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What is Alcoholic Ketoacidosis?

Many severe health complications can arise from long-term alcoholism.  The body can become highly dependent on alcohol over time and require it to function normally.  Several organs may begin to develop issues in response from overuse of alcohol, and an individual can become very ill.  Most people know a person suffering from chronic alcoholism can develop liver disease, pancreatitis, or high blood pressure, but another potentially life threatening condition which could develop is alcoholic ketoacidosis.  

In short, ketoacidosis is a condition in which your body, for various reasons, may not produce the proper amount of insulin it needs, resulting in an excess of ketones in your blood stream.  For the cells in your body to function properly, they need glucose and insulin.  Glucose is a sugar present in the food we eat, and as it’s metabolized by your body, your pancreas releases insulin.  Through the metabolization process, fat is converted to energy and ketones are released into your body.  If you’re malnourished from a condition such as alcoholism, your body breaks down fat because it doesn’t have the proper vitamins and minerals from food, which can cause a buildup of ketones in your body.  Without the correct amount of insulin to counteract the ketones, you can develop alcoholic ketoacidosis.

A person suffering from alcoholism is typically malnourished.  They often skip meals because they’re drinking and may also vomit frequently.  In addition to lacking the vitamins and minerals they need, excessive alcohol consumption actually suppresses the body’s ability to produce insulin.  Therefore, not only are an excess quantity of ketones being produced, a minimal amount of insulin is generated.  Many individuals who are diagnosed with alcoholic ketoacidosis may also have other severe health issues, such as pancreatitis and cirrhosis of the liver.  Depending if you have caught it soon enough, there is hope for a full recovery.  However, many people don’t know what to look for until it’s too late, resulting in irreversible damage, such as coma or encephalopathy.  

Symptoms of alcoholic ketoacidosis may include nausea and vomiting, severe abdominal pain, confusion, dizziness, and fatigue.  It can be bewildering for an alcoholic because these symptoms can mirror those of a hangover.  Yet, the development of ketoacidosis is much more severe.  If you suspect you might have it, you need treatment immediately before it causes long-term damage.  To discontinue the effects, your body needs nourishment.  A doctor will likely provide various vitamins and minerals intravenously and you may be admitted to the hospital for some time, depending on the severity.  The only way to prevent relapse of alcoholic ketoacidosis is by reducing or eliminating your intake of alcohol.  Alcoholic ketoacidosis is highly dangerous and anyone who thinks they might have it should seek immediate medical attention.

If you are ready to leave active addiction behind, Gardens Wellness Center can help. We can help you detox and figure out what program of treatment is right for you. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at to learn more.