Abuse of drugs and alcohol severely damages the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Addictive drugs such as caffeine, alcohol, painkillers and heroin can harm and even stop digestive processes. The inability to absorb nutrients prevents the brain from being properly nourished. During detoxification, a well-nourished brain leads to reduced withdrawal symptoms and a better chance for long-term recovery.
Drug dependence unfolds many challenges for the person in recovery. The calorie-dense state of alcohol leaves abusive drinkers feeling full. Alcohol’s empty calories lead to a state of chronic malnutrition. The users of opiates and cocaine are often so distracted by the cycle of high-crash-high that eating and self-care are severely neglected. Along with malnutrition, many in recovery suffer from constipation, diarrhea and poor appetite.
The Importance of Digestion
A healthy gut leads to a healthy brain. According to the journal Alcohol and Drugs Today (“Can Dietary Changes Assist with Recovery”, Margherita Grotzkyj-Giorgi) addictive drugs impair digestion by damaging the delicate inner lining of the intestine where nutrients are absorbed. The intestine absorbs amino acids, broken down from proteins, which are used to build the neurotransmitters of the brain. Vitamins and minerals help the neurotransmitters function properly. Promoting better digestion when beginning recovery means staying on a regular well-balanced diet, staying away from caffeine-containing products, drinking plenty of water, and, if needed, adding a probiotic such as yogurt.
Foods for Brain Nutrition
Total nutrition will yield optimum health. Lean proteins, whole-grain carbohydrates and omega-3 fatty acids all work together for brain health. Carbohydrates from whole-grain breads, crackers and cereals provide glucose, which fuels brain activity. Fatty acids from cold-water fish and unsaturated vegetable oils protect neurons in the brain from damage by free-radicals, which are the by-products of metabolism. Proteins from a variety of meat, fish, beans, peas and nuts provide the amino-acid building blocks of the brain’s neurotransmitters. Vitamin and mineral-rich fruits and vegetables promote the brain’s nerve function.
Vitamins and Minerals
B-complex vitamins are vital to general health. Vitamin B6, in particular, aids brain recovery by enhancing the protection of serotonin and norepinephrine neurotransmitters. Vitamin B12 deficiency has been found in cases of nitrous oxide inhalation abusers. Supplementation with B12 reverses the deficiency. Vitamin C is important for the removal of free radicals. These are one of the best brain supplements you can have.
Replacing the abused substance with nicotine, sugar or caffeine is a common problem in recovering abusers. Finding the proper nutritional balance of vitamin-mineral or herbal supplements, along with maintaining proper diet, helps the recovering person increase proper digestion and brain function.