Josh Chandler | November 27, 2023

Natural Ways to Reduce Alcohol Cravings

The Battle with Alcohol Cravings and the Search for Natural Solutions

If you’ve taken the first steps toward recovery and have stopped drinking alcohol, you may battle with alcohol cravings and search for natural solutions. Cravings are a natural part of Substance Use Disorder and may sometimes feel overwhelming to manage. The good news is that many alternatives to drinking help you reduce your cravings, cope with emotions, and replace habits you want to change. While there are prescription medications available to ease your symptoms, there are also other options to support you. Building a plan for your long-term recovery with new skills, resources, and knowledge helps you thrive in your recovery.


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Understanding Alcohol Cravings: Why Do They Occur?

Understanding alcohol cravings and why they occur is the first step in managing them successfully. Cravings are a natural neurological symptom of Substance Use Disorder that may fade after your initial withdrawal and possibly return later. This isn’t your fault, but it can be especially unsettling when you’re further along in your recovery. It’s common to have a craving triggered when you begin to feel more confident in your recovery and relax some of the supportive behaviors you practiced earlier. It’s wise to make a plan ahead of time for managing cravings.

A craving for alcohol is a sign to strengthen your community support, healthy habits, and self-care practices. Noticing it and taking action as quickly as possible prevents you from reverting to previous behaviors to manage it. A craving is a state of anticipation caused by withdrawal early on or in response to a trigger. The trigger, or cue, maybe a setting where you once enjoyed drinking, a person with whom you drank, a behavior that was accompanied by drinking, or even a sensation that previously triggered you to drink.

Cravings for alcohol are a synthesis of neurological and physiological processes that require adjustment even after you’ve withdrawn from use. Your brain’s default was to regulate itself with alcohol, and when those neurochemicals were suppressed your brain demanded more alcohol to function normally. Even if other consequences were miserable, alcohol flooded your brain with chemicals like dopamine and you couldn’t help wanting more. A craving is simply your brain associating alcohol with reward and prompting you for more. This sometimes happens even once you’ve withdrawn from alcohol use and are sober.

meditation and alcoholism


Nutritional Interventions: The Role of Supplements

There are many reasons you might experience nutritional deficiencies after using alcohol and need nutritional interventions to help balance your system. The role of supplements is to reverse these deficiencies and reset your nutritional foundation for optimal health. Reasons you might need to take supplements include alcohol:

  • Interferes with nutrient absorption
  • Dysregulates your digestive enzymes
  • Sometimes causes permanent changes in absorption
  • Makes you feel full so you don’t eat enough
  • Causes gastrointestinal issues

One of the most dangerous vitamin deficiencies for those with Substance Use Disorder is thiamine or vitamin B1 deficiency, which can cause Wet Brain (Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome). If you drank heavily and have symptoms of this condition, it’s imperative to find professional guidance in restoring your B1 level because it’s a degenerative condition that can be fatal. You should also discuss the use of supplements with your health provider before taking them, even if they’re sold over the counter. Some vitamins and minerals aren’t safe if you have certain medical conditions, they interact with current medications you take, or if you take a higher dose. The nutrients most commonly recommended when in recovery include:

  • Vitamin B1
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Vitamins A, C, D, E, and K

Other popular supplements include: 

  • Amino acid D-Phenylalanine
  • L-Glutamine 
  • Ashwagandha
  • Milk thistle
  • Selenium
  • Kudzu extract


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Holistic Approaches: Embracing Alternative Therapies

Substance Use Disorder impacts every area of your life and functioning, and holistic approaches address them comprehensively. Embracing alternative therapies helps you restore your physical, mental, and spiritual strength as you recover. In conjunction with other treatment methods, acupuncture, massage, yoga practice, neurofeedback, and mindfulness-based psychotherapy help you align your body and mind in your recovery practices.

Acupuncture can reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings, in combination with a recovery support group or counseling. A mindfulness-based therapist can help you increase awareness of your emotional and physical experiences, become more present in the moment, and focus less on past failures and future worries. Neurofeedback sessions offer immediate information about which brainwave patterns are active and how to increase or decrease their activity for optimal well-being. Massage and yoga practitioners also improve your attunement between your body and mind. Your thoughts, feelings, and physical experiences are valuable tools to help you address your needs as they arise and reframe thoughts that previously led you to drink. 

Calming the Mind: Meditation and its Role in Alcoholism Recovery

Calming the mind may be your primary challenge as you recover from Substance Use Disorder. Most recovery professionals and treatment programs promote meditation and its role in alcoholism recovery because it’s evidence-based, free of charge, convenient, simple to implement, and effective in improving every realm of your life. 

Outside responsibilities often require you to focus on completing tasks rather than to be grounded, content, and at peace with who you are and what you already have. Practicing meditation is a conscious decision to learn to stay in the present moment. It builds neural pathways that help you return more quickly to a calm internal space when challenges arise. Taking even a few minutes to be still and meditate each day increases your ability to notice your emotions and experiences rather than judge and repress them. This allows you to address your cravings before they worsen and put you at risk. Here are several simple ways to integrate meditation into your daily life:

  • Meditate upon waking before other distractions arise
  • Pause before reaching for entertainment
  • Find a meditation guide on a video, app, or podcast
  • Create a daily routine to meditate at a consistent time

Behavior and Mindset: Behavioral Therapies for Alcohol Craving Reduction

Along with learning to better balance your nutrition and manage your emotions and thoughts, changing your behavior and mindset are crucial components of your recovery. Behavioral therapies for alcohol craving reduction introduce practical ways to protect yourself from the impact of substance use in the future. Planning for situations that are likely to trigger cravings is a powerful way to reduce your risk of relapse because cravings are typically predictable, temporary, and manageable. To remind yourself of steps you can take to maintain your recovery goals, you can list:

  • Common triggers of the thoughts, sensations, and emotions that tempt you to drink
  • Counter-thoughts to replace ones that urge you to drink
  • Places, people, and situations to avoid
  • Coping tools for addressing feelings and thoughts as soon as they arise
  • Sober supports you can talk to or be around if you’re triggered
  • Reminders of your reasons for recovery 
  • Alternative activities that are healthy, creative, and/or socially supportive

Building new daily routines for managing your emotions, thoughts, cravings, and physical health sets a solid foundation for recovery.

The Integrated Approach to Managing Alcohol Cravings at Muse Treatment

The integrated approach to managing alcohol cravings at Muse Treatment is person-centered, evidence-based, and shown to be effective in supporting long-term recovery. You’ll have experienced guidance in practicing a diverse set of skills designed to help you navigate withdrawal and sobriety. By holistically addressing your needs, the professionals at Muse prepare you mentally and physically for the challenges ahead so that you can thrive in your recovery. Call Muse Treatment at (800) 426-1818 today to find out how we can support you in your journey.

Addiction Treatment Center,Alcohol Abuse,Alcohol Addiction,
Josh Chandler
Josh Chandler
After growing up in Chicago and North Carolina, Josh chose to get help with substance use disorder and mental health in California because of the state's reputation for top-tier treatment. There, he found the treatment he needed to achieve more than five years of recovery. He's been in the drug and alcohol addiction rehab industry for four years and now serves as the Director of Admissions for Resurgence Behavioral Health. Josh remains passionate about the field because he understands that one phone call can alter the course of a person's life.

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