It’s no secret that most abusers of alcohol trying to stop drinking don’t succeed. They sometimes go through one treatment program after another, including alcohol detox, and still can’t control the craving for alcohol. Why is that?
Although addiction is a complex subject and there is really no single, magical answer to that question, one of the primary factors may be dietary – especially sugar. In fact, the success of a drug or Alcohol Detox program depends in part on the body restoring nutritional balance.
Let’s have a look at that phenomenon, the science behind it, and how it can be useful during the drug detox, rehab and recovery process.
The brain’s energy is primarily derived from blood sugar (glucose). If the blood sugar is in a normal range, which is fairly narrow, we are alert, awake, can think clearly, and the brain is able to regulate bodily functions.
Blood sugar is produced primarily through the process of metabolizing carbohydrates – of which there are two kinds: simple and complex. Complex carbohydrates generally include foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes. Simple carbohydrates include sugar of all kinds, many products that contain sugar, candy, chocolate, gum, soft drinks and so on. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, you get the idea.
When we eat food containing carbohydrates, the body converts them to blood sugar. How long the conversion process depends on each person’s DNA and metabolism, but, with complex carbohydrates, the process normally takes about four hours. During that time, our brain and body are continually supplied with energy. Once the process is complete, we need more food and we start getting hungry – which is why breakfast, lunch and dinner are generally spaced four or five hours apart.
However, if the carbohydrates are simple, they’re normally processed within an hour or two – we get a huge spike in energy shortly after we eat, but in an hour or two we’re looking for a pick-me-up.
How does this relate to alcohol?
Some alcohol contains sugar and creates the same effect as any other sugar or simple carbohydrate food. However, all alcohol, whether it contains sugar or not, converts to glycogen, a form of blood sugar. Consequently, the alcohol produces the same spike in energy as eating sugar, and the same crash follows a short time later.
The remedy to that crash is good food – complex carbohydrates – but the body is sending a strong message that it needs energy now and if the body has been relying on alcohol for that energy, it often craves alcohol.
If an alcohol detox program does not educate their clients on this process and the client experiences cravings after they leave the detox program, they are likely interpret the cravings as “needing a drink.”