Nutritional Therapy and Addiction
In my book, Healing & Wholeness: Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Mental Health, I devote an entire chapter to addiction and psychotherapy in which I discuss natural remedies. In it, I discuss the importance of nutritional therapy in the recovery from addiction.
In his book, Optimum Nutrition for the Mind, Patrick Holford points out that the first step in treating addiction is to correct nutritional deficiencies in preparation for withdrawal. In a perfect world, this would be the best case scenario.
Unfortunately, groundwork prior to treatment is often impractical because the substance abuser tends to be uncertain about committing to treatment up until the moment they walk through the door. But once the addict commits to abstinence, dietary changes and nutritional therapy should begin as soon as possible.
Addiction is a complex bio-behavioral problem that is further complicated by biochemical imbalances and faulty dietary patterns. Some of the nutritional deficiencies associated with substance abuse are caused by a poor diet, while others are due to nutrient depletion from drugs or alcohol.
Addiction and Nutritional Deficiencies
Both alcohol and drugs interfere with the body’s ability to metabolize nutrients. Alcohol interferes with the nutritional process by affecting digestion, storage, utilization, and excretion of nutrients. Alcohol inhibits the breakdown of nutrients into usable molecules by decreasing secretion of digestive enzymes from the pancreas.
Alcohol impairs nutrient absorption by damaging the cells lining the stomach and intestines and disabling transport of some nutrients into the blood. Pharmaceuticals and street drugs deplete the body of essential nutrients in a similar manner.
Research has shown that nearly all chronic addicts and alcoholics suffer from some level of nutritional deficiencies. In an effort to address this problem, some treatment centers have begun to treat patients with nutritional therapy in conjunction with standard treatment.
How Nutrition Helps Addiction
Joan Matthews-Larson, author of Seven Weeks to Sobriety and director of Health Recovery Center, compiled statistics after instituting a treatment program that utilized nutrition. Larson executed a study where 100 alcoholics were treated with nutrition in addition to a regular substance abuse program. At discharge 7 weeks later, 85% were free of anxiety, 94% had no sleep problems, and 95% were depression-free. At the 6-month mark, 92% were abstinent from alcohol, 85% of whom had remained continually abstinent since treatment. Three years later, 95 of the original 100 subjects were interviewed and 74% had remained sober.
In a study at Bard College Center in Amityville, New York, researchers treated 100 substance abuse patients who had a low probability of success as they had been treated unsuccessfully numerous times. All were suffering from liver disease, and were cross-addicted addicted to alcohol and drugs. In addition to standard counseling practices, the researchers used nutrition to address immunological and neurological needs. At the one-year mark, more than 60% were abstinent and physically well.
Nutrition Therapy and Psychotherapy
I was fortunate to receive my training and certification as a Clinical Nutritionist from Natural Healing Institute in San Diego, California. My training and educational experience taught me how critical sound nutrition is to good mental health. I often refer clients who are interested in nutritional therapy to nutritionists who specialize in specific areas of nutrition. By doing this, my clients always receive the best possible care.