2023: The 10 Best Supplements To Reduce Alcohol Cravings

Written by Theresa Valenzky

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD

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Last Updated - 08/09/2023

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Updated 08/09/2023

Some supplements may reduce alcohol cravings, while others can support your health as you recover from alcohol addiction.

When you are trying to quit or stay away from alcohol, cravings can be overwhelming. It is normal to seek remedies like over-the-counter herbs, vitamins and supplements to stop the cravings and support your sobriety. However, while some studies support using certain supplements, it is important to know that not all directly impact alcohol withdrawal symptoms. 

Nutritional Deficiencies Caused by Alcohol

Nutritional deficiencies are common in those who struggle with alcohol. This is due to several reasons, including:

  • Poor dietary intake in those who drink excessively. For example, someone who gets most of their calories from alcohol may eat little or choose unhealthy foods with few nutrients.
  • Alcohol interferes with the absorption of many different nutrients. For example, alcohol intake interferes with digestive enzymes from the pancreas.
  • Nutrient deficiencies from alcohol can predispose you to develop further deficiencies in a vicious cycle. For example, folate deficiency changes your cell linings, further predisposing you to a folate deficiency.
  • Complications from alcohol use can indirectly cause nutrient deficiencies. For example, vomiting and diarrhea can cause a magnesium deficiency, while internal bleeding can cause an iron deficiency.

Although experts think many different nutrient deficiencies are common, some of the most common include:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • B vitamins
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Zinc

When recovering from alcohol addiction, fixing these nutrient deficiencies for your overall health is important.

Vitamin B

B-vitamin deficiencies are common in those who struggle with alcohol. Although many different B vitamins can be impacted by drinking, one of the most dangerous B-vitamin deficiencies is thiamine or vitamin B1. Lack of vitamin B1 can cause a life-threatening condition called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. For this reason, those who struggle with alcohol are often told to take vitamin B1. 

Although there is little data about the benefit of vitamin B1 on alcohol withdrawal cravings, supplementing with vitamin B1 is important to avoid complications from alcohol use.

D-Phenylalanine

D-phenylalanine is an amino acid, a chemical that is the building block of proteins. It can be found in foods like:

  • Meats including beef, chicken and pork
  • Tofu
  • Fish
  • Beans
  • Milk
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Pasta
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables 

Some studies have been done on d-phenylalanine, finding it improves alcohol withdrawal symptoms. However, how the amino acid fights these symptoms is unclear.

L-Glutamine 

L-glutamine is a natural chemical made by the body. It is also available as a nutritional supplement and found in many foods, including:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Corn
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans
  • Eggs
  • Milk

L-glutamine can help during alcohol withdrawal by improving symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea that can occur during the detox process. Experts think it might work by protecting the gut by preventing gut permeability from deteriorating. 

Kudzu Extract

Kudzu is a plant in traditional medicine whose flowers and roots are used to treat conditions like alcoholism. Experts believe its activity as an isoflavonoid, plant-based estrogen or phytoestrogen might be responsible for its effects. 

Kudzu might be helpful for those who struggle with alcohol because some data show that it can help reduce alcohol intake, even in those who drink heavily. Further, kudzu does not affect sleep cycles and may start working after a single dose.

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is an herb related to daisies and ragweed that is sometimes used to treat liver damage, including alcoholic liver disease. Experts think it might work by protecting the liver and lowering specific proteins like collagen produced by the body. That said, little information is available about its use during alcohol withdrawal.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a traditional herb used in Ayurvedic Indian medicine. It can be used to reduce fatigue, stress and anxiety, which may occur during alcohol withdrawal. Experts believe its calming effects might be due to its activity on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain, which slow down the central nervous system. 

One animal study showed that ashwagandha helps control mood changes, anxiety and seizures from alcohol withdrawal, but this effect has not yet been studied in humans.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects cells by preventing damage from free radicals that would otherwise harm them. Your body is unable to make vitamin C on its own, meaning that you need to obtain it from supplements or foods like:

  • Oranges (and orange juice)
  • Vegetables
  • Melons
  • Berries

Vitamin C is often used to try to protect the immune system. Because alcohol is an immunosuppressant, some people take vitamin C to combat some health risks of alcohol use. However, there is little support in clinical studies for using vitamin C for this reason.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral involved in many different processes in the human body, ranging from DNA formation to controlling blood pressure. Magnesium is available in supplements, over-the-counter heartburn medications, and foods like:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Fruits
  • Fish

Unfortunately, magnesium deficiency is common in those who struggle with alcohol. For this reason, people who drink heavily may benefit from magnesium supplements. In addition, magnesium may help treat depression, fatigue and stomach upset, which are common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Magnesium may also aid in resetting some of the overly active glutamate-based brain pathways that cause alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Zinc

Zinc is a mineral your body needs to perform many functions, including supporting the immune system. Zinc is also required to form an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks down alcohol in your body. Zinc is available as a supplement and in foods like:

  • Meats
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains

Because those who struggle with alcohol often have nutritional deficiencies, a zinc deficiency is possible, and supplementation can be helpful. Zinc may also help reset some of the glutamate brain pathways that are overly active during alcohol withdrawal, thus possibly helping alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Selenium

Selenium is a mineral that has many uses in the body, including promoting immune function. It is available as a supplement and in foods like:

  • Seafood
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Grains
  • Nuts

Selenium deficiency is common in those who struggle with alcohol, especially if they have liver disease. Limited information is available about whether selenium is helpful in those who struggle with alcohol or during alcohol withdrawal. However, because it supports the immune system and alcohol suppresses it, some people may take supplements with selenium for its immune-boosting properties.

Discuss Supplements With a Physician First

Before starting any new supplement, you should first discuss doing so with your doctor. This is because some supplements need to be closely monitored, including minerals like magnesium, which can build up in your body if you take too much. Further, some supplements may have drug interactions with your existing medications or can worsen other current medical conditions.

Help for Alcohol Cravings in Colorado

If you struggle with alcohol cravings, the Recovery Village at Palmer Lake can help. We offer dietitian services and nutritional counseling to help keep you healthy as you recover from alcohol. Starting from alcohol detox to cleanse your system of alcohol and continuing through rehab to help you keep sober, we are with you every step of the way. Don’t wait: contact a Recovery Advocate today to see how we can help.

View Sources

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol and Nutrition.” October 1993. Accessed April 24, 2023.

National Library of Medicine. “Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.” January 23, 2022. Accessed April 24, 2023.

Jukić, Tomislav; Rojc, Bojan; Boben-Bardutzky, Darja; et al. “The use of a food supplementation with D[…] withdrawal symptoms.” Collegium Antropologicum, December 2011. Accessed April 24, 2023.

Whitbread, Daisy. “Top 10 Foods Highest in Phenylalanine.” MyFoodData, April 18, 2023. Accessed April 24, 2023.

Prior, Pedro Luis; Fernandes Galduróz, José Carlos. “Glutamatergic hyperfunctioning during al[…] zinc and magnesium.” Medical Hypotheses, September 2011. Accessed April 24, 2023.

Baj, Jacek; Flieger, Wojciech; Teresiński, Grzegorz; et al. “Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, Sodium, P[…]e Disorder: A Review.” Journal of Clinical Medicine, June 2020. Accessed April 24, 2023.

Haque, Ijasul M.; Mishra, Akhilesh; Singh Kalra, Bhupinder; Chawla, Shalini. “Role of Standardized Plant Extracts in C[…]n Experimental Study.” Brain Sciences, July 12, 2021. Accessed April 24, 2023.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Glutamine.” September 13, 2022. Accessed April 24, 2023.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Kudzu.” February 4, 2022. Accessed April 24, 2023.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Milk Thistle.” February 27, 2023. Accessed April 24, 2023.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Ashwagandha.” March 21, 2023. Accessed April 24, 2023.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Vitamin C.” November 30, 2022. Accessed April 24, 2023.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Magnesium.” May 19, 2020. Accessed April 24, 2023.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Zinc.” May 25, 2022. Accessed April 24, 2023.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Selenium.” December 15, 2021. Accessed April 24, 2023.

Molina, Patricia E.; Happel, Kyle I.; Zhang, Ping; et al. “Focus on: Alcohol and the immune system.” Alcohol Research & Health, 2010. Accessed April 24, 2023.

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