There is a strong correlation between the foods that we choose to eat and our mental health. Junk food does not provide adequate nutrients to support good neurochemistry. In addition, having the wrong combination of macronutrients can lead to depression, anxiety, addictive patterns, and overeating.
In our residential treatment program we help our clients understand how their recovery will be impacted by nutrition. We limit the amount of caffeine and sweets that clients have while they work to detoxify their body and start the healing process in the brain. With a solid diet and supplemental nutrients, clients find that it is easier to regulate their emotions in early recovery. Hopefully they also learn the tools needed to carry those new habits into their sober life.
Two of the foods that can have the biggest impact on mood swings are sugar and white flour, and they can send your mood into a roller coaster. Sugar and flour lead to a quick rise in blood sugar followed by the signature slump in energy caused by excess carbohydrates.
At Bridging the Gaps we plan our menus around nutrient dense meals that will help to support recovery.
At the center of the plate is protein. We focus on high quality proteins because they provide the necessary amino acids for the addicted brain to start healing. All of the neurotransmitters are made out of amino acids (proteins). Addiction leads to a depletion in the neurotransmitters which are required to feel optimistic, enthusiastic, calm, or comforted. Protein helps to replace the missing elements in your feel-good brain chemicals. Protein also helps you to feel full and satisfied. Good sources of protein include fish, poultry, eggs, lamb, beef, pork, shellfish, and dairy (if tolerated).
Healthy fats are also essential for a healthy brain. The brain is a very fatty organ. If you want to become clear-minded and feel good, you need to give your brain the fats it needs to thrive. There are two essential fats that we must get from our diet – Omega 3 and Omega 6. For the most part, our modern diet leads to an excess of Omega 6 in ratio to Omega 3 which leads to depression. A boost in Omega 3s can help to boost your mood. Good sources of this fat include fish, nuts, and seeds.
Of course any well-balanced dinner plate is not complete without plenty of vegetables. Vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals. The disease of addiction is hard on the body. Often clients come to us with deficiencies and malnutrition after years of alcohol and drug use. Lots of good vegetables help to replace any missing components in the diet.
With these basics you can add in some fruit, legumes, and whole grains to balance out the diet and provide some healthy carbs. The goal is to support healing and replace essential nutrients that lead to a well-balanced mood. At Bridging the Gaps, our nutrition experts and doctor work to tailor a supplement plan to address your specific needs, but it all starts with delicious meals cooked together as a community.