4 Potential Evidence-Based Benefits Of Vitamin D For Alcoholism

Shruti Baikerikar

(B.E. Biotechnology, PG Clinical Research)
Independent Researcher, Health Writer & Founder of Salubrainous [Full Bio]

Vitamin D for alcoholism

Name: Vitamin D, Vitamin D3, cholecalciferol
Goes well with: Magnesium
Number of scientific references: 40
Level of Evidence: Level III What is this?

Note: Chronic alcohol intake leads to vitamin D deficiency in some individuals. Low vitamin D levels increase the risk of developing bone disorders, liver disease and alcoholic myopathy. Vitamin D supplementation may help protect mental health, alleviate mineral deficiencies and prevent alcohol-induced damage.

Vitamin D supplementation in alcohol addiction may only be necessary if you are diagnosed with severe deficiency or insufficency. Please confirm with your health practitioner before taking vitamin D supplements.

Vitamin D may not be a cure for all diseases but maintaining optimal Vitamin D levels can be considered as one of the bare minimum prerequisites to optimal health.

Alcohol consumption depletes the body of many nutrients and also interferes with their absorption. Vitamin D is one such nutrient whose deficiency is prevalent in patients with alcoholism.

Maintaining optimal vitamin D levels can help in alcoholism as a protective measure for better bone and liver health. Vitamin D supplementation during alcohol withdrawal or abstinence may also protect mental health and cognition and prevent excess alcohol-induced damage to other organs.

Suggested Vitamin D Supplements For Alcoholism

Please consult a health practitioner before taking any health supplements.

Vitamin D supplementation is helpful only in case of deficiency. These supplements should not be taken over a long period, unless prescribed by a health practitioner, as it may cause toxicity.

It is essential to maintain calcium and magnesium levels while supplementing with vitamin D for best resolution of symptoms.

The vitamin is fat soluble and it is advisable to take it after a meal containing dietary fats.

Dosage: Please read the detailed dosage section below and try working with a health practitioner to identify a dose that suits you.

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4 Potential Evidence-Based Benefits Of Vitamin D For Alcoholism

I have not come across studies that have examined the effect of Vitamin D supplementation in patients with alcoholism but here are a few research studies that have explored the implications of the sunshine vitamin deficiency in alcohol addiction.

1.Supplementation may reduce Vitamin D deficiency in patients with alcohol addiction

Poor diet and possibly reduced sun exposure contribute to low Vitamin D levels in patients with alcoholism.

Apart from the nutritional inadequacy, chronic alcohol consumption impairs metabolism of the sunshine vitamin. [1]

It lowers parathyroid (small gland near the thyroid that regulates calcium levels and bone metabolism) hormone levels which in turn affects the calcium, vitamin D and levels of other minerals. [2] [3]

This suggests that both ‘nutritional’ and ‘hormonal’ status of vitamin D is impaired in alcoholism.

A recent study published in Environmental Health Insights, 2016 revealed that excessive alcohol intake lowers both inactive and active vitamin D levels in patients with alcohol use disorder, especially in minority populations. [4]

The researchers also observed that vitamin D levels are lower in individuals who consume excess alcohol and also engage in smoking than in those individuals who do not consume alcohol but smoke.

They stated that the sunshine vitamin deficiency might increase the susceptibility of developing lung infections and disorders in patients with alcohol abuse disorder.

Naude and colleagues conducted a study to compare vitamin D status and dietary calcium intake in adolescents with or without alcohol use disorders. [5]

Both groups had a high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency/deficiency, but it was significantly higher in the group with alcohol use disorder. Binge drinking increased the risk of developing vitamin D deficiency.

Low vitamin D and calcium levels in alcoholism may increase the risk of developing osteoporosis and impaired bone health.

Deficiency of the sunshine vitamin may be dependant on the levels of other vitamins and minerals.

A study published in The American Journal of Nutrition, 1976 highlighted this case study where a patient with alcoholism and reduced calcium and magnesium levels did not respond to vitamin D supplementation, but instead, magnesium repletion rectified both the deficiencies. [6]

Magnesium supplementation may is necessary in most cases when treating vitamin D deficiency. Personally even I had found the duo better for mental health.

However, a review study published in Psychiatry research, 2017 reveals that the data assessing vitamin D levels in alcoholism is controversial. [7]

Their review led to heterogeneous results: some suggested a link between low vitamin D levels and alcohol consumption while some revealed no association. Recent studies demonstrating a positive association had a large sample size.

But in some studies, the study population belonged to high latitude countries where sunlight exposure is low in comparison to tropical countries.

The researchers suggested that a standardised methodology must be developed to understand the real impact of vitamin D status in alcoholism.

Quick Gist: Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with low vitamin D levels in patients with alcohol use disorder.

Poor diet and reduced sunlight exposure may contribute to low levels of the sunshine vitamin in these patients. Additionally, excess alcohol disturbs the metabolism of vitamin D: it interrupts the activity of hormones and enzymes involved in regulating the vitamin levels.

2.It can reduce the severity of alcoholic liver disease

Chronic excessive alcohol intake leads to disturbed liver function and paves the way for the development of the alcoholic liver disease.

Conversion of inactive vitamin D to active vitamin D occurs via an enzymatic reaction in the liver.

It is observed that this reaction is disturbed in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis thus leading to a deficiency of the sunshine vitamin. [8]

Disturbances in this reaction may even impair bone health, reduce bone strength and increase the risk of developing diseases such as osteomalacia and osteoporosis. [9] [10]

Low levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D is associated with increased liver damage and increased death risk in alcoholic liver disease. [11]

Anty et al. state that severe vitamin D deficiency may be a co-factor for developing the alcoholic fatty liver disease (a condition where excess fat is stored in the liver, and this disturbs liver function and may cause scarring of liver tissue). [12]

Though the exact role of vitamin in chronic liver diseases has not yet been identified, researchers hypothesise that its supplementation could be beneficial for the treatment of the same. [13]

A single oral dose of 300, 000 IU cholecalciferol was found to be beneficial for treating vitamin D deficiency in patients with alcoholic liver cirrhosis. [14]

One research group from Spain conducted a study to examine whether vitamin D supplementation benefits liver health in patients with the chronic liver disease. [15]

After assessing the study populations, they observed that the sunshine vitamin levels were really low in patients with cirrhosis and alcoholic liver disease.

They used different dosages: one to treat those with vitamin D insufficiency and one to treat deficiency.

After supplementation, optimum sunshine vitamin levels were achieved in 94% of the patients and these correlated with improvement in platelet counts, albumin status (indicative of liver or kidney disease or nutritional status) and even the liver disease scores improved correspondingly.

Quick Gist: Damage to liver health caused by excess alcohol intake disturbs vitamin D metabolism. Vitamin D deficiency in alcoholism is associated with increased liver damage, and its supplementation may help protect liver health.

3.Vitamin D can protect mental health from alcohol addiction

Vitamin D is referred to as a neuroactive substance due to its many functions in the brain and is considered as an inexpensive preventative and remedial measure for mental health conditions. [16]

It may not cure the mental health condition, but it can protect from and improve the symptoms of the same. Optimum vitamin D levels can protect cognition and reduce the risk of depression. [17] [18]

Neupane and colleagues examined the effect of vitamin D deficiency on the mental health of patients with alcohol use disorders. [19]

They observed that several features of alcohol use disorder severity were linked with the sunshine vitamin deficiency such as ‘guilt about drinking, using alcohol as eye-opener and history of relapse’.

Interestingly patients with co-occurring major depression were less likely to have the sunshine vitamin deficiency.

Low sunshine vitamin levels and impaired bone health may increase the risk of dementia and reduce the quality of life in patients with chronic alcoholism. [20]

Researchers have found that individuals with alcohol dependence and having mutations in Vitamin D receptor gene (namely CC FokI genotype) have a high level of impulsivity. This genetic background possibly contributes to their alcohol addiction. [21]

Dopamine is one of the neurotransmitters or chemicals in our brain that apparently fuels our motivation and pleasure seeking behaviours.

Disturbances in the activity of this chemical are observed in many mental health conditions, including alcohol addiction.

Researchers from Yale University School of Medicine have found that vitamin D3 influences our dopamine circuit. In their animal study, they observed dietary vitamin D deficiency increased the tendency to develop addictive behaviour. [22]

Supplementation with vitamin D reduced addiction by regulating the activity of the dopamine circuit.

Quick Gist: Maintaining optimum vitamin D levels helps protect cognition and reduces the risk of developing depression. Pre-clinical studies suggest that Vitamin D supplementation may help reduce addiction.

Researchers have found that low vitamin D levels are associated with increased severity of alcohol use disorder and is linked to poor mental health in patients with alcohol addiction. Genetic variations in vitamin D receptor gene is associated with increased impulsivity in patients with alcohol dependence that might fuel their addiction.

 4.Restoring the sunshine vitamin levels may reduce alcohol-induced damage

Chronic alcohol consumption can reduce bone mineral density in patients with alcohol addiction. [23] This is associated with increased risk of bone disorders such as osteomalacia, osteoporosis and osteopenia. [24]

Low sunshine vitamin levels may lower calcium absorption in the intestines and even impair the function of bone cells leading to weak bone health. [25] [26]

Vitamin D supplementation is found to protect bone health from such binge alcohol or chronic alcohol intake associated damage. [27] [28] [29]

Low vitamin D levels are even associated with alcoholic myopathy- increased muscle weakness or decrease in muscle strength as a result of excessive alcohol intake. [30] [31]

Recent studies suggest that low sunshine vitamin levels may amplify alcohol-induced gut damage which in turn may reduce immune function and lead to systemic toxicity. [32]

Quick Gist: Vitamin D deficiency in alcoholism may increase the risk of developing bone diseases, myopathy and even affect gut health adversely. Supplementation with the sunshine vitamin may help ameliorate the alcohol-induced systemic damage.

Dosage of Vitamin D For Alcoholism

There is no specific dose of vitamin D recommended for alcoholism. The dose could differ based on your serum calcifediol/ calcidiol or serum vitamin D levels.

Please consider working with a health practitioner to identify the dose that would suit your health. [33]

Vitamin D supplementation in alcohol addiction may only be necessary if you are diagnosed with severe deficiency or insufficency.

Opt for vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and not D2 (ergocalciferol) supplements. [34]

Sun exposure is the simplest way of getting vitamin D, but considering the whole pollution and global warming scene, use of sunscreens and the high incidence of skin cancer, recommendations on this aspect need to be made with care.

For example, an individual with moderately fair skin residing in Northern Australia can produce 1000 IU vitamin D in 6-7 minutes ( in summer) and 9-12 minutes (in winter), if exposed to the sun between 10, am to 2 pm. But if that individual is in Tasmania, he may need 7-9 minutes (in summer) and 40-47 minutes (in winter) for equivalent levels.[35]

For India, one study has identified sun exposure between 11 am to 2 pm can promote the production of the sunshine vitamin. [36]

Nevertheless, a regular 10-20 minutes sun exposure should work as a safe antidepressant and vitamin D source.

Precautions with Vitamin D Use

While it is necessary to maintain the sunshine vitamin within normal levels (30ng/ml approximately), high levels of vitamin D can have toxic effects. [37]

High levels of the vitamin can increase calcium absorption, and this increase in calcium levels (hypercalcemia) may contribute to toxicity. [38] Early symptoms include nausea, vomiting, anorexia, diarrhoea, constipation etc.

Other symptoms include kidney stones, bone pain, frequent urination, drowsiness, headaches irregular heartbeat, weakness, nervousness, itching etc.

It is necessary to work with a health practitioner to identify the dose of the sunshine vitamin that would suit you and also ascertain the duration of therapy.

Sun exposure does not cause vitamin D toxicity as sunlight degrades any excess vitamin D.

Certain medications that affect calcium levels in the body may have drug interactions with the sunshine vitamin. These include corticosteroids, phenobarbital, phenytoin.

Also, drugs that interfere with fat metabolisms such as orlistat and cholestyramine can reduce the vitamin absorption.

Other minerals and vitamins need to be balanced possibly via diet when rectifying a deficiency. Magnesium is involved in Vitamin D metabolism, and it may be linked to sunshine vitamin’s deficiency. [39] [40]

Please consult a health practitioner before taking Vitamin D supplements.

Conclusion

Vitamin D deficiency in alcohol addiction has several implications on the overall health of the patient.

It may increase the risk of developing bone disorders, affect gut immunity and is associated with an increase in the severity of the alcoholic liver disease.

The sunshine vitamin is found to play a very important role in mental health conditions especially in depression. Therefore it can be hypothesised that its vitamin D supplementation in individuals with alcohol addiction may protect their cognition and mental health.

But this aspect is yet to be studied in humans. Vitamin D supplementation during abstinence may help protect bone and brain health.

Please discuss the role of Vitamin D in alcohol addiction with your doctor before taking supplements to understand what dose would suit you. It’s supplementation may only be necessary in case of severe deficiency or insufficiency.

If you have taken the sunshine vitamin for alcohol addiction and withdrawal do share your experience below.

Explore the science-backed benefits of Vitamin D for alcohol addiction and abstinence.

3 thoughts on “4 Potential Evidence-Based Benefits Of Vitamin D For Alcoholism

  1. Hey Shruti,

    Thanks a lot for this comprehensive article. I’m intensely researching and writing about vitamin D and I found a great source of inspiration here.

    What amazes me the most is the effect of vitamin D on our mental health! It just goes to show how vital sun exposure is for our wellbeing. But, of course, a supplement is needed in some cases to address the poor nutritional status!

    Thanks again and keep it up!

    1. Hi Alex. Thank you so much for your feedback. I am glad my article was of help to you.
      Indeed the idea of vitamin D acting as neurosteroid and how it affects everything ranging from mood disorders to pain-related disorders is simply fascinating. And yes this research indirectly does highlight the importance of careful sun exposure for overall health.

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