Rebuilding in Addiction Recovery


            Alcohol and drug addiction recovery was something I watched from early on.  I also witnessed the devastation these addictions bring–as well as the horrible detox symptoms that many of my family members went through while detoxing at home.  In addition, my father worked as an in-patient recovery specialist for many years; his recovery center focused on healthcare professionals and corporate executives who, in those days, wanted complete anonymity (a contrast to today, when it seems as though openness in recovery is a help to those recovering from addiction). Thus, as I spent years around recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, I acquired an understanding of the process of detox and recovery as if through osmosis.  If I had been in medical school at the time, I would have surely completed my required hours of clinicals by the age of thirteen!  One of the things that struck me in those days was how much coffee, sugar, and nicotine these people were consuming; in fact, we often went to the treatment center with candy and doughnuts in hand.  In those days, nutritional and supplemental support were not a part of the recovery process, and so these people really suffered through detox in profound ways.

Rebuilding in Addiction Recovery

Want your addiction recovery to go smoother?

            After I became a certified nutritionist this whole issue of recovery came full circle, as I learned that the nutritional deficiencies of addicts are profound and must be addressed. The pouring-in of harmful drugs and alcohol brings devastating harm to the body and the brain.  Amino acids, essential fatty acids, B-vitamins, vitamin C, and GABA are vital nutrients for healthy brain function in recovery, while the serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin levels are usually in quite the scramble.  A whole-foods diet, along with whole-food supplements, have radically changed the face of recovery.  In fact, many of the leading treatment centers are now using nutritional and supplemental therapies for in-patient care as well as aftercare. Recovery is a time to replenish what is severely lacking in your brain. 

            Perhaps you are one of the many Americans recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, or maybe you are seeking to taper off of anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications. Whatever situation you are in, you can be free from addiction. If you are considering getting off of these, please make sure your doctor is giving you a safe tapering schedule. In addition, you may find helpful  the books Your Drug May Be Your Problem, by Peter Breggin, M.D., and David Cohen, Ph.D. (an excellent resource for helping you understand addictive medications), and Will Medicine Stop the Pain?, by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Laura Hendrickson, M.D. (an excellent book for helping you spiritually and emotionally). 

            As you begin the recovery process, realize that you become very vitamin- and nutrient-depleted as you are detoxing from drugs or alcohol.  Thus, when you give your body the vital nutrients it needs, you will be amazed at how quickly you are able to quiet it down. Also, please be mindful that excess amounts of sugar are not going to help you in the recovery process. Sugar is as addictive as many drugs.  Studies have shown us that sugar can actually increase dopamine and natural opiate secretions in the brain.  Excess sugar depletes your brain cells of vital fuel it needs for energy.  Sugar also causes blood sugar imbalances that affect your energy levels and brain function.  

            Start by giving your body the most nutritious foods on the planet.  Whole foods are foods that are in their natural state.  These foods are not processed, and are packed with brain feeding nutrients.

1.     Emphasize every kind of green food possible.  You can increase your intake of these foods by juicing greens or making them into a smoothie along with high-antioxidant berries like blueberries and raspberries.  This will boost your brain recovery incredibly!

2.     Eat high-quality organic protein: fish, chicken, turkey, beef, eggs, or beans with rice.

3.     Eat good brain-feeding fats: olive oil, coconut oil, organic butter or ghee. and raw nuts

4.     Eat complex whole carbs like quinoa, brown rice, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes–nothing white or refined.  Whole-grain whole foods are a must.

5.     Exercise four to five times per week to help your body secrete the mood-enhancing chemicals you need to produce naturally.  This will also help your body to relax at the end of the day.

6.     Drink plenty of water daily.  Half your body weight in ounces is recommended.  Add fresh-squeezed lemon to your first glass in the morning.

7.     Take B-Complex vitamins and B-12 (methyl only) with folic acid 2 times daily from a whole food source.

8.     Take omega-3 fish oils three times per day as recommended.

9.     Take a liquid whole foods multivitamin and mineral formula with a complete amino acid profile 2 times per day.

10.                         Take Vitamin C with bioflavonoids in 3,000 to 5,000mg per day.

11.                         Take GABA chewables three times per day.  GABA levels drop significantly during detox.  Excess alcohol use can cause GABA in the brain to be elevated, so please do not take this if you are still drinking.  While you are detoxing, supplementing will help you balance your levels of GABA and have a calming effect on the mind and body.

12.                         Take melatonin in 5mg or dose recommended by your health care provider before bed to establish restful sleep patterns. (This is not an addictive supplement.)  Magnesium can also be very useful in promoting rest, as it relaxes your muscles and nerves.

As you are recovering you may find that your energy levels are still very low; in this case, an adrenal supplement can be very helpful.  Balanced adrenal function can also help with sleeplessness and anxiety; I like the brand Natural Factors Adrena Sense.  A nutritionist can be key in helping you adjust your program to your physiological needs.  Don’t give up!  A clear mind and strong body are well worth it!


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