Alcohol abuse can alter nutritional status and the health of the hair, skin, and nails in several ways. Alcohol reduces the absorption of nutrients, increases nutrient excretion, alters how nutrients are used or stored in the body, and often replaces nutritious foods in the hair diet and limits nutrient intake. In addition, alcohol increases the rupture of blood vessels under the skin.
Vitamins at risk of depletion during alcohol abuse include folic acid, vitamin Bl5 vitamin B2, niacin, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. Minerals depleted during alcohol intake include magnesium and zinc. The results of these losses include dry, flaky skin; dull, dry hair; brittle nails; and anaemia.
The normal production of protein in the body is altered, which can affect the formation of skin and hair. Poor hair dietary intake of protein and essential fats can result in sparse, dry, or brittle hair and flaky, dry skin.
A skin rash associated with niacin deficiency is found in alcoholics and reflects the reduced absorption ^nd altered use of the B vitamin.
Alcohol has a diuretic effect on the kidneys because the toxic waste products produced by alcohol are broken down and must be excreted. When these waste products are lost so are excesses of water and water-soluble nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, and potassium. Chronic low intake and increased urinary loss of these nutrients can cause rough, dry, or reddened skin. (Table 9, below)
Alcohol interferes with the conversion of the essential fat linoleic acid to gamma linolenic acid (GLA). This alteration in the body’s ability to use linoleic acid might contribute to some forms of eczema. In some cases, atopic eczema does respond to increased hair dietary intake of essential fats such as GLA.