for you to take into your body during this transition period? To give us an idea, let's look at the problems that excessive alcohol consumption can cause.

It can cause excessive production of insulin which can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and diabetes.

The liver has to work overtime to detox the body, and if it isn't up to the task it can become diseased.

Excessive alcohol can cause osteoporosis. Alcohol is a diuretic, and leads the body to leach out minerals, including calcium.

It disrupts neurotransmitters such as serotonin and GABA, which can lead to sleep disorders, depression, anxiety and emotional volatility.

It can cause high blood pressure.

It disrupts the production of endorphins and enkephalins which are the body's natural painkillers, making the alcoholic more susceptible to feeling pain.

It can lead to gastrointestinal disorders, including yeast overgrowth and bacterial infections, which cause poor absorption of nutrients from food that is eaten. Because of this it is common for alcoholics to be deficient in magnesium, calcium, Omega 3 fatty acids and the amino acid glutamine.

Looking at this list, what should occur to you is this - once you are on your new permanent lifestyle diet you have cut out everything that is harmful (especially if you have decided not to eat grains and dairy produce), so the options open to you during your transition period are to take supplements and/or to eat extra quantities of the beneficial foods that are now part of your natural diet.

That's what we'll look at doing then.

After coming off alcohol your body will almost certainly be nagging you about it suffering from low blood sugar, but what you don't do is go out and buy sweets and other sugary concoctions. These are forbidden on your new diet anyway, as is caffeine, which also affects your blood sugar levels. Also, of course, you keep off harmful simple carbohydrates by avoiding processed food - junk food, convenience food, packaged snacks - and instead you have complex carbohydrates. Unfortunately these often are best obtained from grains and legumes, and also some root vegetables, which ideally would normally be avoided, or at least minimized, in your permanent diet, but they are acceptable and useful during your transition period, so for a short time they can be permitted. What you're aiming for is not to have your blood sugar levels be too low, nor to have them rocketing up and down. You just want them to stabilize at the right level. So, for now you can eat grains and legumes. Do this for a couple of weeks. Still eat vegetables and salads, and make sure you eat regularly throughout the day, starting in the morning with breakfast.

One of the reasons why it was suggested that it could be a good idea to give grain products and dairy products a miss is that, without knowing it, quite a few people are allergic to these things, but rather than trying to guess, or even work out, if you are or not, it's easier just to give up these things. Actually there are other foodstuffs that people commonly can be allergic to, such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, yeast, soy, and chocolate, so really if your doctor or someone else can test you for food , it's not a bad idea because then you can discover for certain what specific things you should avoid, and that can obviously be a great help in enabling you to shape your permanent lifestyle diet very precisely. Avoiding all foods that are harmful to you will hasten your recovery from the damage caused by your alcoholism.

Turning to your stomach - or your gut or your intestines, however you wish to refer to those parts of your innards that deal with the digestion of food - when you first come off the booze it's not a bad idea to spend a week just having water and salad. Then get into your transition diet, making sure you include nuts, seeds, oils, fats and animal protein.

If you do have yeast infections in you and on you, you've made an excellent start in getting rid of them by giving up alcohol, which is terrible for causing such infections and helping them flourish. Additionally, however, you want to avoid any fermented products, any sugars, anything that is made with yeast (a good reason if ever there was one for banishing bread from your diet), and also peanuts and mushrooms. You already know not to have processed and refined foods, and during the transition stage you should definitely avoid dairy produce, which, as I've said, I believe should generally be excluded from the human diet anyway. Dosing up on garlic is a good way of helping rid the gut of bacterial infections. Avoid pickled foods, have spicy foods, eat greens and herbs and onions, and finally, try to steer clear of fruit for a couple of weeks while you're trying to cleanse your gut.

Once you are on your new lifestyle diet your body will be getting all the minerals it needs and it will naturally balance and stabilize itself as far as the nutrients and chemicals inside it are concerned. During the transition period, however, if you want to give a boost to your calcium levels, then greens, fish, nuts and seeds can help do that. Although in the Paleo diet it's recommended to keep off legumes, they are useful during this transition period for boosting calcium levels, so that's another reason to include them in your diet for a couple of weeks. Then you can give them up for good, but ultimately the decision whether or not to do that is up to you.

With regard to boosting the Omega 3 fatty acids in your body, nut and seed oils are good for that, as are eggs and fish.

As far as boosting your magnesium levels is concerned, for a short time try having extra amounts of dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, avocados, bananas and high cocoa content chocolate.

The amino acid glutamine can be boosted by having plenty of fish, meat, poultry, game and eggs, along with parsley, spinach and cabbage.

Of course you can get glutamine supplements, just as you can get supplements for lots of things, so let's address that subject. During your transition period between your alcoholic days and the days when you will be permanently on your new lifestyle diet it is almost certainly a good idea to take supplements of those nutrients that get depleted in the bodies of alcoholics. I think that at least some sort of multi-vitamin multi-mineral supplement is worth taking each day, along with a good dose of vitamin C. Also alcoholics are almost invariably down on B vitamins, so a B-complex vitamin supplement of some sort might also be a good idea. However, when settled on your permanent diet you shouldn't need to take any dietary supplements.

On your new diet make sure you always eat plenty of good quality protein.

With regard to your liver and the damage it has suffered from excessive drinking over an extended period, once you're on your new diet and eating raw fruit, salad and vegetables, along with fish such as salmon and tuna, your liver will naturally set about repairing itself. However, extra garlic, grapefruit, green tea, walnuts, avocados, green vegetables and turmeric can help the process along.

Turning to the mind, or rather the brain, to boost and stabilize your serotonin and GABA levels and flows, again it's not a bad idea to have a couple of weeks where you allow yourself to have whole grains. Also have more meat, fish, nuts, liver and greens than usual. Eat bananas. Regular exercise of some sort is always advisable for purely physical reasons, but it also has a terrifically beneficial effect on your mental well-being. As far as regulating endorphins and enkephalins is concerned, keep well away from sweet stuff, which you know to do anyway, and make sure you eat regularly. Little and often is better than going without and then having a big blow-out. Eat nuts, especially walnuts, and seeds, salmon, turkey, bananas and other fruit, and high cocoa content chocolate.

Do you see that beneath it all, when you go through the transition phase between your days as an alcoholic and the sober remainder of your life when you're 'clean' and on your permanent lifestyle diet, what you are actually doing during that period is basically moving straight onto your permanent diet, but just restrict it a little initially to give yourself a bit of a detox and then overindulging a little to help your body and brain repair themselves and get themselves in balance for your new sober way of life? Also, as mentioned, you can, if you want, take some supplements to help speed up the cleansing, boosting and rebalancing process, giving them up when you settle into your permanent diet.

Once you are settled in your new way of life you will be healthy, and your body and brain will be functioning as they ought to. Everything will be nice and stable, and your craving for alcohol will be a thing of the past.

Make sure you don't replace your alcohol addiction with any other addictions, such as caffeine, carbohydrate, sugar or nicotine.

Apart from being physically and mentally clean and settled and stable, perhaps there is something even more wonderful about this new lifestyle. When you are permanently sober and no longer feel any mental or physical need or desire to drink alcohol - indeed you should find you practically never think about the stuff anymore - changes are likely to take place in your life that may be quite unexpected. Without the obsession with alcohol you find that you are no longer interested in going to the places you used to go to in order to satisfy your craving for drink. Maybe you used to be secretive about your drinking. You no longer have to be secretive. The people you used to drink with no longer hold much interest for you. Indeed if you meet them you may even find them surprisingly silly or even unattractive in terms of their characters and behavior. Your mind, now empty of thoughts of alcohol, opens up to other things that are more positive, constructive and dynamic. New relationships may begin and develop. Old relationships may be refreshed and rebuilt.

Becoming sober and getting your body and brain sorted out ends one phase of your life, but it is the beginning of a completely new phase. Indeed it can feel as if you have almost been given an entirely new life to live.

So make the most of it.


diet | disorders | nutrition


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