Alcohol use forces disruption of the body’s vitamin A levels

Alcohol use forces disruption of the body's vitamin A levels
Alcohol use forces disruption of the body's vitamin A levels

Several of The Sobriety :60+ video segments have mentioned how even moderate alcohol use plays havoc with vitamins. It raids the body of B-vitamins, covered in the episodes on the heart and brain. Alcohol also has a dramatic impact on the way vitamin A is handled. Part of that was alluded to in the episodes on the eyes, immune system and the liver.

The study suggests long-term alcohol use lowers vitamin A levels in the liver, which is the main site of both, alcohol metabolism and vitamin A storage, while bumping up vitamin A levels in many other tissues. Initially 15 percent of the body’s vitamin A migrates out of the liver to other tissues. Ultimately, around 60 percent of the vitamin is lost with chronic drinking. “We hope this study will lead to a broader understanding and appreciation of the fact that excessive consumption of alcohol has a negative effect on vitamin A function in the body,” said researcher, Robin Clugston, from Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

So it’s a wash if liver vitamin A is low and vitamin A in other tissues is elevated, right? Not exactly. The liver needs the vitamin A to stave off liver disease. And the other tissues don’t feed the A into the bloodstream the way the liver does. You’ll know you’re deficient in the vitamin if you get night blindness or blotchy rashes or both.

If it builds up in other tissues, it can become toxic. Self medicating with vitamin A supplements would worsen it, even if the liver stores are low. Vitamin A toxicity usually reveals itself with headaches, nausea, drowsiness, vomiting… which could be confused with the alcohol itself. In recovery, addiction care from professionals you experience at The Manor among others, will focus on diets that contain vitamin-rich food, not simply pill supplements for this reason.

One of the best things about recovery is feeling “well” again… sometimes for what feels like the first time ever. Part of where that feeling comes from is not dumping a toxin into the body, and part comes from a healthy diet. The rest? That comes from knowing you don’t have to live the old way anymore.


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