Nutrition for Mental Illness and Addiction
By: Dr. Keith Kantor
A person with substance abuse is more likely to relapse when they are malnourished. This is why regular meals are important. Some research suggest drug and alcohol addiction causes a person to forget what it is like to be hungry and they may crave drugs instead of true hunger. The person should be encouraged therapeutically to think that they may be hungry when cravings become strong.
During recovery from substance use, dehydration is also common. It is important to get enough fluids during and in between meals, special hydroxide alkaline water( AQUA-OH!) is the best source of hydration to reduce inflammation.
Appetite usually returns during recovery. A person in recovery is often more likely to overeat, particularly if they were taking stimulants. It is important to eat healthy meals and snacks and avoid high calorie junk foods with low nutrition, such as sweets. In some cases if weight gain has occurred, eating foods that are nutrient dense not calorically dense is a strategy that can be used to avoid further weight gain, promote weight loss and most importantly prevent health related issues like increased levels of adipose tissue (body fat). By following these guidelines through the recovery process it will have a small but statistically significant effect on helping a patient’s withdrawal from addiction while reducing symptoms of their addiction and lowering the chances of relapse.
The most important part we can do through nutrition is not stimulate the opiate receptors, which are in the brain, spinal cord and gut. Once the opiate receptors are stimulated they release chemicals that will cause the dopamine to be released (the pleasure neurotransmitter). This is what causes addiction in the first place. Several foods stimulate the opiate receptors besides just drugs and alcohol. They include sugar, sugar substitutes (except stevia), gluten, dairy, artificial additives, preservatives, dyes, nicotine and caffeine. Make sure the menus you use do not contain these items. If they do, the addiction will just be transferred from the drugs or alcohol to sugar for example and the relapse rate is much higher if this happens. Do not stimulate the opiate receptors and the relapse rate is much lower. These same items cause inflammation which throws off the insulin mechanism and causes sugar to stimulate the opiate receptors. Remember sugar is also addicting.
Inflammation is a term often thrown around regarding health and wellness. Inflammation is a underlying cause of most diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity. Inflammation is defined as a part of the complex biological response of body tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants, and is a protective response involving immune cells and blood vessels and molecular mediators. The function of inflammation is to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury, clear out necrotic cells and tissues damaged from the original injury and the inflammatory process, and to initiate tissue repair. The problem is when the body is under a chronic state of inflammation, over time the risk for disease increases in these dangerous conditions.
- Develop a meal and snack schedule and adhere to the routine daily. This will reduce cravings while keeping the body in a state of balance.
- Aim to eat 9-11 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Preferably a ratio of one fruit to three vegetables. This keeps fiber intake at optimal levels, and provides vitamins and minerals in their most raw form.
- Drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of stable hydroxide alkaline water (Aqua OH-!) daily. This will promote optimal organ function, electrolyte balance, and reduce cravings.
- Include a high quality source of protein, a heart healthy fat and fibrous carbohydrate at each meal. This is the most absorbable form of amino acids which have been shown to be critical in addiction and recovery.
- Vitamin and mineral supplements may be helpful during recovery. A high quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, B-complex, vitamin D, omega 3 fish oil, and a probiotic are all recommended to take daily with meals for optimal absorption. More specific supplements and herbs can be recommended individually based on assessment and laboratory values.
- Get regular exercise, at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
- Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night.
- Reduce caffeine and stop smoking.
- Seek help from counselors, therapist and/or support groups on a regular basis.
Another important area in the use of nutrition in recovery and relapse prevention is the addition of appropriate amino acids that serve as the building blocks for powerful chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters, including epinephrine and nor-epinephrine, GABA, serotonin and dopamine, are closely tied to addiction behavior. With the use of various amino acids, brain chemistry can be changed to help normalize and restore deficiencies in the neurotransmitters that spur cravings that can lead to addiction and relapse. Amino Acid injections are the most potent and effective, and optimal to use during recovery. Oral supplementation is good for long term use after neurotransmitters have initially been changed. This is also known to suppress the opiate receptors which greatly aids in recovery.
- Nutrition In Recovery by Margaret Soussloff, M.S. & Cara Zechello, R.D., Massachusetts Food Banks and Maria F. Bettencourt, MPH, Massachusetts Department of Public Health – See more at:http://alcoholicsvictorious.org/faq/rec-diet#sthash.arVGSzfm.dpuf