Nutrition in Drug Detox
Nutrition in drug detox can play an important role in cleansing the body of the toxins in drugs or alcohol. Nutrition offers many benefits to the body and mind and is particularly important during detoxification to help manage withdrawals and cravings. In general, addicts are malnourished and nutritionally deficient because of their dedication to their substance and addiction, in addition, substance usage actually disrupts the body’s ability to efficiently absorb the nutrients it does receive.
Substance abuse can cause and even exacerbate pre-existing and co-occurring issues and cause people to lose sight of reality as they fall into the vicious cycle of dependence on drugs and alcohol. The lack of nutrition prevents the body and mind from being able to take care of and heal itself and after long periods of time, the damage can cause serious complications. Substance abuse has the power to disrupt the delicate balance and normal functions of the body and mind and causes many short-term and long-terms effects.
Substance abuse causes physical damage and dysfunction to vital components and functions of the body and mind such as the biochemistry, cardiovascular system, central nervous system, respiratory system, digestive system and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, endorphins, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and dopamine, causing sexual dysfunction, mood disturbances, sleep disturbances, inability to focus, physical issues and cravings. Addicts will do whatever it takes to maintain the comfort and familiarity of their addiction in order to prevent the onset of withdrawals, regardless of the negative effects it has on their mental and physical health as well as their personal, social, school and professional lives.
Nutrients are the building blocks in the foundation of health, without nutrients, the body lacks the fuel to perform even basic tasks as well as the energy to fight off disease or take care of itself.
Here are some examples of the effects of nutritional deficiencies:
- Vitamin C is responsible for converting the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin, the neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of happiness and wellbeing. The lack of vitamin C causes one to feel more stress and the inability to detoxify drugs and poisons from the system.
- Proteins and amino acids are responsible for increasing the production and function of neurotransmitters. The lack of neurotransmitters means the body and mind are not able to communicate, causing susceptibility to depression, anxiety as well as cravings for food, alcohol and drugs.
- Simple carbohydrates such as baked goods, cereal, chips, juice and soda contain high amounts of raw sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, fructose and sucrose while lacking fiber and starch found in complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs are responsible for clogged arteries, spikes in energy, sugar crash, weight gain and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
There are many benefits of a balanced diet as well as consequences for certain deficiencies, here is a list of food and nutrients that are beneficial to people detoxing from drugs or alcohol:
- Water hydrates the body, is an appetite suppressant, helps the body metabolize fat and is a key factor in detoxification as it naturally flushes wastes and toxins from the body. Our kidneys are responsible for balancing the concentration of fluids and electrolytes in our bodies, without enough water the kidneys are unable to remove wastes and toxins.
- Whole foods are more nutritionally balanced and versatile making them more satisfyingly filling and you know exactly what you are ingesting so you can be sure of the benefits that each product offers in their more natural forms. Not only are whole foods rich in fiber, beneficial fats, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals – powerful nutrients found in plant foods – they also contain the combination of nutrients needed to most effectively perform functions from digestion and regulating blood sugar to fighting off illness.
- Whole grains are complex carbohydrates that include wheat, oat, barley, maize, brown rice, rye, millet, quinoa and buckwheat. Compared to simple carbohydrates, whole grains have longer and more complex chains of sugar which take the body longer to break down and provide more consistent energy without a sugar crash. Simple carbohydrates such as cakes, cookies and even some cereals should be eaten in moderation or replaced with complex carbohydrates such as whole grain breads and pastas, brown rice, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
- Fiber, the portion of food that resists the human digestive enzymes and helps food move through the intestines, falls into two categories, soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber can be found in oatmeal, nuts, beans, brussels sprouts, apples and blueberries and has many functions. It has the ability to lower cholesterol by removing it from the body, protect against diabetes by preventing spikes in blood sugar and helps digestion and weight loss by absorbing water. Insoluble fiber also aids in weight loss and digestive health and can be found in the skins and seeds of fruit, cabbage, lettuce, onions, bell peppers as well as whole-wheat bread and rice.
- Proteins can be found in legumes, whole grains, brown rice, seeds, raw nuts, dairy, soy, tofu, eggs, fish and meats and contain the same energy density as carbohydrates with the addition of amino acids. Proteins are an essential building block, the amino acids help regenerate cells which plays an important role in healing organs and systems in the body throughout detoxification and recovery. Proteins are responsible for making neurotransmitters and providing the body with the energy needed to repair and heal.
- It is important to consume a moderation of saturated and unsaturated fats, while refraining from refined fats which can cause problems such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease. Saturated fats are found in foods such as butter, fish, chicken and eggs and unsaturated fats are found in foods such as oils from fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Fats are necessary to absorb vitamins, provide energy to help the body and mind develop and grow as well as produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Fats are composed of two essential fatty acids, linoleic and linolenic acid, which contribute to a healthy cardiovascular, immune, and nervous system as well as help produce heat, regulate blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full longer. A lack of healthy fat might contribute to decreased mood, less restful sleep and nutrition deficiency.
- Fruits and vegetables are rich in the vitamins and minerals that are vital in detoxification and recovery. Most Americans are not getting enough vitamins and minerals due to the fact that the average American diet does not consist of fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables which contain nearly twice as much nutrition as processed or early picked products. Vitamins and minerals include:
- Zinc helps with liver and brain function, a lack of zinc can cause cold extremities, poor wound healing and appetite as well as a loss of taste and smell
- Chromium regulates blood sugar, deficiencies can cause hypoglycemia, diabetes and heart disease
- Calcium/ magnesium are needed in the body to fight irritability, pain and muscular or nervous system disorders during withdrawals.
- Iron deficiency can cause fatigue, depression, poor memory, and headaches.
- Potassium deficiency can cause high blood pressure and weaken the liver and adrenal glands.
- Selenium deficiency can lead to cancer and heart disease.
- Vitamin C is very important in times of stress and helps speed the detoxification process by targeting toxins in the body.
- B-complex – B-complex is comprised of eight coenzymes and precursors which are necessary to cause metabolic reactions in cells. Without enough b-complex, one is more prone to psychological symptoms such as paranoia, hyperactivity, confusion, confabulation, depression and stress. The eight B vitamins include:
- Pantothenic acid
- Folic acid
What not to eat during detox:
- Sugar mimics some of the effects of substance usage, acting as a temporary relief while providing little benefit to the body and mind. Sugary products such as candy, cakes and sodas can exacerbate hypoglycemic problems and not only have less nutritional value, they also deplete the body of vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
- Processed foods contain high amounts of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, bad fats, sodium, artificial flavorings and colors and other unhealthy additives. Additives in processed foods cause changes in the brain which can contribute to mania, hyperactivity and learning difficulties. A high fructose corn syrup diet can lead to obesity and cardiovascular disease.
- Hydrogenated oils create trans fats that are responsible for diabetes, obesity and heart disease
- Caffeine is an addictive substance that alters your chemical balance by releasing a large amount of adrenaline that contains stored sugar into the bloodstream. Caffeine directly impairs calcium absorption which causes irritability, pain and issues with the muscular and nervous systems.
Besides eating high-quality foods, eating at the right time is also an important part of nutrition. It is important for the body to receive a steady supply of fuel. This can improve mood and self-control and help the body produce beta-endorphin and serotonin which significantly helps reduce cravings and prevent subsequent relapse.