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Addiction Recovery Diet Guidelines

Addiction recovery diet must fulfill several key functions.

  1. Prevent and correct nutritional deficiency
  2. Stabilize blood sugar
  3. Repair the digestive tract
  4. Support the immune system
  5. Help normalize the brain and nervous system
  6. Restore autonomic nervous system balance

PHOTO ABOVE: Chicken and Red Pepper Salad (all organic) contains high quality protein and antioxidants. 

Addiction Recovery Diet
Guidelines Rationale

Prevent and correct nutritional deficiency: Alcohol and drug abuse causes malnutrition. This is because alcohol and drugs provide no nutrients and the body loses stored nutrients in processing them.

Commonly, alcohol abuse reduces appetite and drinking replaces the eating of healthy food. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies result from substance abuse. This is partly due to the fact that many drugs irritate and harm the digestive tract and organs such as the stomach, liver, gallbladder and pancreas.

Stabilize blood sugar: Alcohol in particular impairs pancreatic function, resulting in destabilization of blood sugar.

Clients in alcohol addiction recovery that I work with commonly are addicted to sugar. They also suffer severe mood swings, which are partly a consequence of wide fluctuations in blood sugar.

Research and clinical evidence also points to sugar cravings as a potential precursor to substance abuse. For best results in addiction recovery, sugar and refined junk food should be avoided.

Repair the digestive tract: Alcohol irritates the gut lining. Opiates such as heroin and morphine cause constipation. During opiate withdrawal, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea can cause loss of electrolytes (calcium, magnesium, potassium and salt).

Probiotics (beneficial bacteria in the gut) are depleted. This can open the body to infections (because probiotics help destroy harmful microorganisms). Supplementation with a high quality probiotic can speed healing of the digestive tract.

Support the immune system: Adrenal depletion commonly results from substance abuse. In people recovering from alcoholism and drug abuse, frequent small meals that include high quality protein will benefit the adrenal glands.

Help normalize the brain and nervous system: Omega-3 essential fatty acids, Vitamin B-Complex and Vitamins A and D support the health of nerve tissue.

Restore autonomic nervous system balance: Magnesium, an electrolyte mineral, is seriously depleted in those using alcohol and drugs. This leads to increasing stress.

Why?

Because magnesium helps to relieve dominance of the sympathetic (fight or flight, survival mode) part of the autonomic nervous system.

Magnesium is the most difficult of all minerals to absorb because of its large molecular structure. Over 80% of all Americans are sub-clinically deficient in magnesium.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include: heart arrhythmias, anxiety, confusion, agitation, nausea and vomiting, muscle spasm, hyperventilation, joint and muscle pain and seizures. (Sounds a lot like drug withdrawal symptoms, doesn't it)!

A high quality magnesium supplement added to a balanced nutritional supplement program is very helpful not only for those in recovery, but for most people.

Foods rich in magnesium include almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, dark green leafy vegetables and chocolate (get dark chocolate that is lowest in sugar). Many herbs and spices such as marjoram, tarragon, dried basil and coriander, are good sources of magnesium.

Potssium helps to activate the parasympathetic (rest and digest) part of the autonomic nervous system. When you are in parasympathetic mode, you are relaxed, secure, able to digest your food, enjoy sex and other pleasures and sleep well.

Parasympathetic mode is also the state that is conducive to healing of the body - much needed by those in addiction recovery.

Potassium rich foods include most vegetables and fruits.

Nourish endocrine glands: Thyroid function, growth hormone production and release, and sex hormone production and balance are compromised by drug and alcohol abuse. A diet that includes healthy fats , high-quality protein and some iodine-rich foods, such as wild-caught salmon, will support glandular health.

Addiction Recovery Diet:
the Sugar Trap

Like an overdrawn bank account, your body needs to have its nutritional funds restored after substance abuse in order for you to feel better.

Healthy diet is important for addiction recovery success.

In addition to feeling better, you will look more attractive, too. Skin, hair, muscles and bones all benefit from nutritionally rich foods.

Decrease sugar, increase high-quality protein, fats and fresh vegetables (especially dark greens) and low-glycemic fruits such as apples.

It is tempting to use sugar as a substitute drug. I’ve known people in recovery who go way overboard in eating sweets. Sugar is addictive as any drug, and should be regarded as such. Over time, its effects on your body can be just as devastating.

'Sugar is the most commonly consumed cancer-causing agent in the western world.' - Dr. Robert Atkins

Addiction Recovery Diet: Tryptophan is Important!

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When serotonin and other neurotransmitters that help us feel happy and content are lacking, we tend to become addicted to various harmful substances.

Serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan.

Foods rich in tryptophan: Turkey is one of the best. Also, red meat, dairy, nuts and seeds, and tuna.

Vitamins and minerals that help the body to convert tryptophan into serotonin: B-vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and an abundance of easily absorbed protein.

An abundance of high-tryptophan foods can help you feel happier, sleep better and reduce cravings!

Signs that more tryptophan may be needed: Anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, irritability, poor dream recall.

IMPORTANT: If you are on a low protein diet that includes a lot of carbohydrates and especially refined carbs, you are NOT getting the nutrients required for manufacturing serotonin and other 'feel-good' neurotransmitters!


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