A surprising new tool in the battle against addiction may be available at your local grocery store. The food you choose to eat during recovery can make a big difference in how you feel from day to day.
The reason is dopamine, the chemical produced in the brain that creates pleasant feelings. People who already have low levels of dopamine are at a higher risk for developing an addiction, according to several studies.
Experts believe that about one third of the population already have low dopamine levels that put them at this type of risk. By raising dopamine levels, cravings are reduced, cognitive abilities are improved, and patients are able to make better decisions about their behavior.
These improvements all contribute to a better recovery with a lower chance of relapse.
Now some addiction experts are using this information to formulate diets that utilize ingredients that encourage dopamine production. Surprisingly, there are many foods that do just that.
The omega fatty acids in fish such as salmon is said to support dopamine production, along with the protein found in high quality, grass fed beef. Pine nuts, whole grains, many vegetables, and dark chocolate are also part of the food group that is valuable for supporting dopamine production.
At one California recovery center, the supportive qualities of these foods has been put to good use in the daily meals served to the men and women staying at the center. Staff members there say they notice a difference in the overall sense of well being and even the appearance of patients after being on the dopamine diet for more than a week.
The benefits of a healthy. balanced diet for someone in recovery.
Proper nutrition does more than just help raise dopamine levels for someone in recovery. Eating a balanced diet can also play a big part in restoring mental and physical health for someone who has likely neglected those things for years, or even decades.
Many people who have suffered from long term addiction have developed nutrient deficiencies. This could stem from not eating enough, eating only food with low nutritional value (aka junk food), or eating too much.
Drug addiction especially causes disruption to a normal diet, with most stimulants acting to suppress the appetite, and certain other drugs causing extreme hunger that leads a person to eating more than they should. The deficiencies that often develop contribute to feelings of depression, anxiety, and fatigue, all symptoms that commonly lead a person to relapse.
This lack of proper nutrition is why so many recovery programs include an emphasis on eating a healthy, balanced diet everyday. Incorporating more fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and other whole foods into a daily diet is a guaranteed way to encourage better mental and physical health.
Individuals in recovery report that they feel a greater sense of well being, more able to think clearly, and have more energy after being on their new, balanced diets. The change in diet also encourages those in recovery to take the driver's seat when it comes to maintaining their health. Individuals feel more empowered and have a greater sense of self worth when taking on the responsibility of maintaining their health.
The nutrients that have been shown to help the most in recovery include the dopamine-enhancing foods mentioned earlier, along with carbohydrates, amino acids, dietary fat, iron, folate, and vitamins B6 and B12.