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Alcohol abuse causes deficiency of B vitamins affecting cognition and memory

Alcohol abuse causes deficiency of B vitamins affecting cognition and memory

September 10 | By CAAH Team

Alcoholism is a deadly disease. The damaging effects of excessive drinking on the body are multifold, including on organs such as the brain, heart, liver, and pancreas, the weakening of the immune system and possibly increasing the risk of cancer. Alcohol abuse also takes a physical toll on the body causing a depletion of certain vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fatty acids, leading to serious symptoms affecting cognitive, physical, and mental health.

Vitamin B functions affected by alcohol consumption

Vitamins B1 (thiamin), B3 (niacin), and B6 (pyridoxine) are directly or indirectly related to the metabolism of alcohol in the body. They are also among the first nutrients to be depleted by excessive alcohol consumption. Symptoms of a vitamin B complex deficiency are cracks on the side of the mouth, confusion, rash, depression, and susceptibility to infections.

Additionally, vitamin B12 (riboflavin) functions are affected by excessive drinking. Alcohol can cause glutathione depletion, which reduces the liver’s ability to metabolize alcohol, and even B12 function relies on glutathione. Symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency include weakness, tiredness, or light-headedness, rapid heartbeat, pale skin, easy bruising or bleeding, upset stomach, weight loss, diarrhea, or constipation.

Compromised vitamin B functions adversely affects cognition

Adequate vitamin B function is necessary for cognitive health, including general cognitive function and memory. When vitamin B levels are compromised, cognitive functions follow. Deficiency in vitamin B is known to slow brain atrophy by lowering the levels of homocysteine, an amino acid.

Other symptoms of compromised vitamin B levels due to alcoholism are:

  • Vitamin B1 deficiency: Depression, irritability, neurological, and cardiac disorders
  • Vitamin B2 deficiency: Depression
  • Vitamin B3 deficiency: Anxiety, depression, and fatigue
  • Vitamin B6 deficiency: Disruption in the formation of neurotransmitters
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency: Depression
  • Folic acid deficiency: Depression
  • Pantothenic acid deficiency: Fatigue, chronic stress, and depression

A deficiency in the essential nutrient thiamine (vitamin B1) resulting from chronic alcohol consumption is an underlying factor for alcohol–induced brain damage. Thiamine is a helper molecule (i.e., a cofactor) required by three enzymes involved in two pathways of carbohydrate metabolism. Because intermediate products of these pathways are needed for the generation of other essential molecules in the cells (e.g., building blocks of proteins and DNA as well as brain chemicals), a reduction in thiamine can interfere with numerous cellular functions, leading to serious brain disorders.

When someone abuses alcohol and their body begins to become depleted in B vitamins, the liver decreases its supply of these nutrients and the blood stream is called upon to replenish the supply. Once the body cells are deprived of essential nutrients, normal body functions begin to suffer.

Common withdrawal symptoms of alcoholism

When an individual addicted to alcohol attempts to stop drinking, they may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms which are caused by these vitamin deficiencies. Common withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Shakiness
  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • Impaired cognitive function
  • Poor memory

Good sources of B vitamins

Cognitive function in a person who is seriously depleted in these vitamins can be improved by supplementing the diet with a vitamin B complex in the form of a shot or pills in addition to a healthy diet. Additionally, to ensure effective absorption of these vitamins, one must abstain from consuming alcohol. The following are good sources of the different types of vitamins:

  • Vitamin B12: Meat and dairy products
  • Vitamin B6: Fish, poultry, liver, potatoes, and non-citrus fruits
  • Vitamins B1: Breakfast cereals and whole grains
  • Vitamin B2: Whole grains, milk, eggs, and dark green vegetables

By restoring the levels of these crucial nutrients, a person recovering from alcohol abuse will benefit as the body repairs itself, leading to better absorption of these and improvement in cognitive and liver functions.

Seeking treatment for alcoholism

If you or a loved one is battling an addiction to alcohol and is looking for a licensed alcohol rehab clinic, get in touch with Colorado Alcohol Addiction Help. We offer comprehensive and effective alcohol addiction treatment programs personalized according to each patient to achieve long-lasting recovery. For more information about our alcohol addiction treatment center, call our 24/7 alcohol addiction treatment helpline 866-592-9261 and speak with a member of our admissions team. You can also chat online with a representative for a free insurance verification.

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