We have all heard by now that a proper diet is vital to our overall health. And as a health coach, I know a fair amount about eating for optimal wellness. Recently I began to wonder if a person would be more likely to develop a substance abuse problem if he or she did not have a healthy diet. In other words, is nutrition linked to a propensity towards substance abuse? Can foods affect addiction recovery?
Dr. Keith Kantor is a leading nutritionist, author, and founder and CEO of Nutritional Addiction Mitigation Eating & Drinking (NAMED), a nutritional program that works with addiction withdrawal. So I asked him to provide some insight on whether or not foods affect addiction recovery. Here’s what foods Dr. Kantor says are most likely to lead to a substance abuse problem or inhibit recovery, and which ones can aid in preventing substance abuse, in his own words:
There are many causes for substance abuse. It can come from biology, genetics, peer pressure, one’s environment, and mental sickness. Yet another potential cause for substance abuse that is only now beginning to be explored in more detail is one’s diet.
Foods that could exacerbate an addiction:
Consuming coffee has been shown to cause opiate receptor binding. This further explains why most people who drink coffee drink it daily and if they consume more than 24 ounces daily, they would have withdrawal symptoms if they stopped. Excessive consumption of coffee and caffeine can cause anxiety, autoimmune pain disorders, inflammation, and sleep disturbances. Eliminating coffee and other caffeinated substances from the diet will help reduce the opiate response.
Research on mice has shown that their body reacts to sugar through opiate receptor binding. The opiate receptors react to sugar just like it does to addicting substances, which also increase the opiate receptor binding activity. Those who are regularly exposed to sugar tend to consume 30% more calories daily then those who eat a balanced diet, that is not particularly high in sugar, this is measured specifically through opiate receptor binding. Aim for more complex carbohydrate sources like quinoa, steel cut oats, sweet potatoes, flax seed, to name a few.
Also avoid chemically based non-calorie sugar substitutes (except pure stevia), these include, saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose. Non-calories sugar substitutes are typically found in drinks, and diet marketed foods like yogurts, nutrition bars, frozen meals and desserts. Although these sweeteners are not full of calories, our brain still recognizes that there is something sweet inside of our body and it instinctively sends a signal to the pancreas to secrete insulin.
Gluten has become a common intolerance both mild and more severe with those who suffer from Celiac Disease. Experts believe that the low nutrient over processed broken down wheat in our mainstream cooking flour has caused us to become intolerant to gluten, resulting from compromised gut function. The gut and gastrointestinal system is the body’s dashboard for good health, containing healthy bacteria that help keep unhealthy bacteria levels at bay. In reference to addiction, research has also revealed that gluten like sugar has a similar increased opiate receptor activity. The brain tissue in mice revealed an increase in opiate response, specifically when gluten was consumed.
Essential Foods for Addiction Recovery:
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 their addictive substance instead of proper food.
Dark leafy green vegetables and dark fruits (such as berries)
They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, (including Iron) fiber and water. All of these nutrients in dark leafy greens and darker fruits like berries help maintain a metabolic balance resulting in decreased cravings and suppressed opiate receptors. The fiber and water help reduce hunger, resulting in better portion control and increase the ability to maintain optimal weight.
Salmon (and other cold-water fish), extra virgin olive oil, and cold pressed coconut oil
Healthy fats reduce inflammation, nourish brain cells, and help improve satiety. A diet low in fat for a prolonged period of time can decrease the ability to focus while increasing inflammation resulting in stimulation of opiate receptors.
Consuming water that promotes pH balance within the body will also decrease inflammation, promote optimal metabolism, while increasing energy levels and ability to focus.
Thanks, Dr. Kantor, for confirming that a healthy diet will improve our over all wellness AND help to prevent substance abuse! It also happens that dark leafy greens, berries, salmon, and extra virgin olive oil are all key components of a Mediterranean diet, which is known to be the healthiest diet of all.
10 Ways Healthy People Begin Their Day
How to Eliminate Toxins & Why You Should
7 Easy Ways to Help Your Family Stay Healthy Naturally
The Diet That Will Help You Live Longer & Healthier
Got 15 Minutes? Then Try the Metabolic Aftershock Workout
12 Reasons Why You Should Eat Spinach Regularly
How Extra Virgin Olive Oil Affects Your Health
7 Ways to Shop Organic on a Budget
Say Goodbye to Toxins With These Detox Juice Cleanse Tips
Must-Have Foods When Eating for Eye Health
How Cutting Sugar from Your Diet can Improve Your Health
What You Need to Know About Food Cravings & How to Stop Them for Good
You Know It Is Time for a Detox Cleanse When….
The One Piece of Exercise Equipment You Need for Body & Mind Transformation
My New Secret to Maintaining a Workout Regimen (Even When Life Gets in the Way)
Foods for Depression: What to Eat and What to Avoid
What Researchers Just Discovered About the Effects of Sugar on the Body
Top Foods to Include in Juicing & Smoothie Recipes
12 Healthy, Shelf-Stable Items to Always Have in Your Pantry
Stop Losing Your Mind! 15 Ways to Improve Your Memory
What is Activated Charcoal and Why Would I Need It?