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Tag: Diet

The Role of Nutrition in Addiction Recovery

Good nutrition is a vital part of recovery from substance use disorder. Substance abuse frequently leads to poor nutrition because people struggling with an addiction either aren’t taking in enough calories throughout the day or are making poor food choices. 

According to David Wiss, founder of Nutrition in Recovery, many people in the West aren’t eating well, either. Part of the problem is the prevalence of highly processed foods, which, he says, is contributing to metabolic disease and may be causing an increase in depression and anxiety as well. Highly processed foods are frequently low in fiber and high in sugar. When a person who has been eating highly processed food enters treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, their primary source of dopamine (drugs) is gone, and post-detox they can gravitate towards caffeine, sugar, and possibly nicotine. “Old wisdom from the recovery community would suggest that a liberalized approach to sweets, nicotine, and caffeine is favorable to help the individual get past the immediate crisis,” writes Wiss in an article that appeared in Psychology Today. However, “New wisdom suggests that this behavior is a form of cross addiction that should be addressed early in recovery.” If you or someone you know is contemplating entering a facility to recover from addiction to drugs or alcohol, it is important to make sure that the facility pays careful attention to nutrition and teaches about nutrition and wellness

What Should You Eat in Recovery?

In recovery, you are working to heal your body and your brain. Therefore, you want to eat as well as possible. Focus on eating whole foods, defined as “…any fruit, vegetable, grain, protein, or dairy product that has not been artificially processed or modified from its original form.” (US News and World Report, “You’re in Recovery, What Should You Eat,” 2018). Avoid sugary beverages, artificial sweeteners, refined grains, and fried foods. If possible, eat organic food. Organic fruits and vegetables are often fresher and are not grown using synthetic pesticides, which reduces exposure harmful chemicals. Organic farming is also better for the environment in that it reduces pollution, conserves water, reduces soil erosion, and uses less energy. Organically raised animals are not given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal byproducts.

Another alternative is to purchase locally grown food. If you buy locally grown food, typically from a farmers’ market of a food co-op, the produce is typically fresher because it hasn’t had to travel as far to get to market. In addition, if you buy local, you are supporting a local small business.

Foods That Improve Brain Chemistry

According to a recent article in US News and World Report (“You’re in Recovery, What Should You Eat,” 2018), there are specific foods that are especially good to eat in recovery because of the role they play in boosting the brain. For example, the amino acid tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with feeling good. Dopamine is typically at a very low level in early recovery, which can lead to low energy and motivation, a depressed mood, and substance cravings. Foods that contain tyrosine include bananas, sunflower seeds, lean beef, pork, lamb, whole grains, and cheese.

Eat foods rich in L-glutamine, an amino acid that boosts the immune system. These foods can help reduce sugar cravings, which is important because sugar consumption is linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and inflammation. These foods include kale, spinach, parsley, beets, carrots, beans, Brussels sprouts, celery, papaya, beef, chicken, fish, dairy products, and eggs.

Foods that contain a lot of antioxidants also boost the immune system and these include berries, leeks, onions, artichokes, and pecans. Make it a point to eat foods that boost levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that leads to feelings of calm and relaxation. Low levels of GABA can lead to anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia. Foods that have been found to increase levels of GABA include kefir, shrimp, and cherry tomatoes.

Lastly, include foods that contain tryptophan in your diet. Tryptophan can boost levels of serotonin, which is associated with feelings of well-being and happiness. Serotonin helps with sleep and digestion. Foods containing tryptophan include cheese, turkey, lamb, pork, tuna, oat bran, beans, and lentils.

What to Look for in a Recovery Program

Because of the important role that nutrition plays in successfully recovering from an addiction, it is vital to select a treatment program that stresses nutrition. A good program will offer nutrition and wellness counseling and/or education. A healthy diet, focused on whole foods, helps the body and brain to heal. In some programs clients will learn or relearn to cook and to garden. A facility that includes a garden or farm provides many benefits to its clients. In addition to learning how to grow food, gardening offers clients exercise and an opportunity to be outside. Programs that have a farm frequently supply produce for the facility, which can lead to increased self-esteem and a sense of purpose. 

In some programs, clients working in groups take turns fixing meals for everyone in the facility. This provides many benefits in addition to learning or relearning how to cook, meal plan, etc. Working in a group builds community and a sense of camaraderie, and knowing that you are responsible for everyone’s meal provides a sense of purpose. The emphasis on nutrition is important as well; as the body becomes healthier, the brain heals. In addition, cooking is therapeutic and can be just plain fun. Because of the importance of nutrition in recovery, eating well becomes an act of self-love and care.

Good nutrition, with an emphasis on whole, organic food, plays an important part in recovering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol. It is part of treating the whole person and is a holistic treatment modality used by treatment facilities to help heal the client’s body and brain. For many, when they are at the point in their addiction of seeking treatment, nutrition has not been an important part of their lives. When people enter treatment, they are frequently malnourished from not consuming enough calories in the course of a day or because the food they have been consuming has not been high in necessary nutrients. At Enlightened Solutions, we recognize that nutrition and wellness are vital for people recovering from the pain and destruction of substance abuse. If you are seeking treatment that focuses on healing the whole person, either for yourself or someone you love, call (833) 801-5483.


6 Ways to Reduce Inflammation for a Stronger Recovery

Addiction science is still relatively new and researchers are making new discoveries all the time. In recent years, the role of inflammation in addiction and mental illness has started to gain attention. Some studies have found that inflammation may contribute directly to addictive behavior while other studies suggest that inflammation plays a significant role in at least some forms of depression, which in turn increases your risk of developing a substance use disorder.

In the case of depression, researchers believe the inflammatory response, which is meant to fight infection and prevent the spread of disease, triggers a series of behavioral changes. These include fatigue, slow movements, sleep disturbances, isolation, and inability to concentrate–all common symptoms of depression. When you’re actually fighting an infection, these symptoms aid your recovery but when you’re not, you just feel depressed.

It’s also possible that in some people, stress triggers an inflammatory response because, from an evolutionary perspective, your body is preparing to face a physical threat. The inflammatory response gives your body a head start in fighting any infection that may result from injury. That’s why the current thinking goes, life stress can trigger a depressive episode.

It’s clear that if you’re recovering from a substance use disorder, inflammation is not your friend. Keeping inflammation under control should help you feel better and it will likely improve your physical health too. Here are some suggestions for reducing inflammation.

See Your Doctor

First, if you’re feeling the symptoms of inflammation, the first thing to do is see your doctor. Symptoms of inflammation may include body pain such as aching in the muscles and joints, fatigue, excessive mucus, rashes, and digestive issues. As noted above, depressive symptoms such as excessive or disturbed sleep, poor appetite, poor concentration, and social isolation may also be symptoms.

Seeing your doctor about these symptoms is important because they could signal a variety of medical issues, including allergies, autoimmune diseases, asthma, hepatitis, and other conditions that may require medical treatment.

Fix Your Diet

There are two major considerations with diet: avoiding inflammatory foods and eating more anti-inflammatory foods. Of the two, avoiding inflammatory foods is probably the most important. The worst offenders include sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, which are especially abundant in sodas; trans fats, and omega-6 fats, which are common in fried foods and packaged pastries; vegetable and seed oils; refined flour, such as white bread and pasta; and processed meats. Cutting these foods out of your diet should help you feel better pretty quickly.

On the other side, anti-inflammatory foods will make you feel a bit better and they’re typically nutritious as well. Anti-inflammatory foods include berries, especially blueberries, fruits like oranges and cherries, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, nuts, fatty fish, and olive oil. When in doubt, go for whole foods with a minimum of processing.

Coffee and Tea

As discussed above, what you consume has a major effect on your inflammation. Because many people drink their inflammation as well as their calories, coffee and tea deserve special mention. Drinks high in sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, such as sodas, energy drinks, and fancy coffee drinks may be contributing to your inflammation more than anything you eat. It’s better to replace those drinks with tea or coffee.

Both are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Green tea is the best in this regard, but all coffee and tea offer some benefits. One recent study found that the mechanism by which caffeine keeps you from falling asleep may also reduce the production of inflammatory molecules in the body.

Manage Your Stress

As noted above, inflammation is often triggered by stress as the body prepares to face a physical threat. Unfortunately, this system is not well adapted to our current, more chronic forms of stress. Prolonged levels of high cortisol impair the body’s ability to manage inflammation and this is likely one reason chronic stress increases your risk for a number of health issues, including heart disease, obesity, and more frequent illness.

Managing your stress by reducing your obligations, getting regular exercise, getting adequate sleep, socializing with positive people, finding ways to relax every day, and so on, can significantly reduce inflammation.


Exercise is important for recovery for many reasons, including improving your mental health. There are several mechanisms by which this works and one may be that it reduces inflammation. We don’t entirely understand how exercise reduces inflammation but studies show that regular moderate exercise does reduce inflammation markers in the blood.

This may happen because exercise stresses the body, causing minor damage, which is managed with increased production of anti-inflammatory molecules. However, it works, it’s clear that even 20 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking, each day reduces inflammation.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight significantly increases inflammation in the body. Excess body fat actually releases inflammatory chemicals and research suggests that this is a major reason obesity is linked to health issues such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression.

The good news is that many of the behaviors that reduce inflammation also help you maintain a healthy weight. Eliminating inflammatory foods, eating more anti-inflammatory foods, and exercising regularly make maintaining a healthy weight much easier, and the anti-inflammatory effects are compounded by fat loss.

More and more research is finding that inflammation is a mediating factor in many diseases, including depression. The good news is that unless you have an underlying medical issue, you can do a lot to reduce inflammation and the consequent health risks just by making a few healthy lifestyle changes, including eating a healthier diet, exercising regularly, managing stress, and maintaining a healthy weight. Furthermore, these various efforts tend to reinforce each other.

At Enlightened Solutions, we believe that the secret to a strong recovery from addiction is living a happy, healthy life. Our program emphasizes holistic, individualized treatment for mind, body, and spirit. To learn more, contact us today.

3 Important Things You Need To Understand About Body Image

Body image issues are not gender specific. Both men and women can struggle with the way they perceive themselves and what they believe that means. You are worth more than how you look, no matter how you look. Your body is the only one you get. Learning to make peace with your physical form is an important part of spiritual healing.

  1. The Media Is Lying To You: That includes social media, as well. Pictures can be digitally altered from a smartphone now, to create what others will see as “perfect”. Currently, there are no regulations for American media when it comes to model BMI, digital alterations, or anything having to do with beauty. Largely that is because beauty companies, cosmetic companies, and fashion companies have a lot of money to spend on lobbying. Ex-executives and lawyers make up federal boards which continue to allow the media to sell the ideals of “perfect” “beautiful” and attractive. For men and women, what you see in print and on screen is often fake. Bodies which seem to be perfectly sculpted have a very particular life. They are paid to spend hours in the gym, training, exercising, and using sponsored nutritional supplements to support them. Most people don’t have that kind of time and certainly aren’t paid to have it.
  2. You’ll Never Be Perfect: Perfect doesn’t exist. If you’re trying to live up to fake images and ideals, you’ll never reach them. Most problematically, if you develop an eating disorder or body dysmorphic disorder along the way you won’t be able to see (or accept) your body for what it is. Thin will never be thin enough, sculpted will never be sculpted enough, and so forth.
  3. Diet And Exercise Are Parts Of A Whole, Not The Whole Part: You are not defined by what you eat, how you eat it, or how you exercise or how often. You are defined by the unique things about you which come from within: your character, your personality, your integrity, your spirit. Diet and exercise are not really lifestyle trends. They can be part of your lifestyle. An unhealthy obsession with either one is not a sign of a healthy lifestyle but an unhealthy one. There should always be room for indulgence, laziness, relaxation, and enjoying your life without rigid routine and restriction.

Enlightened Solutions is an integrative treatment program, providing partial care programs to men and women who are seeking recovery. Combining clinical therapy with holistic healing and 12 step philosophy, we provide a well balanced program for mind, body, and spirit. For more information, call us today at 833-801-5483.

Can’t Sleep? Eat (And Don’t Eat) These Foods

“I’m going to sleep so good tonight,” we grunt and groan, rubbing our bellies and slowly sliding further into our seats. A good meal at the end of the day is comforting. Eating just enough, perhaps too much, or having the exact food we have been craving all day puts us at ease.

Then, something happens. We’re wide awake. The promise of of an epicurean induced slumber slides away as we did earlier in our dinner table seats. Our stomachs might be grumbling, our insides might be burning, and most certainly our minds are wide awake.

Food is fuel. What we put into our bodies affects our energy and our minds in addition to our digestive systems. We know that there are herbal teas like chamomile and lavender to help us go to sleep. Certainly turkey and foods containing tryptophan and melatonin cause an easy transition into sleep land. Did you know there are other foods which will help you sleep or keep you wide awake?


Foods To Sleep

  • Complex Carbs: there’s little doubt that a big bowl of pasta can tucker one out for the night. Rather than eating simple starches or bleached starches, opt for grains and wheat. Complex carbs take longer to digest, allowing you to fall asleep while your body does the work.

  • Fatty Fishes: Fish like salmon and tuna which can have a high fat count are great sleepy time foods. Both fish contain tryptophan and vitamins to help your body naturally produce melatonin

  • Leafy Greens: spinach, kale, and chard, all have calcium. Combining calcium rich foods with tryptophan rich foods is an extra boost for producing melatonin.

  • Simple Fruits: Fruits with high fiber and sweet taste will satisfy your late night sugar cravings without the negative consequences.  


Foods Not To Sleep

  • Fried Foods: eating a deep fried meal can certainly make you feel lethargic, but it probably won’t help you sleep. Salty, fatty, fried foods are going to cause bloating and gas. It will be hard to find a comfortable position, breathe deeply, and sleep soundly.

  • Sugary Sweet Desserts: nothing tops a rich meal like a sweet dessert. Sugar is a stimulant, yet we often choose dessert as the last meal of the night. Too much sugar after dinner can wake your body up even worse, as you stay up all night from the sugar high, you’ll eventually experience a sugar crash- usually right in time to wake up and start your day, exhausted.


Enlightened Solutions emphasizes the importance of a holistic and balanced diet. As part of our treatment programs we offer nutritional guidance, educational courses on food and eating, as well as cooking classes. For more information on our programs for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders, call 833-801-5483 today.

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