Nutrition To Treat Addiction
Nature has set us up for addiction. Our brain circuits are preprogrammed to see actions as eating or having sex as highly rewarding and worth reinforcing, ensuring the survival of the species. These reward pathways can however be subverted by addictive drugs and by such addictive behavior as gambling.
Using the latest brain scanners, neuroscientists now have a much better understanding of how these reward pathways work and the role played by neurotransmitters—the brain’s message carrying molecules. These molecules, primarily dopamine, serotonin, and GABA (gammma-aminobutyric acid) hop between nerve cells carrying vital and very pleasurable signals as they go.
Some addictive drugs mimic these actions. Other addictive drugs enhance them. Either way the body tends, as a result, to stop producing these neurotransmitters and a person continuously need the drug as a substitute for the missing transmitter. This is the biochemistry of addiction.
Food for Thought
Withdrawal Depression - Serotonin and Tryptophan (Prozac)
Levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin have been found to be abnormally low in the brain of an addict. This lack of serotonin causes depression, especially during and after the withdrawal stage. Antidepressant drugs such as Prozac target serotonin receptors in the brain to increase serotonin activity.
However, serotonin is also produced naturally by the body from the amino acid tryptophan. Brown rice, nuts fish, milk and certain cuts of meat are rich in tryptophan. Psychiatric research at Oxford University has found that increasing the amount of tryptophan in a person’s diet promotes a feeling of well-being and induces a more optimistic outlook. Conversely reducing the amount of tryptophan in the diet increases depressive symptoms.
In light of these important findings the dietician at Sobriety develops client menus with delicious recipes to maximize these beneficial nutriceutical ingredients4. These are particularly helpful at certain key times in the course of each resident’s drug rehab recovery process.
Cravings, Withdrawal Anxiety and Sleeplessness - GABA Glutamine and the Amino Acid NAC (Valium)
Withdrawal symptoms usually include anxiety and sleeplessness. These occur because addictive drugs reduce the supply of a chemical called glutamine, which is a vital precursor to the neurotransmitter GABA. We profoundly feel this lack of GABA as one of its roles is to promote relaxation. In fact, the molecular receptors in the brain for GABA are the target of tranquilizers such as Valium. Glutamine levels can however be restored, and the production of GABA thereby boosted, by a diet rich in the amino acid N-acetylcysteine (NAC) that is found in nuts and seeds.
A recent important study by Dr. Steven LaRowe of the Medical University of South Carolina found that giving NAC to cocaine addicts significantly reduced their cravings and desire to use the drug, and recommended its use in drug rehab program. Another study found that NAC also reduced the desire to gamble in gambling addicts.
At Sobriety a good night of tranquil peaceful sleep is the norm. At Sobriety we recognize that proper sleep5 is vital to brain plasticity6, and to new learning in the higher cognitive centers that is the hallmark of lasting recovery7. Our nutritionist and chefs are proud to contribute their share to this by making sure that at the right time of day (for our circadian biorhythm8), we can enjoy some delicious snacks, rich in NAC, and get this extra benefit of a more restful and more serene full night’s sleep.
DHA – Omega 3 fatty acid – and relapse
Reduced levels of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA has been associated with the relapse into addiction, as well as with learning difficulties. DHA acts in the body by adjusting the membrane of nerve cells. The effect of DHA and dietary effects on addiction is currently being studied by Dr. John Stein an Oxford University researcher. This area has been understudied because even when a nutritional therapy is proven to be very effective a pharmaceutical company cannot get a patent on it as it involves combinations of normal food and food supplements and no patentable medications.
© Copyright Sobriety Home Foundation 2009
1 dietician (under construction) link to our dietician’s page with comments on Orthomolecular Medicine and addiction
2 chefs (under construction) our chefs have won prizes for their delicious, nutritious, and nutriceutical cuisine
3 delicious local and sustainable foods (under construction) our homage to our local farmers (and friends) providing us with the best and most wholesome local food to be found in our land
4 scrumptious recipes to maximize beneficial & nutriceutical ingredients (under construction) our comfort food cookbook – inspired by our clients and optimized for nutriceutical effect by our academic consultant in this field
5 Proper sleep (under construction) research report on proper sleep and the enhanced drug rehab recovery it reinforces
6 brain plasticity (under construction) research report articles on the vital role brain plasticity plays in addiction and drug rehab
7 new learning in the higher cognitive centers that is the hallmark of lasting recovery (under construction) research report on the role of new learning and cognitive enhancers in psychotherapy and drug rehab
8 circadian biorhythm (under construction) a research overview on the enhancements achieved by administering medications and therapies at times correlated to the patient’s biorhthym (cancer chemotherapy enhancement with this timing)
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