Many addictive substances like alcohol or drugs can cause brain damage due to seizures, stroke, and toxic effects on brain cells, according to research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. As a result, it’s not uncommon for people in recovery to struggle with cognitive problems, memory loss, and nutritional deficiencies. The devastating side effects of alcohol addiction can also greatly impact mood and behavior for months or even years after a person has eliminated alcohol from their life.
If you want to get sober and restore your physical and mental health, an Austin detox is typically the first step in the process. However, many different foods can also help reverse brain and body damage caused by alcohol abuse. Eating mindfully and supplementing with vitamins is essential for long-lasting overall health, but it will also help you recover more quickly and reduce the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol detox.
Addiction treatment experts and researchers around the world generally agree that the right types of foods can have a very positive effect on addiction recovery. “Consuming certain types of nutritious foods during detox can really help people recover physically. They work to start replacing key nutrients that have been stripped away by drug and alcohol abuse,” said Mat Gorman, CEO of Nova Recovery Center.
If you’re recovering from alcohol addiction, adding these healthy foods in your daily diet is a small change to make, but it can have massive effects. Eating mindfully and strategically can help you overcome some of the lingering cognitive problems and physical ailments left behind from your addiction as you progress through the detox and withdrawal phase. These foods may also help to relieve additional health problems you took on as a result of your addiction and contribute to a more healthy lifestyle that will encourage long-lasting recovery and wellness.
Nuts and seeds
Many people who are recovering from alcohol addiction experience severe symptoms of depression and mood swings, which can make life in recovery difficult. Nuts and seeds are packed with brain-healthy fats, especially walnuts, which offer a hearty dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Pumpkin seeds are high in antioxidants and magnesium, which is a common deficiency among alcoholics. Increasing your consumption of pumpkin seeds with flax seeds and other sources of magnesium may help restore your liver function and improve heart health. Sunflower seeds may also trigger your body’s release of dopamine, which can help decrease symptoms of depression and boost mood in recovery.
During alcohol detox, your body will naturally flush out toxins that were left behind by excessive alcohol consumption, but eating certain foods can enhance the process, and, in some cases, it may even speed the process along. Berries such as blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries contain lots of antioxidants and they also taste great! They have a lower amount of sugar than many other fruits, which is good news for people in recovery, and research shows they also enhance physical health in several ways. Eating berries regularly can improve your memory, rebuild your immune system, and speed up your body’s cleansing process during the detox and withdrawal phases of recovery.
If you’ve ever attempted a carb-free diet, you probably already know that the brain just doesn’t function well without carbs. Although the term “carbs” carries a negative connotation in the fitness world, complex carbs and whole grains actually provide important nutrients that help your body to function at its best. Healthy whole grains deliver essential nutrients like vitamin E, B vitamins, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and minerals like magnesium and iron. Many whole grain food options like brown rice, oatmeal, and whole grain pasta are not only satisfying to eat, but they also contain the amino acid tyrosine. Tyrosine converts to dopamine during digestion, which will help reduce the feelings of depression, apathy, and low energy that are so common in the early stages of recovery.
Fatty fish like farmed or wild salmon, albacore tuna, anchovies, and swordfish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential optimal brain functioning. It’s important to know that omega-3 fatty acids cannot be made by the body, so these nutrients have to come from your food if you’re going to benefit from them. As someone who is recovering from alcohol addiction, a diet that includes a decent amount of omega-3 fatty acids will help your body in several ways. Omega-3’s produce hormones that help your heart function well, reduce inflammation, support cell membranes, and improve cognitive functioning, among many other benefits.
The severe discomfort of alcohol withdrawal often discourages people from staying sober and results in relapse. However, oranges may be one fruit that can prevent relapse and help you stay strong on the road to recovery. Oranges are packed with vitamin C which is great for brain health and is a natural antioxidant. Many former alcoholics who also abused drugs are likely to be deficient in vitamin C, which can lead to several serious health problems. Fortunately, loading up on oranges can help replenish your body’s stores of vitamin C and alleviate painful withdrawal symptoms during detox. This is especially beneficial in the early stages of recovery when alcohol withdrawal symptoms are typically the most severe.
Green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli, collard greens may all enhance cognitive performance because they are rich in folate, vitamin K, beta carotene, and other brain-healthy nutrients. Even if you’re not recovering from alcohol addiction, these veggies are always a safe bet if you’re trying to boost your intake of healthy nutrients and vitamins. And the best part? It’s nearly impossible to overeat them, so load up!
Lean poultry and beef
Many alcoholics are deficient in B vitamins, which affect the way your body uses food to make energy. This can leave you feeling unmotivated, apathetic, and lethargic. Fortunately, B vitamins are relatively easy to get in a well-balanced diet. Lean beef contains the amino acid tyrosine which can naturally boost dopamine levels in the body, enhancing your energy levels and mood as a result. Lean poultry is also rich in L-glutamine, which is an amino acid that can help reduce the sugar cravings many people in recovery experience. If you’re vegetarian or don’t prefer beef or chicken, other foods that are rich in B vitamins include eggs, milk, cheese, legumes, almonds, sunflower seeds, bananas, barley, and millet, among others.
Coffee and green tea
Healthy amounts of caffeine not only wakes you up in the morning, but it can also boost brain function. However, people in early recovery should be very cautious and avoid having too much caffeine. While it may be best to avoid it entirely during alcohol detox, after you’ve transitioned to a normal routine in recovery, caffeine found in coffee and green tea can provide a helpful boost when you need it most. Limiting your caffeine intake to one cup a day can provide a healthy balance that won’t lead to a crash after the effects wear off.
Alcohol addiction has been linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease but a diet high in E vitamins can help prevent this. Eating lots of avocados is one easy way to get a good dose of Vitamin E, but it can also be found in other foods like nuts, Brussel sprouts, bok choy, broccoli, and fish. Avocado is also abundant in vitamin K, folate, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin e, vitamin B6, and potassium and is loaded with heart-healthy fatty acids and fiber.
Dark chocolate is an excellent addition to any diet, especially if you’re recovering from alcohol addiction. It’s always nice to have a treat every once in a while, but generally, people in recovery try to avoid sugar, which may leave some individuals feeling deprived. If you tend to like your chocolatey treats, you can rest assured knowing small amounts of dark chocolate will actually help improve your health. Not only is dark chocolate delicious, but it also boasts healthy antioxidants, improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure, reduces your risk for heart disease, and may help improve brain function.
Alcohol addiction takes a massive toll on a person’s overall appearance, health, and cognitive abilities, especially if it goes on for months or years. Not surprisingly, physical and psychological healing from addiction takes time.
Although a medical detox program is typically the first step a person takes to recover, a healthy well-balanced diet can help move things along in the right direction more quickly. If you have decided to eliminate alcohol from your life completely, introducing these foods into a well-rounded and colorful diet full of healthy ingredients will have you feeling better, looking better, and recovering more quickly.