Natural Tips To Help You Quit or Cut Down on Alcohol
I know a lot of people are keen to drink less, have a break from alcohol or just stop drinking altogether. It can be a difficult habit to break, even for those who are just ‘social drinkers’ (some people are extremely social)…so here’s some great tools, supplements and tips on how to stop drinking naturally if that’s your goal! Share with mates wanting to kick the habit too.
Be Aware of Your Triggers:
If you're looking at how to stop drinking naturally, avoid stress (in all its forms). People reach for alcohol to change their state (stress is uncomfortable, alcohol makes it less so...but only temporarily!)
- HALT (hungry, angry, lonely or tired) - just a few types of stress to be aware of, common triggers.
- Negative emotions (grief, anger, sadness, loneliness, guilt).
- Social Isolation (finding yourself with no one to socialise with after quitting).
- Mental Illness
- Physical Illness
- Pain - esp chronic pain
- Relationship break-ups (if you are serious about quitting an addiction, it’s actually recommended to avoid new romantic relationships until you are really confident you’re strong enough to not relapse in the event of a breakup / relationship stress).
- Complacency / over confidence (ie you think ‘I’ve quit so easily I can just do it again anytime so a few drinks won’t hurt this weekend’). So easy to just slide back into your old patterns from there, common mistake.
- Celebrations - i.e. achievements, graduations, weddings, new jobs (especially if a pay rise makes it easier to afford more partying!)
- Reunions with ‘partners in crime’ - when you catch up with people who you used to party with, make sure you set strong intentions & make everyone aware well before the catch up. You may have to just pass for a while if that's easier.
- Giving up on quitting after a slip up. Everyone has a slip up from time to time - just learn from it & move on, don’t beat yourself up & give in. It happened, move on, get back on the wagon.
Supplements Useful For Quitting Alcohol:If you're exploring how to stop drinking naturally, it's worth exploring whether these supplements could help:
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
GABA is a ‘chill out’ neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that is associated with relaxation & sleepiness. Alcohol binds to GABA receptors in the brain & mimics these effects. So - with long term alcohol use, your brain won’t respond as well to natural GABA, as the receptors become desensitised. If you’re using alcohol all the time to chill out / unwind / self medicate a level of anxiety - taking GABA (or other things that work on this same pathway) can be really useful to lessen the anxiety that can come when quitting drinking.
These are herbs that help calm us down. Kava, Withania, Passionflower & Oats are a few popular ones, readily available from healthfood stores. Get a naturopath or herbalist to make you a custom brew, or you can find some nice combination formulas in stores. Great to take the edge off without the side effects of using alcohol to do so (alcohol side effects include decreased ability to think clearly & make good decisions, leading to increased anxiety)! Switch to these herbs if you tend to use alcohol to slow down, chill out, calm down. Much better long term results!
Adaptogens are herbs that support our ability to cope with stress (that’s all of us in this modern age!) Withania, Ginsengs, Liquorice etc can be great (once again, best to get a tailored mix). Adaptogens are great for when you are having to cope with more than you feel you can, wether that’s physical stress (athletes) or emotional / work / relationships etc. Use these herbs if you need support to keep going strong, keep your energy up (in a sustainable way).
This is a common deficiency in booze-lovers & is a useful supplement if you’ve been overdoing it, especially if your gut / inflammation / immune symptoms are playing up (you’ll have given yourself a leakier gut, & L-glutamine is great to help repair that). L-glutamine can also help to decrease cravings (for sugar, carbs & alcohol) by providing a glucose source for the brain (without raising blood sugars). Alcohol cravings & sugar / carb cravings can be intertwined (alcohol is a highly refined sugar that gives your brain an addictive sugar hit, similar to other refined sugars). Glutamine is also a mood booster, & can help with depression, anxiety & insomnia. Take 1 teaspoon of the powder 3-4 times a day on an empty stomach.
We can't look at how to stop drinking naturally and not discuss sugar! Quit the sweet soft drink / juice mixers. I see so many people combining 3 addictions into one extremely powerful cocktail - ie consuming a beverage that contains loads of sugar, plus caffeine & alcohol - the triple whammy! A first step in this instance would be to replace the caffeinated mixers with something less addictive (ie switch coke to ginger beer or lemonade). Then remove or cut back on the sugar (use sparkling mineral water to dilute soft drink, then completely remove the sweet soft drink). You might find the alcohol addiction is only one part of a triple addiction.
Magnesium is an extremely common deficiency, & if you tend to overdo alcohol you’ll almost certainly benefit from a period supplementing (especially if you are also stressed out, tend to be tight / tense, get cramps & easily fatigued muscles). Ask in your local health store or pharmacy for a quality brand (there are many forms of magnesium, you’ll need one that is well absorbed not just one that goes straight through - though these can be great for constipation). If you stressed out & are trying to quit, I would take the maximum recommended dose, 2x daily for a couple of weeks then cut back once you feel less anxious.
Zinc is such a common deficiency (& like magnesium & many other minerals & trace elements, is depleted by drinking) so definitely get your zinc levels checked - really important if you also have leaky gut. If your protein intake is low, it’s likely your zinc is too. One of the main enzymes required to break down alcohol (Alcohol dehydrogenase or ADH) requires zinc. If you can’t handle alcohol like you used to, it can be a red flag for zinc deficiency (also other things). Always take zinc with food, it can make many people feel nauseous if taken on an empty stomach.
If you're looking at how to stop drinking naturally, you may need to look at your B vitamins. B vitamins will need topping up if you’ve been partying too long & hard - esp B1, folate & B12 (go for a quality B complex). B’s are crucial for energy, nerves, memory & brain function, coping with stress, skin hair nails & many other functions. There’s some wisdom in the old ‘Berocca hangover cure’ - though you can find much better quality supps (ask in your local). B vitamins are normally best taken in the mornings (they can give you an energy boost).
L-theanine is found in Green Tea (& in concentrated amounts in green tea tablets). It has been shown to support liver health & to improve detoxification of alcohol, plus good to help with sleep / anxiety. Useful to know, swap the wine for a green tea - or make up a big batch of iced tea. For stronger effects, get the tablets / capsules.
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is an amino acid derived antioxidant (available in tablet form) that can lessen the toxic effects of alcohol & its by products, as well as decrease the desire to drink & help to normalise the addicted brain. When alcohol is consumed, it’s broken down into acetaldehyde (much more toxic than alcohol). We use glutathione (an antioxidant we make) to detoxify acetaldehyde, & NAC is used to make glutathione. Drinking alcohol causes the stores of glutathione in the liver to quickly get depleted, so if you do plan to drink - NAC taken 1 hour or so beforehand may mean you do less damage & feel better the next day (don’t take it the day after as it can apparently work differently & make things worse)! Work with a professional if you want to look at how to stop drinking naturally and use NAC to assist addiction, & obviously the best hangover prevention is to just drink less!
Nux Vomica is a homeopathic remedy, so to ensure it’ll be useful for you get advice from someone who knows their way round prescribing these remedies. Also check out Arsenicum, China, Nat Mur, & Sulphur. These remedies are all commonly used to assist with alcohol overuse, but a remedy must be a good match with your constitution / personality type & symptom picture to get good results. Nux Vomica is a fairly safe bet if your liver is a bit overwhelmed, you tend to be cranky / irritable & are prone to both overworking & overindulging. Ask in your local healthfood store, try taking a dose of 30c once or twice daily for a week or so (stop taking if you notice changes). Can also be used before bed to help decrease hangovers, but ideally use it to decrease desire to drink.
Flower essences are great to help with emotional issues, which often trigger substance overuse. You can experiment yourself, or get advice from a practitioner if you know that alcohol is just masking something you’d like to deal with on a deeper level.
Rescue remedy is so well-loved it is readily available in just about every chemist, health store (& often supermarkets). This is just a great combination of flower essences to address acute stress, anxiety, panic, insomnia etc. Use when anxious if that’s a trigger for you.
Sleep deprivation can be a big contributing factor to stress / anxiety / not coping / feeling the need to use alcohol for energy & fun / being able to socialise. If you're looking at how to stop drinking naturally, make sure you’re addressing lack of sleep when trying to kick the habit. Sleep quality should vastly improve without alcohol, as booze interferes with normal sleep (even though it’s often what people use to ‘knock themselves out’ at night, you’ll get less deep sleep).
Mindfulness, Meditation, Deep Breathing
Deep breathing & meditation instead of beers or wine to wind down of an evening. Try a yoga class or meditation sessions, even phone apps. Replace unhealthy habits with a really healthy one that will have many positive side effects. The more mindful you become, the less you will want to drink.
CBD (a non-psychoactive compound extracted from marijuana that can help with seizures, anxiety, insomnia, pain & many other things) is worth looking into. Whilst not readily available legally in Australia, it is being used by many who know of it - there’s a thriving black market. There is preliminary evidence that it can help to curb addiction, so consider - especially if chronic pain is a trigger for you. To get this in Aus you have to ‘know somebody who knows somebody’ - take a trip to Nimbin / northern NSW - you can’t buy it legally in stores yet, though in other countries it is truly booming. Dosage can vary depending on strength of the product from about 10 drops to 30 drops, ask the supplier for guidelines specific to their product.
Treat All Levels
With any health issue, the naturopathic approach requires that you address not only the physical but also the mental, emotional & spiritual aspects of your being. When we look at how to stop drinking naturally, working on all of these simultaneously is the best way to help with any level of addiction too. This could mean a basic programme of starting to exercise daily, sleep more & eat better, using supplements where required, & booking in to see a holistic counsellor / practitioner specialising in mental-emotional healing. A couple of phone calls to book appointments is the first step!
Change Your Routine & Remove Triggers
Restructure your daily / weekly routine so that alcohol is no longer a feature. If you normally crave a drink on a Friday night, book a regular yoga / gym / art class for that time, or make that movie night, or massage night or whatever, just to help disrupt that usual ‘trigger’ in your routine. If you need a wine to help wind down from a stress-filled day looking after babies / small children - try a pram walk or just sit in a lavender bath (with the kids) for 30mins-1hr. If it’s ‘the boys’ or ‘the girls’ that derail your attempts - let them all know that you’re ‘having a break’ for a period, some may want to join you (don’t say you’re never drinking & socialising with them again, just say it’s a break & come up with other cool outings & things to do together). Then the break can be as long as you like.
Create Obstacles - Make it Harder To Drink
If you normally buy cases of wine / get automatic deliveries / habitually buy a carton of beer each week, then you’ll always be within a few footsteps of alcohol - not ideal for someone looking to cut down! Cancel or pause the delivery. Drive past the bottle shop on a friday. Don’t keep any alcohol in the house - if you decide you do really want to have a drink for an occasion, it will require effort, money & time to get booze. This will help your efforts to avoid it. if you normally drink too much wine - just make a rule to only buy the tiny bottles (1 at a time). Only buy a six pack for special occaisions if you normally would buy a carton & just drink the rest later. It’s the same with sugary foods - if they are in the house you’ll eat more of them. If you only buy for immediate consumption, you’ll do better at avoiding them.
If you need support but feel AA meetings would be overkill, The ‘One Year No Beer’ Community (OYNB) provides an awesome motivational / how-to / practical resource / support network that you can join online. Check it out if you know you’ll need help staying on track. https://www.facebook.com/Oneyearnobeer/
Have heard great reviews & people often end up alcohol free for much longer / for life!
Start, Commit, Invest
So if you're serious at looking at how to stop drinking naturally, decide on your start date, & tell everyone what you’re doing - ask them to help you stay on track & keep you accountable. Better yet, find a buddy who’s also keen to quit booze for a while (ideally your partner - will make life easier). Treat yourself to something healthy that you know you’ll be able to afford with all the savings on alcohol (book a class, a monthly massage, some new workout gear, a health retreat, or some of the supplements above to help you kickstart the journey!
Jordan Peterson has some useful & entertaining material to help you figure out why you might be drinking too much / too often & how to go about stopping: