Why optimum nutrition is so important in recovery
A common bi product of addiction is lack of self-care and motivation to look after oneself. Eating a balanced diet, obtaining enough sleep and even consuming enough water can come bottom of the list. With countless studies looking at the correlation between nutrition and mental health, nutrition can play an essential role in recovery. Eating the right foods can repair physical and internal damage caused by substance abuse, increase energy, lift mood and help to ease cravings.
Dopamine is one of the neurotransmitters responsible for our ‘feel good factor’ giving us that sense of achievement, raising our level of excitement and making us feel alive. A dopamine deficiency however, can give you a feeling of hopelessness, a lack of motivation and take all the joy out of life. It can be a contributory factor in the deterioration of numerous health conditions including addiction. Diet plays a major part in dopamine deficiency, eating heavily processed foods high in sugary carbohydrates and hydrogenised fats only exacerbate this. In early recovery keeping blood sugar levels stable is essential as sugar spikes could cause anxiety and depression therefore increasing the chances of relapsing. Sugar cravings are prevalent in addicts as sugar has a similar effect on raising the level of dopamine in the brain’s reward centre similar to drugs and alcohol, which can cause a transfer or cross addiction.
Serotonin is another neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure and mood stabilisation, it relaxes, enhances our mood, suppresses pain, regulates appetite and sleep. A serotonin deficiency can be caused by many factors including stress, poor diet, metabolism, digestive issues and substance abuse. This can lead to depression, anxiety, pain and cravings. When serotonin levels are low this increases the effects of dopamine in the brain causing increased cravings and resulting in a person becoming more vulnerable to addictive behaviours.
The gut or ‘second brain’ as it is known, isn’t just responsible for our digestion but fundamental to our well-being. The guts microbiome contains good bacterial, fungi and viruses that affect our digestion, weight, immunity, vitamin absorbency, eliminating toxins and our overall mental health. Up to 90% of our bodies serotonin is made in the digestive tract so if your gut health isn’t maintained the results can be detrimental to our overall well being.
8 Ways To Aid Recovery Through Nutrition
- Consume protein rich foods to power the body and create building blocks for amino acids that simulate dopamine and serotonin production. Ideal foods to eat are unprocessed chicken, turkey and fish, tofu, dairy, eggs, beans, seeds and nuts.
- The good news is the health of your gut can be repaired with beneficial bacterial found in probiotic fermented foods including, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, tempeh, miso. Prebiotic foods that are beneficial to gut health include jerusalem artichokes, onions, garlic, banana and apple skin.
- Turn your plate into a rainbow, piled high with fruit and vegetables that are full of antioxidants. They can help to rebuild immunity in recovery and improve skin, hair and nails. Foods high in antioxidants include, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, sweet potato, kale, coriander, purple cabbage, berries, apples, oranges, papaya, pecans, goji berries and dark chocolate with over 72% coco content.
- Alcohol and drug abuse can take their toll on your liver function, to process the nutrients from food your liver need to be at optimum efficiency. Foods that can help with cleansing and repairing the liver include leafy green vegetables like cabbage, kale, rocket, beetroot cauliflower, turmeric and walnuts.
- One reason recovering alcoholics experience cravings in the early stages of recovery is due to their body’s dependency on large amounts of sugar in the form of alcohol. One way to change this cycle of blood sugar crashes is to eat complex carbohydrates which has a lower sugar release, like sweet potatoes and whole grains including, brown rice, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, whole grain pasta and bread.
- Insomnia and anxiety are two symptoms that can come hand in hand with giving up an addiction. Caffeine can exacerbate these symptoms as well as causing blood sugar crashes so is best avoided or kept to a minimum.
- Healthy fats and fatty acids can assist with cellular repair in recovery and help the body absorb nutrients and vitamins, stabilize mood and ease anxiety and depression. Avocados, olive oil, flaxseed oil are great examples of these fats as well as omega-3s and omega-6’s found in oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, flaxseeds, almonds and walnuts.
- It is always advisable to eat foods in their whole, purest form, for example a whole apple or orange instead of a glass of juice. Smoothies can be a wonderful source of nutrition but can also contain a lot of fruit, which again causes blood sugar crashes. Its best to opt for green juices instead, which have a slow release to keep blood sugars stable, help with energy levels and support the liver. Spinach, cucumber, celery, kiwi, fennel, parsley, ginger and lemon juice are all ideal ingredients.
You may not be able to turn back the clock and reverse all the damage caused by your addiction but nutrition is an integral part of the road to your recovery. At Ibiza Calm we take an integrative approach to recovery, understanding the importance of the mind and body connection and placing a great deal of emphasis on nutrition and maintaining a balanced diet and routine to aid recovery and influence the chances of relapsing. At the same time assisting your body in repairing the damage caused by addiction. As well as stabilising your mood, increasing your self-esteem and maintaining your mental and physical energy to assist you on the road ahead.