The “How To” on developing a nutrition plan for a substance abuse recovery program.
By: Dr. Keith Kantor, CEO of NAMED Program
When overcoming addiction, a comprehensive nutrition plan will contribute to the success of any rehabilitation program, so you can get back to a normal life with your family. The NAMED (Nutrition, Addiction, Mitigation, Eating and Drinking) Program implements their nutrition program only in the controlled environment of an addiction and rehabilitation center, we recommend this to ensure a successful outcome of any nutrition program.
The number one objective of a nutrition plan during the rehabilitation phase of addiction recovery is avoid stimulating the opiate receptors. Opiate receptor is defined as cell membrane receptors that can bind with morphine and other opiates; concentrations of such receptors are especially high in regions of the brain having pain-related functions. When these receptors are stimulated the brain often craves addictive substances such as drugs, alcohol and even certain foods. If the opiate receptors are suppressed this will increase the success of addiction rehabilitation.
These foods should specifically be avoided because they have been shown to stimulate opiate receptors:
- Simple sugars, in the form of white bleached flours in crackers, breads, cookies, pastries, cookies, and high fructose corn syrup found in candy, certain flavored drinks, yogurts, sodas, etc. Instead go for high fiber carbohydrate options like fruit, vegetables, steel cut oats, sprouted grain breads, quinoa, flax seed, etc.
- Artificial sweeteners, in the form of saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame. These are often found in diet foods that are labeled low calorie or sugar free like drinks, juices, sodas, bars, yogurts, and snacks. Stevia which is a natural none calorie sweetener is fine to consume in moderation, and in its most natural form.
- Gluten, which is a protein composite of wheat, typically found on most mainstream breads, cereals, snacks, and even seasoning packets. Instead aim to have foods that are naturally gluten free like potatoes, wild rice, quinoa, etc.
- Milk protein, mainly from milk, yogurt, and cheese should also be avoided. The consumption of extra sharp cheeses like Parmesan is okay once in a while in moderation but substituting unsweetened almond and coconut milk products is the best way to avoid milk protein.
- Caffeine, can also stimulate the opiate receptors, it is best for all patients to avoid consumption of caffeine, and switch to caffeine free herbal teas.
The second objective is to keep inflammation down through both nutrition strategies and the consumption of high quality stable alkaline water. The typical American diet is packed with sugar and processed foods, which throws off your body’s ability to optimize your pH. Although your body naturally has its own mechanisms to buffer your pH, many of us are likely living in a state of low-grade acidosis from consuming excessive caffeine and eating too many low-quality processed, depleted foods. Eating a diet rich in low nutrient processed foods puts the body in a state of mild, moderate or even severe inflammation, inflammation can affect our body’s ability to regulate insulin levels resulting in increased cravings for sugary foods. In recovery, sugary food cravings can often be misread as a craving for the once abused substance due to similar hormonal responses of serotonin and opiate receptors. Optimizing our pH through a balanced and whole food nutrition and hydration plan will reduce inflammation and help avoid cravings, hormonal imbalances and chances for relapses.
When developing a nutrition plan for a substance abuse program it is important to take a holistic approach to daily nourishment. These nutrition strategies will ensure long term health and have an impact on reducing the occurrence of a relapse.
- Develop a meal and snack schedule and adhere to the routine daily. This will reduce cravings while keeping the body in a state of balance. A daily checklist is a great way to develop habits and a feeling of accomplishment.
- Aim to eat 9-11 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Preferably a ratio of one fruit to three vegetables. This keeps fiber intake at optimal levels, and provides vitamins and minerals in their most raw form. Drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of stable alkaline water daily. This will promote optimal organ function, electrolyte balance, and reduce cravings.
- Include a high quality source of protein, a heart healthy fat and fibrous carbohydrate at each meal. This is the most absorbable form of amino acids which have been shown to be critical in addiction and recovery.
- Vitamin and mineral supplements will also be helpful during recovery. A high quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, B-complex, vitamin D, omega 3 fish oil, and a probiotic are all recommended to take daily with meals for optimal absorption.
- Get regular exercise, at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Moderate exercise naturally keeps hormones in balance.
- Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night.
- Eliminate caffeine and stop smoking.