Wellness for Addiction Recovery

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.


Reasons People Develop Disordered Eating

Reasons People Develop Disordered Eating

It can be hard to understand why someone would purge their food or not eat. People may see what they are doing as a choice when it is really a mental health disorder. By understanding the reasons why people develop eating disorders, we will be able to recognize the signs more easily.


According to Power of Positivity, one of the reasons people develop an eating disorder is when people try to fit in with society’s expectations. The world teaches us that we cannot be overweight and be considered beautiful, but to look skinny to get anywhere in careers, make friends, and gain respect. It can especially be hard when movies, television shows, and magazines show us women that are called beautiful and sexy, but not too many that we see attract the gaze of those they are romantically attracted to are overweight.

Instead of thinking about how important it is to be healthy, they focus more on how we should look toned with no flab anywhere. Because being fat is considered to be a condition no one wants to be in, we are taught to be afraid of food. More people in Hollywood, as well as models, should bring more awareness about being comfortable in your own skin no matter what shape you are.

Where You Live

It is also possible to feel self-conscious about yourself because of the area that you live in. You may work in a place where people are physically fit. You may feel like you have to keep up with everyone in the office so that you do not stick out like a sore thumb. By developing bulimia, you may feel that this is a faster way to lose weight to keep up with everyone. When people binge, they love how food tastes so they taste the food to experience it, but then dispose of it so that it is like it was never eaten. It is also possible that you could have been raised in an environment where you were belittled by your parents or an older sibling because of your shape. By avoiding food, you may think that it will be harder for them to continue belittling you if you look the way they expect you to look.


There can be a lot of pressure in playing sports. You are pressured to be a certain weight so that you can perform better for games, races, and dance performances. There are people who will starve themselves thinking they will athletically perform better. It can be very hard when they see others they compete against or the build of famous athletes thinking that they need to look just like them to win their games. Athletes need to be aware that more than anything, the best way they can perform in their sport is to be healthy and have the energy and strength to win for their team.


There are people who take down others who do not look like them to feel better about themselves. This does not have to be in school, but can be at work as well. It can also feel uncomfortable if your office goes to get dinner and sees you eating more than them, making them think it is okay to make jokes at your expense. If someone is picked on a lot, they may feel like the only way they can avoid this torture is by changing the way they look. Instead of letting these negative taunts affect you, you should stand up to them and be your own person instead of who everyone else wants you to be.


Eating disorders can be passed down to children just like with other diseases or mental health conditions. Just like when you look at families that have all obese family members, the same can go with those who use not eating or purging in their daily routine. Power of Positivity also says that chromosomes have been linked to eating disorders like anorexia. Twins are also said to have a higher chance of developing an eating disorder compared to other kinds of siblings.

Low Self-Esteem

Having low self-esteem can play a big part in developing an eating disorder. You may have been in a relationship where your partner left you for someone younger. You feel like you need to compete for that partner or for someone else to be attracted to you. You may be telling yourself that you are just trying to lose a few pounds until it becomes trying to lose too much that you need medical attention. Understanding your worth and seeing the beauty in you through treatment will help you get through your eating disorder.

Poor Coping Skills

It is possible to develop an eating disorder because you have problems dealing with what normally stresses you out. Because life feels so uncontrollable, you feel that the only way to get that control back is by deciding what goes or, in this case, what does not go in your mouth. There is no room for judgment when someone has an eating disorder as it is as much of a cry for help as breaking your arm. It cannot be ignored. By paying attention to the signs of an eating disorder and knowing these possible reasons, you can look into treatment to learn how to like yourself and view your body as beautiful.

Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center that uses evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress-reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will ensure lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.