The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us in one way or another- from job loss and financial stress to extreme social isolation. And now researchers say there is another alarming consequence to be concerned about. It seems many Americans have turned to alcohol to cope with the stress, anxiety, isolation and uncertainty of the pandemic. Binge drinking (especially among women) has skyrocketed. Unfortunately, excessive alcohol use may lead to or worsen existing mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) have both warned people to avoid excessive drinking, saying it may increase COVID-19 susceptibility and severity. To make matters worse, excessive alcohol use often causes people to eat poorly and can also interfere with nutrients being digested, absorbed, and fully utilized. Chronic heavy drinking is associated with deficiencies in many vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C, D, E, K, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, which are all important for maintaining a healthy immune system. Finding alternative coping strategies such as exercise or meditation, adequate intake of nutrients (through diet and supplementation, when needed), and sufficient sleep will go a long way to staying healthy both mentally and physically through these stressful times.
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