What you eat while recovering from addiction is extremely important. There are now many studies showing the impact your diet has on your mood. So far, all of these studies have found that a diet high in fat, sugar, and processed foods make you more anxious, irritable, and depressed, while a diet rich in whole foods including green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans, lentils, and omega-3 fatty acids reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, sometimes considerably. Since many people with substance use disorders also struggle with anxiety and depression would clearly improve recovery on that front. However, there is more to it. People starting out in recovery often have specific dietary needs. Here are some elements to include in your diet to strengthen recovery.
Foods with tyrosine
A major problem many people face early in recovery is too little dopamine. Addictive drugs cause a huge dopamine surge and eventually your body responds with less and less dopamine. When you first quit drugs or alcohol, your dopamine levels are very low, often leading to feelings of anhedonia, lethargy, and depression. It takes a little time for your dopamine levels to get back to normal, but eating foods rich in the dopamine precursor tyrosine can help. These foods include whole grains, bananas, sunflower seeds, cheese, soy beans, lamb, beef, and pork.
Foods with L-glutamine
L-glutamine boosts your immune system and helps reduce sugar cravings. This is helpful for a number of reasons. First, many people people quitting alcohol have intense sugar cravings. By some estimates, more than 90 percent of people with alcohol use disorder have chronically low blood sugar, which they try to correct, often unconsciously, by eating sweets. However, studies have shown that eating a lot of sugar increases feelings of anxiety and depression as well as leading to weight gain and other health problems. Foods high in L-glutamine include beets, carrots, beans, Brussels sprouts, cheese, papaya, celery, beef, chicken, fish, and eggs.
Foods high in antioxidants
Antioxidants help rebuild your immune system and clean up some of the damage caused by addiction. Excessive drinking, in particular can increase your risk of several cancers and an antioxidant rich diet can help reduce your risk. Foods high in antioxidants include berries, onions, artichokes, green tea, coffee, and chocolate.
Foods that boost GABA
Alcohol and benzodiazepines artificially boost GABA levels in your brain and once you quit, your low levels of GABA can cause you to feel agitated, anxious, irritable, and restless. You may have trouble sleeping. As with dopamine, it takes a while for GABA to rise back to normal levels, but certain foods can help. These include Kefir, shrimp, and cherry tomatoes.
Foods with tryptophan
Tryptophan is best known as the amino acid in turkey that makes you tired on Thanksgiving. It’s actually the sugar and carbohydrates in all the other food that makes you sleepy. Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes a sense of wellbeing. Eating enough foods with tryptophan supplies your body with the materials to make serotonin. Foods high in tryptophan include beans, lentils, oatbran, cheese, turkey, lamb, pork, and tuna.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.