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Nutrition and Addiction – Getting Clean from the Inside Out

Addiction and Malnourishment

How Addiction Impacts Your Health
Addicts generally suffer from poor health and or a lack of nourishment. While an alcoholic may drink so much that their stomach feels too full to eat, a drug addict is more interested in getting their next fix than food. In either case, most alcoholics and substance abusers enter treatment in a state of malnourishment.
Gut health compounds the issue further. Many substance abusers suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea or constipation. When gut health deteriorates, so does the immune system.
What’s more, did you know that your gut and your brain are connected? Poor gut health and a poor diet can affect the nuerotransmitters in your brain that impact your mood and sense of wellbeing.

The Microbiome and Addiction

What’s the microbiome?
Everyone has a gut microbiome, and each is as unique as a fingerprint. The gut microbiome is a little colony of trillions of organisms living within your digestive system. Some of these organisms in the microbiome are good guys and others are not so good.
What you eat impacts the health of your microbiome and that plays a role in your overall health, ability to absorb the nutrition you take in, and in your immune system.
The good news is that eating a nutrient-rich diet and eating foods packed with probiotics (like kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt) all include the healthy bacteria essential for gut health.
Learn more about foods containing probiotics and the impact they have on digestive health in this blog post. If you aren’t a fan of foods packed with probiotics, there are plenty of probiotic supplements in the grocery store that can be taken in pill form.
Fueling your gut with healthy bacteria and foods that contain high nutritional content, may help your body recover from the poor health patterns created by substance abuse.

Nutrition, Addiction and Gut Health
Addiction, Nutrition, and Mood

Understanding the link between the brain, addiction, and nutrition
Did you know the food you eat can impact your mood? Your gut doesn’t just contain healthy and unhealthy bacteria. It also includes neurotransmitters, like serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, GABA, and more.
If you’re an addict or you have a family member who is an addict, you don’t need to do a deep scientific dive into the science behind neurotransmitters. There are a few key points to consider, though:

  • The neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, are rewarded by drug use and are common ingredients in anti-depressants
  • When the brain recognizes that it is receiving neurotransmitters from an outside source, it stops producing that neurotransmitter and instead relies on the addict’s drug use to replace it. When an addict stops using, the brain is not yet conditioned to release the neurotransmitters necessary for the addict to feel calm and mentally well.
  • Mentally ill patients with naturally low levels of serotonin, dopamine and other neurotransmitter abuse drugs to self-medicate. Alcohol, heroin, crack, meth and every other addictive substance floods the brain with chemicals that mimic the healthy neurotransmitters we need.
  • Addicts who abuse drugs and alcohol long enough have conditioned their brains to stop releasing mood-related neurotransmitters. The brain recognizes that the substances are coming from an outside source and stops releasing neurotransmitters. As a result, when drug use stops, physical and mental withdrawal symptoms occur as the brain works to right itself and begin releasing nuerotransmitters again.
Want to learn more? Read the article, "Understanding Addiction: How Addiction Hijacks the Brain."
Addicts who recognize the science behind their emotional lows during the first months in recovery can use nutrition to support their body and minds while their brain heals.

Alcoholism, Addiction, and Diet

What to eat in early recovery.
Recovery from substance abuse is a wellness journey. If you or a family member are beginning your road to recovery, now is the time to feed the body with the nutrients needed to heal the mind, body, and soul.
Are you wondering what to eat when recovering from addiction? Here is a list of foods to eat that may boost your immune system, improve your gut health, and your mood.
Protein – Chicken, beef, fish, beans, nuts
Whole Unprocessed Foods – Steer clear of processed foods, fast foods, and foods with additives and preservatives
Nutrient-Rich Foods – Fresh fruits and vegetables have antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals that work together to support overall nutritional health.
Fiber – Oats, oat bran, barley, oranges, avocados, bananas, and quinoa
Healthy Fats – Nuts, olive oil, Chia seeds, sunflower seeds, and salmon
Here are a few images to illustrate how to put nutritious ingredients together for a delicious meal.

Nutrition in Recovery
Greek Salad
Healthy Breakfast – Nutrition and Addiction
Breakfast with Eggs, Beans, and Cheese
Addiction, Nutrition, and What to Eat
BBQ Chicken Kabobs with Vegetables
Breakthrough Recovery Outreach’s Nutritional Program

Our holistic approach to recovery includes nutritional counseling
We believe recovery is a whole-body experience. As a result, we offer activities and programs to support the whole patient. These supportive services including yoga, meditation, and more also include nutritional support. We have a nutritionist on staff that helps educate patients about the importance of nutrition in recovery from addiction.

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