January 2024

Supplements Promoted for Dry January

Dry January is an increasingly popular lifestyle reset for many – a chance to reboot after holiday celebrations and start a new year fresh. While the community aspect of Dry January may help patients feel supported in abstaining, its popularity has also resulted in a growing market of supplements touted for liver support and alcohol withdrawal. Be prepared to answer questions about these products.

Milk thistle is one of the most widely used ingredients in liver support supplements. Its seed contains the flavonoid silymarin, which is believed to have antioxidant effects and to protect the liver. But it’s not clear if taking milk thistle by mouth offers clinical benefits for people with alcohol-related liver disease or any other liver disorders. It’s usually well-tolerated – there aren’t major safety concerns or interactions to watch out for. But for now, it’s probably best to advise patients to skip these products – there isn’t strong evidence supporting the marketing claims.

You might also get questions about apple cider vinegar (ACV). Sales for ACV products skyrocketed in 2020 and have remained strong since then. It’s regularly promoted on social media and even some online alcohol support groups for alcohol detox. Tell patients that there isn’t any good clinical evidence supporting this. And emphasize that while ACV is likely safe when consumed in normal food amounts, consuming high quantities long-term isn’t a good idea. Doing so can lead to problems such as low potassium levels.

Lastly, you might hear about kudzu – a climbing vine native to parts of Asia. Its root extract is commonly used in alcohol detox supplements. Some research shows that taking kudzu by mouth might help heavy drinkers drink less, but explain that it doesn't seem to decrease cravings or improve sobriety in people with alcohol use disorder. It’s been used safely for up to 4 months, but there are some concerns that it might make existing liver disease worse, so it should be used cautiously in anyone with a history of liver disease.

In general, help patients understand that most claims about supplements supporting sobriety or alcohol detox aren’t backed by strong clinical evidence. Encourage patients to use Dry January as an opportunity to try creative mocktails and focus on healthier lifestyle choices, for this month and beyond.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.