Is there a connection between nutrition and addiction? Could eating better help stave off the propensity for using drugs or alcohol? Research is currently ongoing and shows there are some definite nutritional links to all types of addiction.
Addiction is a complex disorder that involves both psychological and physical properties, which in non-technical language simply means it is an emotional as well as physical issue.
The short definition of addiction is the compulsive use of a substance despite social and legal discouragement. When you are addicted to alcohol, drugs or even food the most important thing in your life is feeding this addiction.
Does poor nutrition automatically lead to some form of chemical addiction? While researchers are not yet ready to draw this conclusion, they will say that hypoglycemia underlies nearly every substance abuse occurrence. Hypoglycemia is most often perpetuated by a high intake of simple sugars and is the forerunner of diabetes. How could high sugar intake lead to substance abuse?
Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for relaying the message satisfaction or satiety; you could call it the body’s happy pill. Serotonin is also the chemical in the brain that regulates mood, hunger, sleep, pain and more. Low levels result in feelings of depression, fatigue and anxiety. When the body does not produce, enough serotonin people will often self-medicate with sugary substances, which produce the same calming effect in the body.
As you probably already know, overuse of sugar can then lead to insulin resistance, which results in sugar crash, anxiety, and nervousness. All of these can contribute to drug use to calm the mind and body.
Increased sugar intake
Drug use to take off the “edge”
This is a very simplified explanation about how nutrition, or lack thereof, plays a part in alcohol and drug addiction.
Understanding the nutritional connection is important in drug addiction recovery. This brings us to one of the most useful tools of the 12-step program: HALT- Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. This acronym is often used in drug and alcohol recovery to become aware of our need for self care. Visit our page on how to use H.A.L.T. to maintain sobriety to learn more.
The “H” in H.A.L.T stands for hungry. when you are deep into your addiction it is very common to forget to eat or even ignore hunger pangs in an attempt to feed your addiction. During recovery, it is very important to remind yourself to eat. Your body needs proper nutrition to produce the natural feel good hormones that you had replaced with drugs or alcohol.
Many addicts let themselves go physically until their health seriously deteriorates. It is critically important to increase your nutrient intake for recovery to be successful. This may require supplementing the addicts diet with vitamin and mineral supplements to get back to “feeling good” and being healthy.
Nutrition and addiction are definitely related, lack of serotonin in the body sets off a chain reaction that can eventually lead to addiction. The addiction then creates a poor environment for receiving proper nutrition, and around it goes! There is no simple answer to addiction recovery, but a healthy diet is a great place to start.