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Vitamins and Nutrition for Brain Recovery After Drugs

by
author image Betty Holt
Betty Holt began writing professionally in 1966 as co-editor of a summer mimeographed newspaper, "The Galax News." She has written for "Grit," "Mountain Living," "Atlanta Weekly" and others. Holt received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and Master of Education from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Her articles specialize in health, fitness, nutrition and mental health.
Vitamins and Nutrition for Brain Recovery After Drugs
A heart breakfast with a bowl of whole grain cereal. Photo Credit wideonet/iStock/Getty Images

Proper nutrition is an important component in recovery from overuse of drugs and alcohol. Every bodily system is impacted by the use of drugs. In order for healing to take place, you must build a strong nutritional foundation. According to Webster Place Recovery Center, relapse is more likely to take place when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Feeding yourself healthy food addresses one aspect of relapse prevention.

Damage Done

Drugs harm the heart and circulatory system by contributing to muscle wasting due to poor protein intake. An overworked liver swells, preventing bile production and filtering and causing poor appetite. Irritation in the pancreas causes swelling that can block the flow of enzymes into the stomach and cause digestive difficulties and diabetes. The kidneys become inflamed with frequent infections and increased water output, causing nutrient loss. The central nervous system and hypothalamus are aggravated, affecting memory, thinking ability and coordination. Mucous membranes in the esophagus, stomach and rectum become irritated and sedated. The stomach is irritated, showing an increased risk of ulcers. The intestines are affected by slowing down or speeding up transit time, adding to the risk of poor absorption and certain cancers. Blood levels of many nutrients are also affected by drugs and alcohol.

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Recovery Diet

Alcoholics Victorious recommends the following recovery diet, taken from "Nutrition in Recovery" by Margaret Soussloff, M.S. and Cara Zechello, R.D. Use the USDA's Food Guide Pyramid as a guide for how to prepare well-balanced meals, including three snacks and three meals a day. Small, frequent mini-meals help keep energy steady and mood even throughout the day. Drink decaffeinated coffee and herbal teas to decrease caffeine, which can cause energy imbalances. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains along with beans and grain products. Limit red meat, as it is harder to digest. Eliminate or minimize foods containing sugar and caffeine and be aware of hidden sugar and caffeine in foods such as cocoa, condiments and over-the-counter medications. Strive for a diet containing 25 percent protein, 45 percent carbohydrates and 30 percent fat for the best balance.

Neurotransmitters

All drugs target the brain's reward system directly or indirectly by flooding the circuits with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter located in areas of the brain that regulate emotion, movement, cognition, feelings of pleasure and motivation. Food and nutritional supplements can supply amino acids, the building blocks of dopamine. By supplying the body with an abundance of specific amino acids, you can reduce cravings, minimize risk of relapse and increase sensations of well-being. One such amino acid, L-tryptophan, is found in egg whites, spirulina, Atlantic cod and raw soybeans. L-5 hydroxytryptophan chromium salts are found in trace amounts in turkey and cheese and in supplements made from the seeds of griffonia simplicifolia. L-glutamine is contained in meat, dairy, beans, beets and spinach. L-phenylalanine comes from cow's and goat's milk, while L-tyrosine is in cheeses, spirulina, soy protein, egg whites and salmon.

Other Deficiencies

One of the most important nutrients needed for recovery is a group of B vitamins called B-complex. Being deficient in these vitamins can cause anything from irritability to psychosis. B vitamins are found in brown rice, whole grains, leafy green vegetables such as mustard greens and kale, brewer's yeast, nuts and seeds, dairy, fish and meat. Omega-3 fatty acids help relieve negative emotions and build healthy brain cells. They are found in salmon and sardines and can be taken as supplements. Check with your doctor before adding any nutritional supplement to your diet.

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