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Q: I have a friend who is a recovering alcoholic. She’s gone through detox and is doing well managing her disease, but she wants to know if there are supplements (like milk thistle?) to support the liver that she should take to help her body recover and stay healthy.
A: Of real concern is that many alcoholics have replaced nutritional calories with alcohol calories. This means that in addition to damaging their livers, most alcoholics have a considerable degree of malnutrition.
During my residency training, I took care of a lot of hospitalized alcoholics. When they described their eating habits, I was astonished that they had survived on so little food. In the US today, it’s really only alcoholics who continue to have well-known vitamin deficiency diseases like pellagra, scurvy, and beriberi.
Here’s what I would recommend for your friend:
• First, begin what’s called a nutritionally-dense eating program. A nutritionist can help her with this, but so can good common sense. Every meal needs to be a good balance of lean protein (eggs, meat, poultry, fish), high-quality carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, vegetables), and good fats (olive oil, flaxseed oil, fish oil).
• She can assume that she’s low on all vitamins and minerals. As a result, I suggest a daily regimen that includes a high-quality multiple vitamin and mineral mixture with iron (for menstruating women) or without iron, like Multiplex, taken at maximal dose (four to six capsules per day).
• Finally, she’ll want to add fish oil (two capsules daily), antioxidants (Cyto-Redoxin, two capsules daily), and for her liver Detoxication Factors (two capsules twice a day) and Lipotropic Complex (two capsules twice a day). These last two products help transform chemicals into less toxic, water-soluble compounds that can be eliminated by the body. They also provide antioxidant protection and nutritional support for liver function.