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Latest Edit: Iva Lloyd, ND 2021-08-23 (EDT)

Alcohol can be divided into three general classes: beers, wines, and spirits. They are legally consumed in most countries with certain regulations, such as the minimum age at which a person can legally buy and consume alcohol. For most of these countries, the legal age ranges between 16 and 25 years , depending on the country and type of alcohol.[1] According to the World Health Organization, alcoholism is defined as consumption exceeding limits accepted by culture or when consumption injures a person's health or social relationships.


Risks B1 Deficiency, B12 Deficiency, Cirrhosis, Type II Diabetes, Dementia
See Also Other Conditions, Chronic Pancreatitis, Cardiovascular Disease, Infertility (Male), Depression, Anger
Books Books on Other Conditions
Articles Articles on Other Conditions


The production of alcoholic beverages with lower alcohol content such as beer and wine occur by fermentation of sugar- or starch-containing plant material. Beverages of higher alcohol content are produced by fermentation and distillation.

Types of Alcohol

  • Beer is produced by the brewing and fermentation of starches, mainly derived from cereal grain such as malted barley. The alcoholic strength of beer can be between 4% to 6% alcohol by volume.
  • Wine is produced from grapes, however, types of wine such as fruit wine can be produced from plums, cherries, or apples. The fermentation and aging process for wine is much longer than that of beer. This results in an alcohol content of usually 9%-16%.
  • Spirits are produced by the distillation of a fermented base product. They are categorized as unsweetened, distilled, alcoholic beverages with an alcoholic content of at least 20%.
  • Alcohol consumption is often used as a way of handling stress.
  • The incidence of alcholism is four to five times more common in biological children of alcoholic than of non-alcoholic parents.[2] There is some debate as to whether this is primarily because of a genetic-predisposition or because of learned behaviour </ref>


The impact of alcohol on health very much is dependant on four main factors:

  1. The amount of alcohol consumed both on an ongoing basis and at any one time.
  2. The age of the person consuming the alcohol.
  3. An individual's tolerance for the base products used to make the alcohol. For example, a yeast tolerance would probably result in increased symptoms and increased disease risk if consuming beer.
  4. Underlying symptoms and conditions and susceptibilities.

The impact of alcohol on the body is:

  • Chronic dehydration is associated with alcohol consumption.
  • Disrupted sleep patterns and insomnia are often associated with alcohol consumption.
  • The impact of alcohol can be greater in older people. There are increased risks of alcohol and alcohol abuse in the elderly.[3]

Potential Risks

Although moderate consumption of alcohol has been found to be beneficial in certain circumstances, alcohol misuse is a common issue in many households. According to Health Canada, 4 to 5 million Canadians engage in high risk drinking, which can lead to:

  • Alcoholism is the primary conditions associated with increased consumption of alcohol.
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FAS) Drinking during pregnancy, even moderate amounts of alcohol, can cause FAS a severe neurological syndrome that causes permanent intellectual and mental impairment in a baby.[4]
  • Effects on the fetus include growth retardation, mental retardation, fetal alcohol syndrome and teratogenicity.
  • Depression. Alcohol is known to be a psychoactive drug that has a depressant effect.
  • Arrhythmias Alcohol consumption can cause abnormal heart rhythms which can lead to death with alcohol abuse. [5]
  • Beriberi (vitamin B1 deficiency) People who are alcohol dependent have been found to be deficient in Vitamin B1 (thiamine), which can accelerate heart damage and lead to mental degeneration
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency Studies have found that both moderate and heavy alcohol consumption can cause vitamin B12 deficiency in the tissues of the liver and the intestine. [6]
  • Brain Damage Alcohol has been found to kill brain cells.
  • Type II Diabetes Studies have found that daily drinking can worsen diabetic control. However, moderate intake of alcohol of less than three drinks per day by diabetic men has been found to be associated with lower levels of markers of inflammation. [7]
  • Dementia Chronic alcohol intake is associated with increased risk of alcohol-related central nervous system disease and dementia
  • Liver disease Chronic immoderate intake of alcohol damages liver tissue and increases the risk of fatty liver development, which is the first stage of liver disease.
  • Breast Cancer has been found to be associated with excessive alcohol intake, possibly due to the association between alcohol and oxidative stress, which is found in the pathology of many lifestyle-related diseases such as cancer.
  • Additional risks Alcohol dependence is also associated with depression, social withdrawal, increased risk of injury and death by motor vehicle accidents, cognitive impairments, sexual assault, and suicide, particularly if alcohol consumption begins during adolescence. [8]
  • Increased mortality: 10-12 years lower life expectancy, 2 x death rate in men, 3 x in women, 6 x suicide rate.[2]
  • Increased occurence of metabolic damage to every cell; nutritional deficiencies; cerebellar degeneration; cerebral atrophy; psychiatric disorders; esophagitis; gastritis; ulcer; increased cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus; pancreatitis, liver fatty degeneration and cirhosis; arrhythmias; myocardial degeneration; hypertension; angina; hypoglycemia; decreased protein synthesis; increased serum and liver triglycerides; decreased serum testosterone; myopathy; osteoporosis; rosacea and coagulation disorders. [2]

Alcoholism is associated with increased risk of the following conditions:

Potential Benefits

Alcohol consumption may be beneficial to the health in the following way:

  • Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) Moderate consumption of alcohol has been found to inhibit platelet aggregation, thereby preventing atherosclerosis and providing protection against CHD. [9]
  • Decreased Mortality. Epidemiologic studies have found that people who consume a moderate intake of alcohol, which is considered to be one to three drinks per day, relative to those who consume more than an average of four drinks per day may live longer. [10]
  • Bone mineral density Moderate alcohol consumption is positively associated with trabecular bone mineral density in the elderly. The implications of this suggest reduced risk of osteoporosis in the aging population.
  • Stress. Moderate levels of alcohol can help reduce stress. However, it is important to consume with caution as it is not a recommended choice and can lead to alcohol dependency. [11]
  • Improved appetite. In many societies and cultures, drinking is an opportunity for friends and family to gather, relax, and eat. A glass of wine with meals may stimulate appetite and improve dietary intake, although specific research is required to substantiate this claim.
  • Improved Social Interactions Moderate alcohol intake was found to be associated with improved social interactions and self-reported health status in some age groups.

Naturopathic Treatment

The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies.

When dealing with alcoholism, the treatment strategy is typically chosen based on the associated conditions. The treatment strategies below are specific for alcoholism itself and are typically employed in conjunction with a more expansive treatment strategy.

Home Care

Home Care strategies include:

  • Support from family and friends In addition to the physical recovery process, there are emotional and psychological effects of alcoholism that need to be addressed. Having the support of family and friends can significantly accelerate and aid the rehabilitation process.


Lifestyle recommendations include:

  • Dietary recommendations
  • Exercise improves the likelihood of maintaining abstinence. Regular exercise also alleviates anxiety and depressionand enables better response to stress and emotional upset. [2]
  • Stress management techniques are recommended for both the person with alcoholism and often for their family.

Naturopathic Therapies

Naturopathic Therapies for alcoholism include:


Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND [1]

  1. Alcoholic Beverages. Retrieved December 27, 2011 from Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia:
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Pizzorno Joseph, Murray Michael, Joiner-Bey Herb The Clinician's Handbook of Natural Medicine 2002 Churchill Livingstone
  4. Health Concerns: Alcohol. Retrieved December 27th 2011 from Health Canada:
  5. Alcoholism. Retrieved December 28th, 2011 from
  6. B12 and Alcohol Consumption. 2009 Retrieved Jan 1, 2012 from Vitasciences B-12 Patch:
  7. Swuade, T.F., & Emanuele, N.V. (1997). Alcohol & diabetes. Comprehensive Therapy, 23(2), 135-40
  8. Alcohol Alert. Retrieved January 7th, 2012 from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health:
  9. Renaud S, de Lorgeril M. 1992 ‘’Wine, alcohol, platelets, and the french paradox for coronary heart disease.’’ The Lancet, 339(8808), 1523-1526.
  10. Ferreira MP, Weems MK. 2008 ‘’Alcohol consumption by aging adults in the united states: Health benefits and detriments.’’ Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 108(10);1668-1676.
  11. Turner TD, Bennett VL, Hernandez H. 1981 ‘’The beneficial side of moderate alcohol use. ‘’ Johns Hopkins Medical Journal, 148(2):53-63.
  12. Lu Henry (1986) Chinese System of Food Cures, prevention and remedies Sterling Publishing Co. New York.
  13. Kalantari H, Shahshahan Z, Hejazi SM, Ghafghazi T, Sebghatolahi V (2011) Effects of silybum marianum on patients with chronic hepatitis C. Journal of Research and Medical Sciences;16(3):287-90.
  14. Hershoff Asa 2000 Homeopathic Remedies, A Quick and Easy Guide to Common Disorders and their Homeopathic Treatments, Avery Publishing Group, New York
  15. Ullman Robert, Reichenberg-Ullman Judyth 1997, Homeopathic Self-Care, the quick and easy guide for the whole family. Prima Publishing