Sarah Coleman: A guide to the effects of drugs and alcohol on the body |

Sarah Coleman: A guide to the effects of drugs and alcohol on the body

Sarah Coleman brings years of personal health and fitness knowledge to the table as Explore's health and fitness contributor.
Joel Reichenberger

— Overuse of anything is detrimental to the body. It could be excessive intake of sugar or too many carbs. It could also be excessive exercise or insufficient rest.

However, the long-term effects of drugs and alcohol can take a real toll on the body and mind. Following are some of the detrimental results and remedies for them.

Skin and Hair 

Drugs and alcohol deplete the body of nutrients for healthy looking hair and skin.

Remedy: Eat more nutrient dense foods, particularly those offering Vitamin A, such as sweet potatoes and leafy greens, and Vitamin C, such as broccoli and citrus fruits. Protein and zinc-rich foods, such as seafood, nuts and seeds, are also beneficial. Try a Salade niçoise at lunch with tuna and sweet potatoes.

Heart and Circulation 

Muscle loss is a result of poor protein intake. Inflammation often occurs, along with an increase of fat deposits and high blood pressure.

Remedy: Try a low-fat diet with adequate protein and regular exercise. A good remedy recipe would be chicken over quinoa after your burpees tonight.


This vital organ is effected in the form of reduced vitamin and mineral storage. The overworked liver swells, preventing bile production and filtering operation, which results in a poor appetite.

Remedy: Eat high-calorie, nutrient-dense foods rich in protein and moderate fat, along with vitamin mineral supplements. Incorporate multivitamins into your breakfast routine.


Irritation causes swelling, which may block the flow of enzymes into stomach and result in digestive difficulties and diabetes.

Remedy: Eat nutrient rich foods, along with small, frequent meals. Try eating six small meals per day instead of three larger ones.


Inflammation, frequent infections, increased water output, all of which will result in excess nutrient loss.

Remedy: Eat nutrient-rich foods high in potassium such as potatoes and bananas. Incorporate more food and limit your caffeine intake. Attempt to limit caffeine to once per day or switch to a lower dose with drinks such as tea.

Central nervous system and hypothalamus

Alcohol and drugs irritate, sedate and aggravate the nervous system. They also affect memory, the ability to think and coordination. Alcohol kills brain cells that are not regenerated. The appetite control center sends confused messages about hunger and thirst.

Remedy: Eat nutrient rich foods Including those high in tryptophan, which can be found in turkey, chicken and eggs and tyrosine, found in cheese and lean meat. Combine those foods with physical activity, multi-vitamins or minerals plus a B complex. For a remedy recipe tip, add a hardboiled egg and a slice of turkey each day.


Drugs and alcohol irritate the stomach, increasing the risk of ulcers and gastric distress.

Remedy: Eat small frequent meals and snacks. Limit caffeine during distress. Try adding small snacks such as nuts throughout the day.

Here are a few more tips about intake during recovery.

• Carbohydrates are needed for energy. A few examples of complex carbohydrates are: brown and wild rice, oats, amaranth, millet, spelt, beans and lentils. People often don’t think of vegetables and fruits as sources of complex carbohydrates, but they are some of the best we have available. All of this fiber helps cut alcohol cravings, as well.

• Protein is needed so the body can build and repair. Proteins help the body repair tissue, and the alcoholic/addict needs it in abundance to help restore organs affected by chronic abuse, including the liver, pancreas, kidneys, heart and brain. Protein is also necessary for blood sugar stabilization. Eggs, lean red meats, chicken, fish and turkey are all to be eaten in abundance. Nuts are the protein snack of choice among my recovery patients.

• Fats also provide energy and are required for some chemical reactions. Proper and adequate intake of fats is essential for absorption of vitamins and nutrients and for cellular repair. Olive oil, flaxseed oil, coconut oil, butter and avocado are good sources.

• Vitamins are needed by the body to perform essential metabolic activities. B vitamins are essential during detoxification from alcohol and drugs. Supplementing that with vitamin B1 (thiamine) is essential and helps ensure proper brain function resulting in decreased fatigue, brain fog and poor memory. Also, a high-quality B-complex supplement, along with vitamin A and vitamin C, is beneficial.

• Water is essential, because this accounts for 70 percent of the body’s composition. It provides a medium for chemical reactions.

There you have it — lots of tools to help someone who needs it. Overall, moderation is the key to a happy and healthy life.

Sarah Coleman brings years of personal health and fitness knowledge to the table. She is currently the health and wellness director at The Foundry, which is now taking both outpatient and residential participants. She is also a personal trainer, “CrossFitter,” coach, outdoor enthusiast, managing partner with Inspired Live Network and owner of A Weight Lifted Fitness Camp. She provides flawless technique and a positive attitude. Taking fitness to new levels, she uses the outdoor environment, your living room or work space, as well as the gym to influence and push her clientele. Funky knee socks and outrageous colors make Sarah unique, which transfers into her training and brings a smile to everyone’s face.

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