Alcoholism and Malnutrition

Alcoholism and MalnutritionAs is true of many addictions, alcoholism is strongly associated with malnutrition. In the case of alcoholism, chronic alcoholics suffer a shortage of thiamine (vitamin B). Malnutrition is a condition that is caused by an imbalance between what a person eats and the nutrients that they need to maintain good health. Malnutrition occurs when people do not eat enough food or are not getting enough nutrients from the food that they do eat. In addition to a lack of nutrients, people who are malnourished are deficient in vitamins, minerals and other essential substances that the body requires to stay healthy.

Effects of Malnutrition

Malnourished people are vulnerable to infection because their immune system is not functioning properly due to a lack of essential nutrients. With an impaired immune system, people are susceptible to disease. In addition to its impact on the immune system, malnourishment often causes the following issues:

  • Bad complexion
  • Digestive problems
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased hair growth
  • Termination of menstruation
  • Tooth decay
  • Reduced muscle and tissue mass
  • Decreased mobility and stamina
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Increased risk of chest infection and respiratory failure
  • Impaired healing of wounds
  • Impaired ability to recover from illnesses
  • Difficulty staying warm as a result of having less muscle and tissue mass
  • Increased risk of hypothermia
  • Poor libido
  • Fertility problems

In chronic alcoholics, malnutrition often presents itself in behavior that is characteristic of alcoholics but is actually the symptoms of Korsakoff’s syndrome, or “wet brain” disease, which is caused by a lack of thiamine (vitamin B).

Who Is Affected?

While any person of any gender, age, socioeconomic status or educational level may suffer from being malnourished, the groups who are most at risk from malnutrition include the following:

  • Elderly
  • Hospitalized or institutionalized people
  • People with low incomes
  • People who are socially isolated
  • People with chronic health or mental health disorders
  • People who are recovering from a serious illness

It is important that these particular groups take the necessary steps to ensure that they are maintaining a healthy diet.

Alcohol Effects

Even after just a few drinks, a person can experience the effects of alcohol, including any of the following:

  • Loss of restraint
  • Dizziness
  • Talkativeness
  • Slurred speech
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Impaired judgment
  • Lack of coordination
  • Increased aggression
  • Hangovers, which can include headache, nausea, thirst, dizziness and fatigue

These effects impact a person physically, emotionally, mentally and behaviorally.

Prolonged Alcohol Abuse

Extended abuse of alcohol can put you at risk for the following:

  • Certain cancers, such as cancer of the liver, rectum, colon, larynx, esophagus and kidneys
  • Diminished immune system
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Brain damage
  • Increased incidence of death from motor vehicle accidents, work-related and recreational accidents, homicides and suicides

When these issues are coupled with malnourishment, long-term alcohol abuse increases users’ risk for serious, life-threatening issues.

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