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Importance of Nutrition for Addiction Recovery

Authored by: Paige Welsh, BS, MS Clinical Nutritionist

Focusing on proper nutrition during addiction recovery may seem irrelevant or even unimportant. But it can make a world of difference in how you feel and your success to recovery. A lack of vitamins or minerals combined with alcohol, drug, or nicotine use places a large amount of stress on the human body. It can lead to nutrient imbalances, malnutrition, and potentially even chronic disease. While a lack of proper nutrition can lead to many unwanted health symptoms, a proper diet has the power to balance and heal both your body and your mind. 

Symptoms of Nutritional Imbalances


While this can vary from person to person, many substances will decrease the ability to utilize or obtain the nutrients needed for optimal health. For example, many substances will cause a loss of appetite, lead to poor eating choices, cause low blood sugar, damage organs responsible for breaking down your food, or can lead to gastrointestinal disorders, which can inhibit your ability to absorb your nutrients. For these reasons, it is critical to pay attention to your nutrition and work on balancing your diet. 

Healing Your Brain After the Damages from Addiction

During recovery from addiction, your brain has the ability to form new connections and regenerate brain cells when the brain is nourished properly.  This process is called neuroplasticity - it is extremely powerful and promotes healing. Addiction, unfortunately, damages your brain’s ability to undergo neuroplasticity and can make it much harder to heal and adapt to sobriety. Fortunately, proper nutrition can improve and restore neuroplasticity. Some of the best nutrients to support neuroplasticity include unprocessed carbohydrates, amino acids, and healthy fats.

Unprocessed Carbohydrates


Unprocessed carbohydrates are needed to produce serotonin, which helps improve your mood, sleep, and helps with reducing cravings for drugs and/or alcohol. Some of the best sources of unprocessed carbohydrates include fruit, beans, legumes (peas, lentils), ancient grains (quinoa, steel-cut oats, wild rice), and root vegetables (squash, potatoes, carrots, beets).

Amino Acids

Amino acids are required to produce neurotransmitters in the brain. For example, amino acids help to produce dopamine, which helps with overcoming cravings and helps to improve mood and any aggression. You can find amino acids in foods such as eggs, grass-fed meats, raw nuts and seeds, and grass-fed dairy products. However, I find that a lot of my clients function much better and have much more noticeable improvements when they supplement with essential amino acids. I usually recommend the essential amino acid supplement called Perfect Amino. 

Healthy Fats

Healthy fats are necessary for regenerating your brain cells, help to reduce inflammation and strengthen the cell membranes in your brain. Healthy fat sources include raw nuts and seeds, avocado, eggs, wild-caught fish, grass-fed meats, olives, olive oil, and coconut products.


Nutritional Therapy Protocol Based on Your Addiction

The nutritional therapy protocol will depend on the addiction you or a loved one is trying to heal from. For example, a lot of individuals who are addicted to alcohol need to focus on replenishing their B vitamins (found in foods like grass-fed meats and wild-caught fish). While those who are addicted to nicotine need to focus on replenishing vitamin C (found in foods such as citrus fruits, leafy greens, bell peppers, and tomatoes), and vitamin E levels (found in foods such as sunflower seeds, whole grains, nuts, and seeds). As your body heals and you replenish your body with a balanced diet, you will start to notice improved energy, mood, sleep, and a stronger memory.

For any questions on this article, or if you are interested in a free, 15-minute phone consultation with Paige, please contact her at www.totalhealthinc.com or call Total Health Nutrition Center at 262-251-2929.

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