Vitamin C has a theoretical benefit for reducing alcohol cravings because this vitamin helps your body produce mood-boosting neurotransmitters. Overcoming cravings is key to overcoming alcohol addiction. Always consult a health care provider before adding supplements into your diet and attempting to treat a condition such as alcoholism.
Serotonin and Epinephrine
High doses of vitamin C theoretically can help your body boost production of serotonin and epinephrine, both of which are mood-boosting neurotransmitters. Vitamin C is vital for the synthesis of serotonin and also plays a role in epinephrine synthesis in your body. Some alternative medicine practitioners, such as clinical nutrition professor Andrew Saul of New York Chiropractic College, recommend mega doses of vitamin C, such as 10,000 mg to 20,000 mg daily as one element of a supplement plan to overcome cravings.
GABA and Dopamine
Your body also needs vitamin C for synthesis of GABA, a nonessential amino acid that acts as neurotransmitter. As you gradually become addicted to alcohol, the alcohol changes the level of some of your brain chemicals, especially GABA, according to University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC. GABA is important because it stops you from being impulsive. Your brain levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine also are changed as your alcoholism progresses. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps protect dopamine from oxidation. As your brain levels of GABA and dopamine are altered, you crave alcohol to gain a good feeling again, notes UMMC.
Supporting your body's production of feel-good brain chemicals with vitamin C may be helpful if certain scientific theories are correct. For example, your serotonin systems may help to regulate drug-taking behavior such as alcoholism, according to "Pharmacotherapy of Depression," by Domenic A. Ciraulo and Richard Irwin Shader. That's why using strategies to increase serotonin levels in your body may be useful in reducing alcohol cravings. This theory is based on animal research that suggests serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, which increase serotonin levels in your body, may be useful for cutting alcohol cravings, note Ciraulo and Shader.
Another theory on alcoholism is called "reward deficiency syndrome." This theory states that alcoholics have an imbalance of chemicals involved in the brain's signals of pleasure, or reward, for certain things, such as being safe and warm. This imbalance may play a role in chemical dependency such as alcoholism because you lack the feeling of reward, and thus seek a way to attain it. While dopamine is your brain's primary reward neurotransmitter, serotonin and epinephrine also may be involved in these brain pathways, according to Pat Jones of Behavioral Medicine Associates in Atlanta.
While taking vitamin C has a theoretical benefit for overcoming cravings, other supplements are more frequently recommended for this purpose, according to UMMC. These include kudzu and a combination of amino acids such as glutamine, carnitine and glutathione. Vitamins are more commonly recommended because abusing alcohol can decrease your appetite and reduce your absorption of important nutrients, causing a deficiency. Your doctor may recommend taking B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, selenium, thiamine and vitamin A along with vitamin C, though you need careful medical supervision when taking extra vitamin A due to possible liver complications.
- "Fire Your Doctor"; Andrew Saul; 2009
- "Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology"; Effect of Supplementation of Vitamin E and Vitamin C on brain Acetylcholinesterase Activity and Neurotransmitter Levels in Rats Treated with Scopolamine, an Inducer of Dementia; L. Lee, et al. 2001
- "Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism"; Sareen Annora Stepnick Gropper, et al.; 2005
- "Marks' Basic Medical Biochemistry"; Michael Lieberman, et al.; 2008
- Behavioral Medicine Associates: Alcohol Addiction -- A Psychobiological Approach; Pat Jones; 2009
- "Pharmacotherapy and Depression"; Domenic A. Ciraulo and Richard Irwin Shader; 2010