Published On: May 21, 2018645 words3.2 min read

Question:

Hi Doc,

I’ve recently given up alcohol. I used to drink a lot of beer and wine every day (6 beers and a bottle of wine daily!) Having stopped, I find myself being incredibly tired in the afternoons. I presume it’s from a lack of carbs and sugar from the lack of wine and beer! Is there something I can do to help this? Low GI diet ? Please help.

Answer:

Dear J

Thanks for your question and congratulations on your resolve. I completely concur with Janet’s reply and I think we underestimate the cumulative effect that long-term alcohol has on our bodies. Alcohol is stored in our fat stores until our liver can metabolise it. Because it is metabolised in a linear curve, you might feel the effects for longer than you thought. You may think that all the sobriety literature is just a new hippie cult!

Initially you might feel worse and want to go back to your old habits. Stick with it, it does get better. Fatigue is difficult and supplements might be able to help. I often suggest a good combination of B vitamins, Magnesium and Calcium supplements. These however are supportive and are not wonder drugs.

Blood sugar fluctuations can lead to a great deal of fatigue, especially a late afternoon slump, which might be the blood sugar dropping. You will find that you develop sugar cravings. Generally we say go with them in early sobriety as you have so much to deal with.

The more your blood sugar fluctuates, the more tired you will be, and it can just be a new bad habit that forms. A good balanced diet with three meals and two snacks per day should help to stabilise your blood sugar. Get as much help as you can get, prepare a healthy snack that you can eat on the go, even pack a little cooler box with healthy snacks that you eat well in advance of your slump.

I would consider consulting a dietician. Understand what will motivate you, and go for it. If you function well with a coach or trainer, consider all the help you can get. There are also wonderful electronic apps to assist you.

One of the most important factors to consider is why we got into the habit of consuming large amounts of alcohol in the first place. Very often it is a way to self-medicate. Underlying depression and anxiety disorders are very common and this could be part of the fatigue. My suggestion is to speak to your GP, and even a psychologist, to have this evaluated and, if needed, medicated.

There is no shame in using medication for a mood disorder – it is no different from taking blood pressure medication. We need to be kind and let go of shame during this time. There are other practices such as mindfulness and meditation that assist with altering our moods and reduce anxiety. With the help of neuroplasticity we slowly teach our brains new pathways and new ways to react to our environment.

Your body is on a wonderful new path and it takes a while to learn to listen to what our bodies need as the numbing effect of the alcohol wear off. There are so many exciting new techniques and methods (mindfulness) to learn how to control our anxiety, anger, fear, and depression.

I can strongly suggest looking into some meditation techniques. Exercise, although you do not feel like it when you are that tired, will in the long run assist with introducing feel good hormones Dopamine and Serotonin, but also boost you to not feel so tired.

This is an adjustment period, stick with it, be curious about problems you encounter and not judgmental. You will find this journey far more than just stopping those couple of glasses of wine, but a beautiful new life.

Namaste.

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