Written by Erik Levi, FNTP — Updated on June 13, 2021
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Alcohol abuse brings about a lot of health problems, and one of them is wet brain syndrome.

What Is Wet Brain?

Wet brain is a blanket term that refers to related conditions of Wernicke encephalopathy 1Sarayu Vasan; Anil Kumar., Wernicke Encephalopathy, StatPearls Publishing; 2020 and Korsakoff syndrome 2Nicolaas JM Arts, Serge JW Walvoort, and Roy PC Kessels, Korsakoff’s syndrome: a critical review, Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2017 . These two conditions are also collectively known sometimes as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. 

Wet brain syndrome roots from thiamine (B1) deficiency due to a nutrient-deficient diet and aggravated by alcohol abuse.3Nora D. Volkow, Gene-Jack Wang, Ehsan Shokri Kojori, Joanna S. Fowler, Helene Benveniste, and Dardo Tomasi, Alcohol Decreases Baseline Brain Glucose Metabolism More in Heavy Drinkers Than Controls But Has No Effect on Stimulation-Induced Metabolic Increases, J Neurosci. 2015 Thiamine is an essential B vitamin in glucose metabolism. The by-products from these metabolic activities are necessary for the generation of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters). 4Pawel R. Kiela, Unraveling the pathophysiology of alcohol-induced thiamin deficiency,Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2010

Brain atrophy from glucose starvation damages the parts of the brain responsible for speech and motor skills.5Philipp Mergenthaler,1 Ute Lindauer,2 Gerald A. Dienel,3 and Andreas Meisel, Sugar for the brain: the role of glucose in physiological and pathological brain function, Trends Neurosci. 2013 This condition results in Wernicke encephalopathy and, if unmanaged, progresses to Korsakoff syndrome, which is more life-threatening. 6Rabia Bilici, MD, Gokce Elif Saridogan, MD,Cetin Turan, MD, Tugba Goncu, MD, Ozgur Akdur, MD, Serhat Citak, MD, and Fusun Mayda Domac, MD, A Case of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome Treated 1 Year After the Onset of Symptoms, Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2015

What Are The Symptoms Of Wet Brain?

These are the most common red flags 7Alcohol Addiction Center Editorial Staff, Wet Brain and Alcoholism, Alcohol Addiction Center. 2020 to look out for in a person suspected to have a wet brain, especially when they are sober:

Vision

  • Abnormal eye movement
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Double vision

Motor 

  • Abnormal reflexes
  • Muscle weakness and loss of tissue mass
  • Unsteady gait
  • Loss of coordination
  • Shaking 

Speech

  • Speech difficulty

Cognitive functions

  • Memory issues
  • Hallucinations
  • Dementia
  • Loss of spatial memory
  • Inability or difficulty in learning new skills

Behavioral Issues

  • Confusion
  • Lack of attention
  • Irritability 
  • Apathy

Other Issues

  • Palpitations
  • Low body temperature
  • Hypotension
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Anemia or other deficiencies
  • Coma in advanced stages

How Common Is Wet Brain Syndrome

The Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome affects 1-2% of the American population affecting more men than women. It is most prevalent between the ages of 30 and 70; however, no one age group is especially vulnerable within this age range. 8National Organization and Rare Disorders. 2005, Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, National Organization and Rare Disorders. 2005

Who Is Most At Risk?

You are most at risk for wet brain syndrome if you:

Alcohol Abuse and Wet Brain

Understanding alcoholism and its implication is the first step to management and recovery. The bloodstream quickly absorbs alcohol, and unfortunately, you cannot flush it out even if you want to.

Over time the effects of alcohol pile up (though experts say that two servings for men and a serving for women are deemed generally safe.) 11American Addiction Center Editorial Staff, Alcoholic Wet Brain, American Addiction Center. 2020

Research shows that alcohol has a two-fold effect. It increases the incidence of thiamine deficiency and affects the frontal lobe of the brain that manages memory. 12Alcohol Health Res World. 1995, Alcohol-Related Thiamine Deficiency, Alcohol Health Res World. 1995 The results of alcohol and low thiamine progress with each drink you take while the frontal lobe shrinks simultaneously.13R R Jacobson , W A Lishman, Cortical and diencephalic lesions in Korsakoff’s syndrome: a clinical and CT scan study, Psychol Med. 1990

As alcohol abuse progresses, your body’s natural processes wear down.

Gut function becomes compromised while enzyme activity is impaired, which lowers overall thiamine utilization. 14Nicolaas JM Arts, Serge JW Walvoort, and Roy PC Kessels, Korsakoff’s syndrome: a critical review, Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2017

In the bloodstream, alcohol also disrupts neurotransmitters, reduces GABA function, and increases glutamate activity, leading to brain dysfunction. 15A. D. Thomson, Irene Guerrini, and E. Jane Marshall, The Evolution and Treatment of Korsakoff’s Syndrome, Neuropsychol Rev. 2012

Alcohol also interacts with lipids in the cell membranes, altering lipid-protein action, which increases the body’s tolerance level to alcohol. 16Edith V. Sullivan, Ph.D., R. Adron Harris, Ph.D., and Adolf Pfefferbaum, M.D, Alcohol’s Effects on Brain and Behavior, Alcohol Res Health. 2010

You eventually need more of the poison to feel its effects, which further devastates your body. 

As a result, thiamine demand increases, but the body is low on thiamine reserves, further hiking neurotoxicity. 

Wet Brain and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS)

As mentioned earlier, “wet brain” is the blanket term that characterizes Wernicke Encephalopathy and Korsakoff Psychosis symptoms. Let us discuss each as Wernicke Encephalopathy can progress to Korsakoff Psychosis if left untreated. 

Wernicke Encephalopathy 

Wernicke encephalopathy symptoms are an abnormal movement of the eyeballs, lack of muscle control, and confusion. It affects the central nervous system after the brain sustained lesions from excessive alcohol consumption and thiamine deficiency. 17Sarayu Vasan; Anil Kumar., Wernicke Encephalopathy, NCBI. 2020

Another manifestation of Wernicke encephalopathy is the fabricating of stories or incessant chattering. 

Although alcoholism can aggravate thiamine deficiency, aggravating factors like diabetes, liver disease, active thyroid, and chronic malnourishment may increase thiamine deficiency in the human body. 

Korsakoff Psychosis 

Improper management of Wernicke Encephalopathy may progress to Korsakoff Psychosis. Dementia, amnesia, executive dysfunction, confabulation, and apathy are some of the syndrome’s most prominent symptoms. 18Nicolaas JM Arts,1,2 Serge JW Walvoort,1 and Roy PC Kessels, Korsakoff’s syndrome: a critical review, Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2017

Impaired memory from alcohol toxicity is irreversible as compared to memory failure in thiamine malnutrition. The latter respond to thiamine treatment, but Korsakoff Psychosis does not. 19A. D. Thomson, Irene Guerrini, and E. Jane Marshall, The Evolution and Treatment of Korsakoff’s Syndrome, Neuropsychol Rev. 2012

How Is Wet Brain Diagnosed? 

Physicians conduct the usual bloodwork and other related laboratory tests to rule out other issues before making the correct diagnosis. However, symptoms can be tricky, and patients end up misdiagnosed until too late. 20Rabia Bilici, MD,a Gokce Elif Saridogan, MD,corresponding authora Cetin Turan, MD,a Tugba Goncu, MD,a Ozgur Akdur, MD,a Serhat Citak, MD,a and Fusun Mayda Domac, MD, A Case of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome Treated 1 Year After the Onset of Symptoms, Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2015

MRI is not conclusive in its findings, but EEG and neuropsychological tests often show the best results. 

Can You Live With a Wet Brain?

If given the right treatment, the prognosis for Wernicke encephalopathy is high, but mortality still reaches up to 20%. 21Gerald F. O’Malley , DO,
Rika O’Malley , MD, Albert Einstein Medical Center, Wernicke Encephalopathy, MERCK MANUAL Professional Version. 2020

Thiamine supplementation helps the physical manifestations (rapid eye movement, unsteady gait, and involuntary muscle movement) of the condition. 22Rabia Bilici, MD, Gokce Elif Saridogan, MD,corresponding authora Cetin Turan, MD, Tugba Goncu, MD, Ozgur Akdur, MD, Serhat Citak, MD, and Fusun Mayda Domac, MD, A Case of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome Treated 1 Year After the Onset of Symptoms, Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2015

Mental function (memory and cognition) also improves, but it is challenging to restore fully. 

However, if it progresses to Korsakoff psychosis, the mortality rate is high 23Arantza Sanvisens, Paola Zuluaga, Daniel Fuster, Inmaculada Rivas, Jordi Tor, Miguel Marcos, Antonio J. Chamorro, Roberto Muga, Long-Term Mortality of Patients with an Alcohol-Related Wernicke–Korsakoff Syndrome, Alcohol and Alcoholism. 2017 because of the intensity of brain damage incurred in the condition’s duration.24hazeldenbettyford.org, long-term-alcoholism, hazeldenbettyford.org

Wet Brain and Memory Loss

memory loss wet brain

Memory loss is wet brain’s most devastating consequence. 

There is a strong link between alcohol abuse and all types of dementia. 25Jürgen Rehm,corresponding author, Omer S. M. Hasan,Sandra E. Black, Kevin D. Shield, and Michaël Schwarzinge, Alcohol use and dementia: a systematic scoping review, Alzheimers Res Ther. 2019 ) Changes in the brain structure and cognitive performance pile up with prolonged alcohol use until the brain’s part that controls memory is severely impaired.26John C M Brust, Ethanol and cognition: indirect effects, neurotoxicity and neuroprotection: a review, Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2010

As earlier stated, excessive alcohol intake alters the lipid-protein interaction, leading to the failure of cytokines (proteins in the cells necessary for cellular communication and activation) to carry out their functions. 27Fulton T Crews , Rabih Bechara, Lou Ann Brown, David M Guidot, Pranoti Mandrekar, Shilpa Oak, Liya Qin, Gyongyi Szabo, Michael Wheeler, Jian Zou, Cytokines and alcohol, Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2006

Altered cytokine function contributes to neurodegeneration and behavior changes. 

Even in patients without Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, MRI results show a loss in brain volume (cerebellar atrophy, lower white matter mass, shrinkage of neuronal dendrites, and fewer cell in the frontal cortex). 28Caspar Wiegmann, Inge Mick, Eva J Brandl, Andreas Heinz, and Stefan Gutwinski1, Alcohol and Dementia – What is the Link? A Systematic Review, Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2020

All these observations point to the brain’s pre-dementia state, thereby supporting earlier studies on the relationship between alcohol consumption and dementia.

However, there is also evidence of reversal of brain changes and improvement in cognitive and motor skills with abstinence. 29Nicole J Ridley, Brian Draper,corresponding author,and Adrienne Withall, Alcohol-related dementia: an update of the evidence, Alzheimers Res Ther. 2013 30Andreas J Bartsch , György Homola, Armin Biller, Stephen M Smith, Heinz-Gerd Weijers, Gerhard A Wiesbeck, Mark Jenkinson, Nicola De Stefano, László Solymosi, Martin Bendszus, Manifestations of early brain recovery associated with abstinence from alcoholism, Brain. 2007

Best Natural Wet Brain Treatments

Fortunately, there are nootropics and all-natural therapies that can help those with wet brain improve cognition.

Sulbutiamine

Sulbutiamine (B1), a synthetic preparation to cure beriberi in the mid-60s, showed potential as a nootropic and effective against fatigue and oxidative stress. 31Bernardo Starling-Soares,corresponding author , Pedro Carrera-Bastos, and Lucien Bettendorff , Role of the Synthetic B1 Vitamin Sulbutiamine on Health, J Nutr Metab. 2020

Studies also documented sulbutiamine’s neuroprotective properties lowering by cell death in the neuronal cells. 32Kui Dong Kang , Aman Shah Abdul Majid, Kyung-A Kim, Kyungsu Kang, Hong Ryul Ahn, Chu Won Nho, Sang Hoon Jung, Sulbutiamine counteracts trophic factor deprivation induced apoptotic cell death in transformed retinal ganglion cells, Neurochem Res. 2010

It also improved memory retention, reduced memory disruption, enhanced episodic memory, attention, and ability to do daily tasks when used as an adjunct therapy.  33Bernardo Starling-Soares, Pedro Carrera-Bastos, and Lucien Bettendorff, Role of the Synthetic B1 Vitamin Sulbutiamine on Health, J Nutr Metab. 2020

Mind Lab Pro

mind lab pro wet brain

Mind Lab Pro is a preformulated nootropic stack.

It includes 11 high-potency nootropics that deliver a fully comprehensive, cognitive-enhancing experience.

One of the benefits it is most known for is its ability to boost memory function.

This is due to the inclusion of popular nootropics like Citicoline and Phosphatidylserine.

The included Lion’s Mane is useful for nerve regeneration which is important when healing from wet brain.

There are also calming adaptogenic herbs like Bacopa Monnieri and Rhodiola Rosea, along with L-theanine to help the alcohol recovery process.

Apollo Neuro Wearable 

While the first two devices use brain waves for therapy, Apollo Neuro Wearable uses vibrations to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to provide quiet and resting conditions. 

It has several settings you can choose from to provide you with the relief you need when feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed, especially when experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms. 

It also improves brain function as supported by studies showing more brain activity after undergoing vibration therapy. 34Ate S. Boerema,Marelle Heesterbeek, Selma A. Boersma, Regien Schoemaker, Erik F. J. de Vries, Marieke J. G. van Heuvelen,3 and Eddy A. Van der Zee, Beneficial Effects of Whole Body Vibration on Brain Functions in Mice and Humans, Dose Response. 2018

Cognibiotics

Here’s a biohacking secret that works in the gut to indirectly heal your brain. Researchers found that unhealthy gut microbiome results in sick minds and bodies, as observed in the effect of alcoholism and thiamine deficiency in the intestines and the brain. 35Nicolaas JM Arts, Serge JW Walvoort, and Roy PC Kessels, Korsakoff’s syndrome: a critical review, Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2017 36Clair R. Martin, Vadim Osadchiy, Amir Kalani, and Emeran A. Mayer, The Brain-Gut-Microbiome Axis, Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018

Cognibiotics works by strengthening the gut microbiota, thanks to the powerful combination of 17 Chinese herbal blend, prebiotics, and probiotics. This formulation enhances not only your gut and brainpower but also your overall health.

It also helps relieve stress and anxiety, enhance cognitive function, and improve mood. 37Jeremy Appleton, ND, , nIntegr Med (Encinitas). 2018 These attributes are beneficial for a person trying to break free from alcohol addiction or any addictions for that matter.

BrainTap

BrainTap is a biohacking device that plays sounds and tones that stimulate the brain, improving brain fog and other cognitive issues. It has the potentials to help improve memory.

It promises to enhance super-learning and healing through the theta waves. It emits and heightens concentration and recognition through the gamma waves to bring the mind into a state of consciousness and focus. 

BrainTap also has a separate series called the Alcohol Series proven to help persons struggling with alcohol addiction effectively. Check out the Freedom from Addiction and break from any addiction that controls your life.

Omni PEMF 

Another biohacking device that can help alcohol addiction is Omni PEMF’s NeoRhythm. It uses pulsed electromagnetic field technology for targeted brain stimulation.

It improves sleep and focus, stimulates the brain by the theta waves that help improve concentration.

It also helps in relaxation, especially when experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability and anxiety. 

 

What Complications Occur From Wet Brain? 

The most severe complication of wet brain is brain function failure, eventually leading to death. Less severe complications are psychosis, dementia, and amnesia.

Wrapping Up

Alcohol abuse is very common.

While some people can handle an occasional drink or even occasional binge, others have their lives totally consumed by alcohol.

Most alcoholics don’t know the full extent of physical and psychological damage they’ve done to themselves until it’s too late.

Wet brain is a serious condition and can have devastating consequences if alcohol consumption is not kept in check.

The positive news is that there are nootropics and biohacking devices that can help the recovery process.

If you suffer from wet brain I hope you found value from this article and use it as a reference on your road to recovery.  

About the author:

Erik Levi, FNTP

Erik Levi is a co-founder of HolisticNootropics.com and a certified holistic nutritional therapy practitioner.

As an NTP Erik takes a nutrition first approach to health. He has worked with many different people to help them use nutrition to optimize their quality of life.

Erik believes that mental health is a physiological process and cognitive enhancement is not something that can be achieved by just taking some pills with good Amazon reviews.

Instead, true cognitive enhancement comes with the right balance of nutrients, movement, and gratitude. Erik continues to stay up to date with the most current nootropic and holistic health research and promises to deliver the best solutions possible.

You can check out his personal health blog/podcast/YouTube Channel all under the name Holistic A-Hole.

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