Did you know some of the most common questions googled in early sobriety are related to how to improve your energy and mood and manage fatigue and irritability?
It’s true. Here’s a sample of what people are asking as they stop drinking…
How do you get energy in recovery?
- How can I be happy in sobriety?
- Why am I so tired now that I’m sober?
- Is it normal to feel depressed in early sobriety?
- How do you deal with anxiety in early sobriety?
- What are the hardest weeks of sobriety?
- Does giving up alcohol make you tired?
- What happens in the first few weeks of sobriety?
Early sobriety fatigue is real.
But there are ways to help your body heal through nutrition for recovery. Changing what you eat can improve your mood, give you more energy and help you feel better, more quickly when you stop drinking.
When I stopped drinking I felt tired, irritable, sensitive and even angry. My emotions were all over the place and I just wanted to be left alone. And looking back it makes total sense. After years of drinking my nervous system was shot, I was sleep deprived from all those 3 AM wake ups and it was exhausting to negotiate work, life, marriage and parenting without my favorite coping tool.
The good news is that during this process, your body is truly healing from alcohol.
One way you can help speed up the process is to focus on nutrition for recovery.
First, let’s talk about why you feel like crap when you stop drinking.
Your body has gotten used to metabolizing alcohol, which is a toxin, and has adjusted to the presence of alcohol in your system. Drinking impacts the neurotransmitters and hormone levels in your body, including dopamine, serotonin, and cortisol.
When you drink regularly your body will suppress your natural dopamine and serotonin levels and spike your cortisol levels and it takes time for your body to recover and for your energy and mood to improve. Alcohol can also interfere with the absorption of essential nutrients in the body, including vitamins (such as thiamine, folate, and vitamin B12), minerals, and proteins.
Why does alcohol lower your ability to feel pleasure without it?
Alcohol initially has a stimulant effect on dopamine release, leading to feelings of pleasure and reward. However, with continued drinking, the brain adapts to the presence of alcohol and reduces its natural production of dopamine. This can lead to a decreased ability to experience pleasure and may contribute to the development of tolerance and dependence.
In the same way, serotonin, which plays a role in mood regulation, is also affected by drinking regularly. Alcohol initially increases serotonin levels, which may make you feel relaxed and happy. But when you continue to drink alcohol it will disrupt the normal functioning of the serotonin system, leading to imbalances that may contribute to mood disorders and depression.
Drinking also makes you feel more stressed out than you would be without it.
Cortisol, a hormone associated with stress response, is also affected by alcohol. When you have a few drinks, cortisol levels might temporarily drop, giving you a sense of stress relief. But as you continue to drink, alcohol messes up the balance of cortisol in your body, leading to higher and prolonged levels of stress.
And consuming alcohol can lead to a drop in blood sugar levels and hypoglycemia.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia can include anxiousness, irritability, sugar and alcohol cravings, shakiness, sweating, insomnia, fatigue, hunger, nausea or a rapid heartbeat.
While your body is recovering from drinking it’s important to do your part both in helping it heal and in helping you feel better, faster.
I asked Dr. Brooke Scheller, a nationally recognized health expert and founder of Functional Sobriety, to share the principles of nutrition for recovery and how simple changes in what you eat can improve your mood, give you more energy and help your body heal more quickly when you stop drinking.
Consider this your crash course in Nutrition For Recovery and Helping Your Body Heal from Alcohol 101.
In this episode, Brooke shares:
- How alcohol impacts your body and what happens when you remove alcohol
Ways to increase energy when you stop drinking and navigate early sobriety fatigue
- Nutrition recommendations to minimize sugar and alcohol cravings
- Dopamine, Serotonin and Cortisol: Why drinking alcohol decreases your ability to feel pleasure without it and increases stress and anxiety
- Brooke’s favorite foods to support sobriety
- Low blood sugar: 95% of people with alcohol use disorder have low blood sugar or hypoglycemia, causing anxiousness, irritability, shakiness, fatigue and cravings
- The importance of protein consumption in early sobriety
- The effects of alcohol on the liver, the liver’s healing process, and strategies to support liver health
- How alcohol interferes with the absorption of nutrients and vitamins, including thiamine, folate, and vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc, magnesium and iron
Resources mentioned in the episode:
3 Ways I Can Support You In Drinking Less + Living More
Join The Sobriety Starter Kit, the only sober coaching course designed specifically for busy women.
My proven, step-by-step sober coaching program will teach you exactly how to stop drinking — and how to make it the best decision of your life.
Save your seat in my FREE MASTERCLASS, 5 Secrets To Successfully Take a Break From Drinking
Grab the Free 30-Day Guide To Quitting Drinking, 30 Tips For Your First Month Alcohol-Free.
Connect with Dr. Brooke Scheller
Dr. Brooke Scheller is a doctor of clinical nutrition, a nationally recognized health expert, and the founder of Functional Sobriety, a nutrition-based approach to an alcohol-free lifestyle.
Functional sobriety offers online programming on how to use nutrition to support your sobriety, as well as one-on-one virtual and in-person visits at Dr. Brooke’s office in New York City.
Dr. Brooke uses a functional approach that focuses on nutrition, supplements and testing to help determine your body’s unique needs to get you well and to help you stay alcohol-free.
Dr. Brooke is an author and contributor to many health platforms, and has been featured on websites like Forbes, MindBodyGreen and Oprah Daily. Her first book, How to Eat to Change How You Drink is launching in Fall of 2023.
Learn more at Dr. Brooke at brookescheller.com
Learn how you can use nutrition and a functional approach to gain freedom from alcohol and heal your body from long-term alcohol use at www.functionalsobriety.com
Connect with Dr. Brooke on Instagram @drbrookescheller
Connect with Casey
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READ THE TRANSCRIPT OF THIS PODCAST INTERVIEW
How To Increase Energy and Improve Your Mood In Early Sobriety with Dr. Brooke Scheller
alcohol, drinking, protein, blood sugar, sobriety, body, neurotransmitters, good, clients, incorporating, day, supplements, liver, b vitamins, energy, experience, cravings, serotonin, low blood sugar, sugar cravings, cortisol, dopamine Functional Sobriety, Nutrition, Recovery, alcohol-free, glutamine, GABA, Vitamin D, Early Sobriety
SPEAKERS: Casey McGuire Davidson + Dr. Brooke Scheller
Welcome to the Hello Someday Podcast, the podcast for busy women who are ready to drink less and live more. I’m Casey McGuire Davidson, ex-red wine girl turned life coach helping women create lives they love without alcohol. But it wasn’t that long ago that I was anxious, overwhelmed, and drinking a bottle of wine and night to unwind. I thought that wine was the glue, holding my life together, helping me cope with my kids, my stressful job and my busy life. I didn’t realize that my love affair with drinking was making me more anxious and less able to manage my responsibilities.
In this podcast, my goal is to teach you the tried and true secrets of creating and living a life you don’t want to escape from.
Each week, I’ll bring you tools, lessons and conversations to help you drink less and live more. I’ll teach you how to navigate our drinking obsessed culture without a buzz, how to sit with your emotions when you’re lonely or angry, frustrated or overwhelmed, how to self soothe without a drink, and how to turn the decision to stop drinking from your worst case scenario to the best decision of your life.
I am so glad you’re here. Now let’s get started.
Hi there. Today, we are talking about
How To Increase Your Energy and Improve Your Mood In Early Sobriety
And this is a conversation I’ve been wanting to have for a while because I know, when people stopped drinking, you actually feel worse before you feel better. And the amount of time that you don’t feel well can vary between people. But I know it’s hard when you stop drinking and yet you don’t always feel better right away. So, I’ve got a fantastic guest.
I’m bringing on Dr. Brooke Scheller, and she’s a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition, a Nationally recognized health expert and the Founder of Functional Sobriety, nutrition based approach to an Alcohol-Free Lifestyle.
Functional Sobriety offers online programming on how to use nutrition to support your sobriety, as well as 1-on-1 virtual and in person visits at Dr. Brooke’s office in New York City.
Dr. Brooke uses a Functional Approach that focuses on Nutrition Supplements and testing to determine your body’s unique needs to get you well and help you stay alcohol-free.
Dr. Brooke is an author and a contributor to many health platforms. She’s been featured on websites like Forbes, mind, body green, and Oprah daily. And her first book, How to Eat to change how you drink is launching in fall 2023. And I met Dr. Brooke through Of course, the sobriety world, the alcohol-free world and my good friend Gill had her on Sober Powered about the topic of What To Do When You Quit Drinking, But You Don’t Feel Better. I listened to it, and immediately reached out to Brooke because I was like, oh my god, we have to talk about this on my podcast. So, welcome.
Thank you so much, Casey, thank you for the introduction. And I’m really excited to be here and to chat with your audience today. So, thanks for having me.
Casey McGuire Davidson 03:34
Of course, I really wanted to have this conversation because when people stop drinking, some people feel great. Within two weeks, they’re sleeping better, they have more energy, and other people don’t. So, can you tell us a little bit just to start about what happens to your body both when you’re drinking, what you need to recover from? And what that looks like in terms of your energy, your mood, physically, how you feel?
Absolutely. So, it’s a great question. And it’s one of the questions that I get most frequently is I quit drinking and I expected to feel X. I expected to feel more energized. I expected to manage my weight. I expected to have a better mood, expected to not have cravings for alcohol maybe and some people have the experience where they eliminate alcohol, and they feel good right away. But I would say that is probably the exception and not the rule. That it’s almost like if we think about Instagram being the highlight reel, like that’s the highlight reel moment is I quit drinking and now I feel all this energy. I’m ready to take on all of these different things. But everybody’s body is very unique. So that’s one thing that we like to keep in mind and is especially a big part of fun Functional Sobriety.
And my approach in that, it’s not always a one size fits all kind of scenario for most people, the same way that not everyone feels that benefit right after they quit drinking. And there’s so many complexities in our individual bodies, aside from our alcohol use history, right? So, everybody has different DNA, we have different status of our microbiome, we have different levels of our brain neurotransmitters and things like serotonin and dopamine. And we also have unique diets, right. And one of the really big things that alcohol will do in the body is it’s going to impact our nutrient levels. So, it’s going to affect things like vitamin D, or B vitamins, vitamin C, minerals like magnesium and zinc, things like our omega three fatty acids, all these things that we hear like, Oh, these are good for us, right, I should be taking supplements of this, or I should be getting enough of this in my diet. And alcohol depletes out a lot of those nutrients. So, that’s one big piece of it is that we’re all different in a sense of I might have naturally better levels of a certain nutrient than you might Casey, and then add into it, the complexity of alcohol and how alcohol affects.
But the other thing that I speak about in Functional Sobriety and also in my book that’s coming out in the fall is, these different key areas of our body, things like our gut health, the health of our gut microbiome, and what is going on in our digestive system, that can affect things like our mood, it can affect things like our energy, also our metabolism and our hormones, that can play a big role as well. And then the other big area that I focus on with my work is those brain neurotransmitters again, so things like serotonin, dopamine, GABA, which is a relaxing neurotransmitter, we all have unique levels of these things in our body, and unique scenarios that affect what’s going on in our body. And so, it’s so complex in that it’s not always a one size fits all, but that can be very frustrating to people when they do see some people, you know, these massive spikes in energy, or increases in mood, and all of that in early sobriety, and find themselves feeling really frustrated, where I’m sure you’ve heard it too from people. Should I just be drinking alcohol, right? Because I felt in some ways, I felt better, at least at certain times. So, it’s so complex, but I’m looking forward to diving into it more in this conversation.
Casey McGuire Davidson 07:40
Yeah, absolutely. I feel so much sympathy. And yet, I want to like shout from the rooftops like, oh, do not go back to drinking, because your body is literally recovering from drinking, right? When you stop drinking, you’re in that withdrawal cycle, you’ve suppressed your dopamine levels, you physically need to heal. And you don’t feel well, because you were drinking, not because you’re not drinking, do you agree with that?
Completely, because the body gets very used to metabolizing alcohol, especially the more that we drink it. So, the more that you are drinking, whether that is every day, several days a week, or even each weekend, it takes time for our body to recover, because it does get used to when alcohol is part of the picture, when it has to kind of regularly metabolize alcohol from the system. It puts a lot of other important processes on pause. And so, when we immediately take that away, things don’t just naturally kind of snap back into place. It takes a little bit of time for our body to adjust to these different changes that are happening.
And one of the big things when it comes to that is cortisol. I was just speaking about this with clients of mine, in that the research shows that with cortisol, which is our body, one of our bodies made stress hormones. Alcohol does have an impact; it causes our body to surge or increase the amount of cortisol that we produce. So, it puts us into that fight or flight mode. It takes our body seven days to recover our cortisol levels to natural production. So, if we’re even drinking once a week, that goes to show that even that drinking once a week can have that impact. So, it does take time think about it in regards to anything else we do in the body. Nothing happens overnight, right? Even if we’re trying to eat to manage our weight. One healthy meal doesn’t help one. Unhealthy meal doesn’t sabotage us. It’s the same thing. It’s not just that one or two days alcohol-free. A day or a week or two, alcohol-free makes that big difference. And I typically tell people that the timeline is somewhere between two to six months to really start to feel and notice those benefits. But the other big piece of it is, if you’re struggling, that’s an indicator to me that there’s something else going on in your system that maybe we need to look a little bit more deeply into.
Casey McGuire Davidson 10:22
And I know a lot of people listening to this are going to be like, Oh, my fucking God, even two months, feels insane. And my experience was that you don’t feel worse for two months. I remember on day nine was the first time that I slept through the night for me two months, I ran my first 10k. And in years and years, like six years, but I know from working with hundreds of women that is not universal.
And so, I wanted to talk to you about how functional nutrition.
How various pieces, whether it’s food or supplements, or just giving yourself compassion and time to let your body recover, can help make those early days, weeks, months easier, versus just white knuckling it through the entire process.
Casey McGuire Davidson
Hi there. If you’re listening to this episode, and have been trying to take a break from drinking, but keep starting and stopping and starting again, I want to invite you to take a look at my on demand coaching course, The Sobriety Starter Kit.
The Sobriety Starter Kit is an online self study sober coaching course that will help you quit drinking and build a life you love without alcohol without white knuckling it or hating the process. The course includes the exact step by step coaching framework I work through with my private coaching clients, but at a much more affordable price than one on one coaching. And the sobriety starter kit is ready, waiting and available to support you anytime you need it. And when it fits into your schedule. You don’t need to work your life around group meetings or classes at a specific day or time.
This course is not a 30 day challenge, or a one day at a time approach. Instead, it’s a step by step formula for changing your relationship with alcohol. The course will help you turn the decision to stop drinking, from your worst case scenario to the best decision of your life.
You will sleep better and have more energy, you’ll look better and feel better. You’ll have more patience and less anxiety. And with my approach, you won’t feel deprived or isolated in the process. So if you’re interested in learning more about all the details, please go to www.sobrietystarterkit.com. You can start at any time and I would love to see you in the course
And that’s where nutrition can play a really big role, right? Because we can kind of gain a little bit of our power back in that sense. And I’ll caution or disclaimer here, just to say some people sit in the camp of don’t make too many changes at the same time, right. So don’t overhaul your diet, don’t also try to like to start this fitness regime or because you’ll burn yourself out. However, there are so many little things that we can do.
From a nutrition perspective, there’s a lot of things that we can do from a supplement perspective. And I’ll share more on that in just a bit. But the big thing is that nutrition is something that we have control over.
Right, so we don’t have control over feeling if our body is going to take two months or six months to repair itself. It definitely doesn’t take two months to start feeling any input. I mean, so many people will notice things like maybe it is their sleep that has improved, maybe it is certain elements, but maybe they’re still struggling with one or two other things. But there’s two ways to manage it. Right?
We can sit back, and we can like wait for things to kind of improve. Or we can say, hey, I’m already eating three times a day, how do I make some changes, minor changes, minor modifications to the things that I’m eating three times a day to help me, right.
And so, one of those big things and just to start to share is, I talk a lot about using protein, and making sure that you’re getting adequate amounts of protein at each meal during the day. You also want to make sure that snacks are ideally occurring throughout the day too. And those are also a rich source of protein. And the reason why I suggest this is kind of multifactorial, but one of the biggest things that can happen to us when we are regular drinkers, is we can experience something called alcoholic hypoglycemia. And this is changes to our blood sugar that happens as a result of regular alcohol use. The statistic is actually that about 95% of alcohol users have this dysregulation in their blood sugar. And it’s not just about alcohol being a source of carbohydrates or being a source of sugar. But the alcohol the ethanol molecule itself affects how our liver releases hormones like insulin and glucagon that manage our blood sugar. So essentially, when we quit drinking, we have a tendency oftentimes towards experiencing these kinds of peaks and valleys in our blood sugar. This is why we have cravings for things like sugar and carbohydrates. So, some of that is a dopamine response. But the other key piece of it is this blood sugar piece, right? And if we are eating a diet that is high in sugar and carbs, it causes us to have more of those dips in our blood sugar that manifest as cravings for things like sugar and alcohol. So simply by incorporating protein throughout the day, it allows us to ensure that we are going to be able to be more successful in banishing cravings again, not only for alcohol, but also the sugar which is a big one. For people too.
So that is just one kind of example of how nutrition, even simple changes in our day to day could impact the way that we feel. Having protein throughout the day is also going to do things like keep us full for longer, it’s going to help our energy, it’s going to help us feel like a more balanced energy throughout the day, instead of having maybe these dips in the afternoon that equal us needing to take a nap. Right? So, it’s not necessarily again about needing to dive into a keto diet or jump into something super overwhelming, but making small changes throughout the day.
Casey McGuire Davidson 15:40
So, can you say again, what the blood sugar issue was? The name of it. alcoholic? Hypo
glycaemia. hyperglycemia is just the general term for low blood sugar, low blood sugar.
Okay, yes. So essentially, again, it doesn’t have as much to do with the fact that alcohol contains sugar and carbs. It has more to do with the fact that the ethanol itself impacts how we release blood sugar managing hormones in the body. So, things like insulin and glucagon.
Casey McGuire Davidson 16:18
Yeah. And so how long does it take? Generally, I know every single person is different, to sort of, stabilize that blood sugar.
Well, it helps if we’re supporting our body, right. So if we are starting to eat on a more frequent basis, or excuse me eat more protein and start to stabilize our blood sugar on a more frequent basis, it will recover itself very quickly, right, because we’re starting to give ourselves that kind of a more useful, recognizable blood sugar pattern that we should be experiencing throughout the day, some people have this less more long term. And again, everybody’s body, again, is unique. There’s, this kind of is part of the reason why alcohol can increase risk for type two diabetes, because of how it affects insulin and glucagon and these blood sugar hormones. So, you know, for some people, even if they notice, after three months, five months, six months or more, that they have cravings for things like sugar and alcohol, still, they can continue these approaches.
Again, having protein consistently throughout the day, is a recommendation I would give to virtually anyone, right, because it’s keeping our blood sugar stable, but is especially critical at this point in time, because of how it can cause a trigger for us to want to drink alcohol. Alcohol is something that will cause, will give us that spike in blood sugar. So, when we get into that kind of low blood sugar experience, that can be a trigger point for us, right, which also leads to that kind of conversation around the afternoon, the trigger time, when you look at that 4 or 5, 6o’clock arena, it’s usually before dinner. And when was the last time we ate, maybe it was lunch, maybe it was a sugary snack in the afternoon. And so, it typically kind of is in that experience of that low blood sugar.
Casey McGuire Davidson 18:22
Yeah, when I was I mean, I still do, but especially in early sobriety, and I recommend it to all my clients to even set an alarm for 330 or 4pm. And eat something with protein, I used to bring it to the office so that I wasn’t starving, going into the witching hour or hungry, driving home past the grocery store where I used to always stop for wine.
Yep. And that’s exactly it is that afternoon snack is critical in any of our alcohol free journey, whether you’re experiencing sugar, alcohol cravings or not, it’s going to really help us kind of sustain again, that more balanced energy, it’s not only going to help keep us kind of from overeating or over indulging at dinner but having maybe even a sweet craving after that. It also impacts our blood sugar plays a role in our cortisol too, which is our stress hormone. So, it has a lot to do with our sleep and wake cycles as well.
Casey McGuire Davidson 19:23
So, I know people are listening to this and they’re like, Okay, eat protein. And you just give us a few favorite ways that you incorporate protein to your breakfast, or your clients snacks lunch dinner, because a lot of times I’m like, Okay, I can’t even imagine what that means. Do you know what I mean?
Totally. And it’s also one of those things like when you overthink it, it’s like, wait, what is protein, right? Like, is an egg, protein? No.
So, it’s a great question. And I typically suggest from a quantity standpoint because this is sometimes helpful for people to hear is for a snack trying to get somewhere between 10 and 15 grams of protein at minimum. And for a meal, I usually suggest 25 grams or more. And that is kind of baseline recommendation. Again, we’ve got people of all different ages size of those types of things, men, women, so you can fairly simply look up online what your normal protein standard protein recommendations are and get a better baseline of what your day could look like or should look like. But I am kind of always suggesting that I’m a big fan of animal protein, which is a controversial topic. But, you know, again, based on the importance of things like, amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, and the importance of protein to support all of these different areas of the body, like the brain, like the gut, like hormone production. For example, I am a big fan of incorporating lean animal proteins, fish being one of the most important ones, but other things like chicken, turkey, eggs, even dairy in small amounts can be helpful for some people. And so, I always suggest to people to do tracking on their macronutrients, even if just for a couple of days, I usually get the eye rolls when I suggest this because no one likes tracking their food.
I agree. It’s not necessarily the most fun thing to do. But it can give a lot of valuable insight in terms of identifying or understanding how much protein we’re getting if we’re getting sufficient amounts. And so really, I suggest if we can start to look at how much you’re taking in on a regular basis, and then just being more mindful of when you’re eating each meal. Am I getting a sufficient amount of protein in there? So, for example, if breakfast is a bowl of cereal, likely that isn’t necessarily going to present that same amount of protein.
So, could you swap out that breakfast with having eggs? Or could you incorporate even a higher protein cereal, one thing that I do often is like I’m an avid fan of a protein shake a protein mix, high quality, I usually use like a grass fed collagen, but something to just help boost protein throughout the day, at least once or twice during the day, because that’s going to help kind of keep you more stable. And it’s going to be kind of a good go to source when you’re not sure what to incorporate.
Casey McGuire Davidson 22:41
Yeah, every morning, and you can tell me if this is good or bad, but I absolutely love the smoothie. So Greek yogurt, frozen strawberries, spinach, a little protein powder, and a banana and almond milk. And I’m just like that I take it for our Bronco. So, do I need to swap anything out there?
I think it’s great. Sometimes I just have people be mindful of dairy. So, the Greek yogurt, if you find that maybe dairy doesn’t sit well with you. About 70% of people don’t tolerate dairy well. So just something to keep in mind of an opportunity there. But the other thing is just making sure if you’re using fruit. So, strawberries, banana. That you’re not overdoing the fruit and incorporating too much sugar in there. I would also suggest with your protein powder, looking and seeing how much protein that you are getting in there and trying to make sure like 25 grams or so 20 or 25 grams would be the minimum I would recommend.
Casey McGuire Davidson 23:37
Okay. Okay, so I’m just getting free consultation there. But there you go.
Your theory, right. So, why not? Why is that an issue but like, What do you mean, people don’t tolerate it well, or you need to sort of make sure though a lot of people lack the enzyme that breaks down lactose. And that’s why people become quote, unquote, lactose intolerant. Not everybody who doesn’t tolerate dairy well experiences major concerns, dairy tends to be something that’s more pro inflammatory or increases inflammation.
So, in general, I often suggest to clients minimizing it, even trying to eliminate it for 30 days or so and see how they feel without it, especially if they’re experiencing any digestive concerns, bloating, inflammatory conditions, so anything like muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, etc., because that might be a culprit in their diet.
Casey McGuire Davidson 24:39
Yeah. Okay. So, you mentioned that cortisol takes about a week to stay just trying to get an idea for different people about when they should, quote unquote, expect to feel a little bit better or to encourage them that even if they’re tired or how Wherever they feel that their body is, in fact healing, as they build a days away from ingesting this, essentially a poison body.
Yeah, so again, there can be so many reasons why that energy might be lacking.
So, a few simple things that can be done is or even things like improving hydration status. So, making sure you’re getting enough water, incorporating possibly some electrolytes into your water, something that’s not super high in sugar, and just watching me because some of those do have a lot of sugar in them. And hydration is important because it helps to keep up our brain needs water, our body needs water to function, right. And alcohol is very dehydrating. But again, a lot of us aren’t getting enough water to begin with, right. So even something as simple as that, I generally recommend at least half of your body weight in ounces of water per day. So, for example, if you’re 150 pounds, that’s 75 ounces of water, at least per day. And so even a simple recommendation as such can be great.
The other thing to consider again goes back to those important nutrients. So, things like our B vitamins, which are critical for energy production, they are also some of the nutrients that are very easily disrupted by alcohol intake. So, if you are regular drinker, that might mean at least two days or more per week, I would say anywhere over five, seven drinks a week is going to start putting your nutrient status at risk. And so, B vitamins are something that I recommend to a lot of clients in the beginning, not just for energy improvement, but also for mood. And the reason why that is because several of those B vitamins like B6, folate, B12.
They are all very important for production of things like dopamine, serotonin, all those healthy brain neurotransmitters that we want to have that feel good mood. So that’s another critical thing, you can take a B vitamin supplement, you can also incorporate more foods, these are found in most of our foods. But again, because if you have a more extensive alcohol use history, a supplement might be a little more effective, just in boosting them more quickly.
Casey McGuire Davidson 27:33
And you’ve mentioned just for anyone who’s not familiar with it, you’ve mentioned dopamine serotonin earlier GABA, can you just give us a quick summary as to what those are, why they’re important what they do?
Absolutely. So, these are our brains neurotransmitters. So, there are several different neurotransmitters in the body. It helps. They essentially run our body, how we feel how our mood is, how easily we can relax what makes us feel stimulated. So, most of us have heard of things like serotonin as it relates to mood. Serotonin is one of our feel good hormones. So, we usually want more serotonin helps us feel good. Dopamine is one of our brains reward neurotransmitter. So, it is technically a feel good hormone, right, because that reward feeling is a feel good. But it is the kind of that sensation that we get, not only when we drink alcohol or use drugs, but also from things like sugar from when we experience a moment of success when we spend time in nature, or when we do those things that kind of feel rewarding to us, that’s a dopamine boost.
Another one I speak about frequently, as you mentioned is GABA. GABA, G A, B, A. and GABA is our body’s relaxing neurotransmitter. So, it helps us kind of wind down and helps us take the edge off, for example. And one of the ways that alcohol helps us relax is it kind of gives us a false increase in GABA that relaxation neurotransmitter. So that’s an important one too, because it has to do with how easily we can wind down or we can engage that sensation of relaxation.
Another big one. Kind of the fourth one that I speak about frequently, is called glutamate. And glutamate is our excitatory neurotransmitter. It’s kind of the one that well, a lot of people know monosodium glutamate, MSG, that can contribute to headaches from different types of cuisines that incorporate that savory kind of element to it. But glutamate is that same kind of thing. It’s this over excitatory neurotransmitter that we want to reduce production of right, so it’s almost like a symphony, if you will without being so connected. Using, we want extra of certain neurotransmitters, we want lowered amounts of others. And so, it can become really complicated again, in that scenario of everybody’s body is different. How do we know if someone has low dopamine if someone has low serotonin, but the most important thing to know with these neurotransmitters is that they’re all based off of amino acids, which are the foundation of our proteins. And they use vitamins and minerals as cofactors to be converted into kind of their active forms. And so, when we think about things like even taking medication, to boost serotonin, for example, a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, that SSRI, sure that can help boost our serotonin. But if our serotonin is low, are we actually deficient in certain nutrients that are required in the conversion of that? So that’s where from functional sobriety from a functional nutrition perspective, we like to look a little bit deeper and start to understand what’s really that root cause of that low mood or root cause of that low energy?
Casey McGuire Davidson 31:09
Yeah, no, that’s great. And I know, in early sobriety, I felt a couple different things, right. And I know a bunch of my clients do too. So, I felt first so tired, like I’d been hit by a truck. I felt a little more anxious at first, that then went away pretty quickly. I felt a little bit sort of numb, I guess. And then a ton of emotions, and like, weirdly, angry, even rage, like in my first week, I was insensitive to like, emotionally sensitive. Any thoughts on that?
Yeah, well, some of it can have to do with neurotransmitters for sure. And the body trying to rebalance itself, again, we get used to alcohol to boost our dopamine. So when we take it out, initially, we usually get a drop in dopamine, we have all these different, again, changes that can occur as the result of alcohol being there, but then alcohol now the body being reliant on it in some ways to support production of certain things. The other thing to think about that isn’t nutrition related is just gosh, we’re not used to feeling feelings, right? Like we drink to numb out happy feeling sad feelings, angry feelings, frustrated feelings. So, it’s almost like we take away our security blanket. And now here we are getting we’re like feeling these things again, right? We’re not used to feeling them, because we’ve numbed them out for so long. So, there’s so many reasons why I think, yes, it can be biochemical, from these things that are going on in the body kind of almost going into the state of shock, if you will, because alcohol affects so many of these different areas.
The other interesting thing too, is there’s some discussion on how different organs can store different emotions. And one of the emotions that are stored in the liver is anger. And so, when the liver is now having change in its biochemistry, is that activating maybe some of these feelings of anger or frustration. So just another kind of interesting turn of things.
Casey McGuire Davidson 33:27
Absolutely. And I know alcohol obviously is incredibly hard on your liver. how long I’ve heard the liver doesn’t take that long to heal, do anything you could share on that. I mean, once you stop drinking.
Yeah, so it’s dependent on the effect with which the liver is impacted. Some people have pretty resilient livers. And some of this goes into genetics and how our body is able to metabolize not only alcohol, but other toxins, waste products, things that we take in from our environment, different chemicals in our foods and our personal products. If our body is highly burdened by multiple things, not just alcohol, it can take longer to repair itself. We can do a lot with food to support that. So, there are certain foods that I have almost all of my clients taking things like beets, cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, all really good for supporting liver health. Also, things like, turmeric and ginger. Omega3 is found in our wild caught fish. These are all foods that not only support the liver but also support deep waste removal and digestion, because a lot of people overlook the fact that the liver is part of our digestive system.
Right and so not only does the liver affect digestion and how we are removing waste, how we’re praying also saying kind of our bowels, but also alcohol has a huge impact on our gut health, and the gut microbiome and really the immune system that lives within our gut. And those things as well can play a really big role in mood mental health energy, because our gut is so important in that process as well. So again, there’s just so many pieces of this that like, but can be really overwhelming at first of like, well, where do I start? And that’s where again, some of those recommendations like even just protein, increasing water intake, getting the vitamins, and maybe bringing in some of those liver foods can be really beneficial. It’s when people are struggling beyond maybe three for six months, that I’m saying, is it worth looking further into.
And then the other big thing that I do with my work is helping support people with chronic health issues, okay. And those may or may not be the result of alcohol use. But typically, alcohol use doesn’t help. Right? And so, it’s looking at how do we repair the body posted alcohol use knowing this kind of unique scenario that alcohol has maybe contributed to that in some way?
Casey McGuire Davidson 36:20
That’s super useful. And I’m actually really glad you said that. He was my takeaway; I’m going to restate it. Tell me if this is true. You mentioned early sobriety. It can be overwhelming. I know, in my experience, and with clients, I don’t think it’s good to go on a big diet in early sobriety. I want people not to be hungry, because that’s a huge trigger. And also, every time I originally tried to stop drinking, I would be like, Okay, I’m going to go on a diet, lose 10 pounds workout every day, and give up alcohol. And it really always tripped me up like I’d make it a week, two weeks, three weeks and be like, Oh, my God, this sucks. This is too hard. And but also, as a coach really takes the focus off, triggers removing alcohol, your limiting beliefs about alcohol, all this processing emotions, all the things that just come from removing alcohol. So what I heard you say it’s an early sobriety, your first two months, maybe beyond that to six months, best thing you can do is make sure you’re getting enough protein at every meal and snacks of water, hydrating yourself at least half your body weight in ounces. And looking at adding B vitamins are some of that, like, omega threes from fish and foods. Is that correct?
Yeah. And so, in my online program, and a lot of what I share on my social media, and my blogs are other functional foods that you can use as part of your sobriety journey.
So again, beets is one of them, the cruciferous veggies are a big one, wild caught fish, as you mentioned, there’s a lot of things that you can do by incorporating in certain foods, rather than being more restrictive.
Yeah, and saying, Hey, I, like I said in the beginning, this is not like, you’re going to start a keto diet, you’re going to take on a seven day a week exercise completely unsustainable, right. And what we need to do is think of it more as nutrition to support this journey that we’re on, versus it being a diet or kind of something that is short term. For me, it’s all about the education of how you’re eating to support your body. Again, even with protein, that is a recommendation that is goes for everyone whether they have a history of drinking alcohol or not. But it’s just extra critical in this kind of time or this phase. And so, it’s making more simple changes, and incorporating in things that can be useful. And that’s where supplements can also be beneficial.
Like I said, the B vitamins, I also use some other ones on a fairly frequent basis to help balance the gut to help support the liver to help with mental clarity or focus or energy. Because again, when we do start feeling some of those benefits, it helps us stay alcohol free, right? It’s like if you’re not feeling good for six months, of course, it’s not ideal to want to continue on that journey. But what it’s also telling me if you’re not feeling better is that there’s something else going on and so it’s not that oh, you should give up and bring alcohol back in. Let’s take a deeper look at what’s maybe happening because you might have an autoimmune disorder or you might have a hormone imbalance or you might have other nutrient deficiencies that haven’t manifested in traditional bloodwork that you’ve done or haven’t necessarily been seen, and are just creating kind of this layer of confusion for you. And frustration. Yeah.
Casey McGuire Davidson 40:14
Yeah. And I think that’s really good and interesting, because obviously, when I was drinking, I blamed everything in terms of how terrible I felt on alcohol. And obviously, that was a huge contributing factor. But once I stopped drinking, it was around four months that I had this big anxiety, panic, I guess is what I call. And I knew that drinking wasn’t going to solve that issue, because it kind of brought me to my knees many times. So, I went to a doctor, and I got on some anti-anxiety meds and I went to therapy, and everyone is different in terms of what works. But what was interesting is almost after a year of that process, my sort of mood ups and downs and anxiety and panic, kind of came back every three, four months, even though I was doing literally everything, right. Turns out, I had an undiagnosed sort of mild mood disorder. And I had spent, I don’t know, however much of my life I stopped drinking when I was 40. Unaware of this, blaming myself, for not being able to cope, or all those things, and what you were saying about nutrition and what people might have, it’s like removing that huge factor of alcohol, and then getting to the baseline of like, Okay, what else?
What’s actually going on? Yeah, yeah. And that’s why I do one on one consultations and work with clients individually. Most of my previous experience, before even getting into sobriety was in private practice as a functional nutritionist working with functional medicine, running, testing, running rat lab analysis and understanding like what’s going on in your body, because that’s the best way to identify a diet or supplements that are right for you certain foods that are best for you. And in doing that, with my clients, and sobriety, we start to identify, I have one client who has Hashimoto’s, and autoimmune thyroid disorder. And she didn’t know that, right? She didn’t know that was why she was having anxiety. That was why she was having trouble with weight management, and then getting her on the diet on a particular diet to support that she lost six pounds within three weeks, and she hadn’t been able to lose a single pound in years.
Right, another client, for example, even just kind of a more simple thing, within mood disorder, for example, just got blood work back and has extremely low vitamin D levels. And vitamin D is very critical for mood helps to reduce symptoms of depression. And a lot of times these things aren’t tested. And so doing that analysis is really helpful whether people have specific health concerns. And sometimes I have people come and see me and say I just want to know more, right? Like, I want to understand why I don’t feel the energy, why I don’t feel XYZ. And unfortunately, a lot of times we uncover things that are missed in a traditional blood screening for a physical, for example, because it’s not really looking at some of these other core areas.
Casey McGuire Davidson 43:33
Yeah. Well, so I’m super interested in the testing process. Can you just, Oh, you do that. And then you do consultations? It’s different than what your doctor would do in terms of blood testing.
Yeah, so some doctors will test more things. A lot of times what we get in a standard. Physical, for example, is just a basic metabolic panel, maybe a lipid panel, they’re looking at complete blood count. They’re basically looking at, if something were a major red flag, they would see it and know that something’s off balance. People, I have people for years, go to their doctor and have normal blood testing, and then they come in and just by asking more questions, we’ll run nutrients will run autoimmune panels will run more in depth testing, to try to identify what else is potentially going on.
And so, for example, that vitamin D. Not that’s not even really standard protocol. Most people doctors will run it, but you do have to ask for it. And so many of us are deficient in it because we are not getting adequate sun exposure. Most more than half of the year, especially in the northern half of the US the sun isn’t actually strong enough for us to make it. And so, if we’re in the Northeast, the Northwest.
First, we are definitely vitamin D deficient, most likely unless we’re supplementing with it. But I also will often run things like hormone testing stool testing, just to get a better understanding what’s going on in the gut. What’s going on with cortisol levels, what’s going on, it’s typically depending on what the patient is experiencing, and then just diving a little bit deeper into what’s going on so that we can support it. I have just I’ll give one last example of a friend of mine who’s been experiencing a lot of issues. And we were suspecting that she might have some type of autoimmune condition going on. So, she had been going to her doctor, I sent over a list of things to have them test, and she comes back positive for lupus antibodies, and having all of these kinds of different things going on in her blood, that if you didn’t run those things, you wouldn’t know because the basic kind of screenings don’t show that right. And so unfortunately, a lot of times people hear well, like they’re doctors as well, everything looks good, right? And it’s a red flag. If a doctor says everything looks good, but you don’t feel good, right? That just tells me we didn’t look deep enough. And that’s why I feel that testing is really important in those kinds of stickier cases, that if you’ve tried a lot of things, and they haven’t worked, there’s usually something else going on. And it’s a matter of just getting kind of deep enough to find it.
Casey McGuire Davidson 46:30
Yeah, that makes a ton of sense. The other question I get a lot is about sugar cravings. Once you remove alcohol, can you tell us anything about that? Or how to sort of deal with those or why they happen?
Yeah, so as I mentioned in the beginning of the podcast about blood sugar, so blood sugar can be a really big contributor to why we have sugar cravings. Yes, dopamine does play a role, because sugar will also increase dopamine spikes. But the other important thing is that again, if we experience or get into that kind of situation of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, when blood sugar is low, what helps us increase blood sugar is sugar carbs, right? So anytime we, especially if we have a tendency to kind of fall into that low blood sugar state, we’re going to be craving sugar in order to help boost that, right. And so that’s kind of a big piece of it, where even that protein recommendation can help a lot. So, incorporating protein, lots of good healthy fiber, that’s our better type of carb, that’s going to not only help improve our satiety help stabilize blood sugar, but also improved digestion and help with important things like that.
So, one of my most popular supplements that I recommend and have clients try is something called L Glutamine. L Glutamine is an amino acid that can also help with boosting GABA, lowering glutamate and can actually help with cravings for both sugar and alcohol. So, for a lot of clients coming in, I’ll recommend that especially if they’re struggling with those severe sugar cravings, and that can be taken on an as needed basis where if you’re having a sugar craving, you can open a capsule or put some of the powder under your tongue and allow it to dissolve and it does take away a sugar craving fairly quickly. So yeah, so that’s something that I recommend to people, not only for the sugar cravings, but also if they’re struggling with alcohol in the beginning, too.
Casey McGuire Davidson 48:37
Yeah, that’s interesting that and kind of nice that it can be taken on an as needed basis as well.
Totally. It really helps me honestly in my first couple of weeks in sobriety, and I have clients that swear by it, and it’s something that has a lot of anecdotal evidence about it. A lot of practitioners have used it for a long time the body of research is lacking in terms of like clinical trials on it, but l glutamine itself and those changes to our neurotransmitters is more well studied. So, I have people use it and they love it. It’s helped me a ton. And so, it’s definitely worth giving a shot if you’re someone who’s listening and struggling with that. So that information or that supplement can be found in my shop at functionalsobriety.com. If anyone’s interested in giving that a try.
Casey McGuire Davidson 49:34
That’s great. That’s I hadn’t heard that I’ve heard of that L Glutamine episode with Jolene Park on Gray Area Drinking, but she also talks about various nutritional impacts of alcohol, but I didn’t understand exactly what it did.
So, glutamine also helps heal the lining of the gut. And that is something that is affected when we are drinking alcohol on a regular basis to, so it has a kind of a multi-faceted approach to how it’s helping the body. So, it’s something that can be really useful for people.
Casey McGuire Davidson 50:10
That’s great. Okay, yeah, we might have already covered this, but I just I wanted to sort of get your summary on it. Early sobriety, fatigue and struggling with sleep and early sobriety, anything you recommend that people can do to help with that?
Yeah, so I’ll start by mentioning sleep. So oftentimes, we think that alcohol is helping with our sleep, it’s helping us pass out essentially, it’s helping kind of increase that GABA that relaxing neurotransmitter. But most people find in the research shows that sleep is negatively impacted by alcohol use. So, we know that it’s better without it. And even though alcohol can help kind of initially help with kind of putting us into a sleep state, we usually have more broken sleep, we don’t necessarily have good healthy sleep or restful sleep.
So, there’s a couple different things there that I suggest. Magnesium is one of the really great minerals that can be used to help, again with inducing relaxation with helping sleep. I also will sometimes suggest herbal supplements that help with sleep as well, that usually combined things like valerian root, lemon balm, and kind of different other herbs that are chosen specifically to help with sleep, I find that most people have improvement in sleep pretty quickly, even if initially they struggle with it. Normally, that balances out fairly quickly. It can also have to do with that cortisol level. So sometimes too, by balancing cortisol using different adaptogens, like ashwagandha, or roll rhodiola, for example, can be useful. So, I always suggest kind of starting with magnesium, because it’s a good one to kind of help with that relaxation in general. And again, with energy, there’s so many things that can help with improving energy, I would say for sure, starting off with things like B vitamins.
Hydration is key beats are actually really good. I know I’ve mentioned beats a few times, but they’re really good for oxygenating the brain. So having beats at breakfast or in a smoothie powder in a smoothie can actually be really beneficial for boosting morning energy levels. But then again, also things like those adaptogen. So rhodiola, for example, is one that I love to help support cortisol production in the morning. And then the last thing that I’d suggest for that, too, is having direct sunlight on our face in the morning also helps to boost cortisol production, it’s part of our body’s kind of circadian rhythm, natural sleep wake cycle. So even if you’re able to kind of get some sun on your face first thing in the morning that can also help you feel more energized, too.
Casey McGuire Davidson 53:02
that is great. And I love that you’re giving us all of this information, but also saying in the beginning, just start with this. So, anyone listening to this, who’s like, Oh my God, I need to take folate and D12, and L glutamine and eats and all this kind of stuff. Also saying, hey, sleep, start with magnesium.
Hey, just picking a couple of things like you don’t have to do it. All right, so you can just pick a kind of a couple of different things that have resonated with you in this. And then as always, I’ll plug my blog and some of the other content that I share too, because it’s you know, it is a lot of information, it’s sometimes hard to chunk it down for people into the kind of easiest, most tangible things. But I try to do a good job of having more of that information available on blog content, etc. And a lot of good tips on my Instagram posts as well too.
Casey McGuire Davidson 53:59
I will link to your blog, your Instagram, cool, all the good stuff. But please tell us about your membership. Tell us about how people can learn more about you learn more about this topic, because I know it’s something so many women want to think about.
Yeah, so I do have an online program. It’s called the Functional Sobriety Academy which is an online course. We also have a private members only network as part of that. So, we post daily content. We have a couple of weekly meetings, we do monthly masterminds, and the Academy itself is all in approach to help you develop your nutrition plan for your alcohol free lifestyle. So, it’s intended to kind of bring this information to you and make it in a way that you can use it in your unique body so you can start to say, oh I experience X here are the foods that can support that. Here are those supplements for example that might help with that. And that’s a lifetime membership if you opt into that, so you get access to come back anytime you want. We have clients all over the world, which is exciting. And then some of those clients and others choose to work with me one on one.
So again, if they feel like they have something more specific that they want to work on, or they have a specific health concern, I do see clients 1-on-1, both in my office in New York City, but also virtually around the world.
So again, that’s the opportunity to do that testing and kind of get a little bit more in depth information about what’s going on in your body, how do we identify a plan specifically for you to heal your body. So those are kind of my two main things now. But my book is coming out in fall, I know that you mentioned in the bio, and it’s called, How To Eat To Change How You Drink. And that is, again, a guide to help you identify different tools and tricks that you can do to not only support your sobriety, but also heal your body from long term alcohol use.
Casey McGuire Davidson 56:03
I love that. And I would love to have you back on when that book is out to kind of go deeper. And I would love that you on this.
Yeah, I would love that. And I’d love to send you a copy. And I’m dying to see everyone holding a copy of it.
Casey McGuire Davidson 56:19
Awesome. As soon as it’s ready, please do because I read it. I personally am super interested in this topic. Even though I’m 7 years alcohol-free. I still know that, you know, understanding my body and how I can support it within nutrition. I’m in early days of that.
And that’s the good thing about it is it’s like it’s part of the lifelong approach to sobriety, right. It’s part of how we continue investing in our health and supporting our wellness and kind of what keeps us away from a relapse or moving forward, if you will, into kind of that new journey or that new phase of our lives. So, it’s been so fun and exciting for me to marry my, my expertise in nutrition with my passion for sobriety, and it’s felt very serendipitous.
Casey McGuire Davidson 57:12
I know you’re helping so many people in this area. I mean, what’s interesting to me is first, I absolutely love everyone in this space, who is talking about sobriety and talking about the different aspects of it. But nutrition is a very specific aspect of it that you know, your expertise is really needed. So, thank you for coming on.
Thank you for having me. And I will be happy to come back on anytime and chat with the audience. But thanks for having me on Casey.
Casey McGuire Davidson 57:43
Yeah, of course.
Thank you for listening to this episode of The Hello Someday Podcast. If you’re interested in learning more about me or the work I do or accessing free resources and guides to help you build a life you love without alcohol, please visit hellosomedaycoaching.com. And I would be so grateful if you would take a few minutes to rate and review this podcast so that more women can find it and join the conversation about drinking less and living more.