Can a Gluten-Free Diet Help with Addiction Recovery?
Eating a healthy diet is critical during addiction recovery, because it allows your body as well as your mind to heal faster and more efficiently. One of the most common problems with addictions is that your nutrition gets basically thrown out the door. Alcohol and drug abuse often causes nutritional deficiencies as well as digestive issues, so those who use drugs and alcohol typically have depleted their body of essential vitamins, minerals, fats and amino acids, which can lead to a wide variety of mental and physical problems.
Eating healthy while in alcohol and drug recovery helps in a variety of ways, such as improving your focus, stabilizing mood, and increasing energy. A healthy diet also makes it easier to resist cravings for addictive substances. So, with one of the newest trends being eating a “gluten-free” diet, many people in addiction recovery are asking should their diet be gluten-free during recovery? Here is some information as to why it is (but sometimes isn’t) safe to follow a gluten-free diet during addiction recovery.
What Exactly is Gluten?
Gluten is a group of proteins that is found in various grains, such as barley, wheat and rye. It is also common in foods, such as pasta, bread, cereal and pizza. Although gluten doesn’t provide any essential nutrients, it is made up of proteins, which are essential for building and repairing cells in your body, including those cells that have been damaged during an addiction to drugs and alcohol. A gluten-free diet is needed to eliminate the inflammation that occurs when someone has a condition known as celiac disease.
Why is Gluten Important?
Although gluten itself doesn’t have any nutritional benefits, the foods, such as whole grains, that contain the gluten protein do have them. For instance, cereals and sandwich bread that contain wheat are also fortified with iron and B vitamins, which is essential for a nutritious diet. Many of the gluten-free food options do not contain the additional vitamins and minerals that your body needs to properly heal while in addiction recovery. So, basically the only time gluten can be bad for you is if you have celiac disease, a wheat allergy or a gluten intolerance; otherwise it is an excellent source of nutrients and beneficial for those who do not have a medical issue that prevents consuming gluten.
Addiction and Unhealthy Eating
Unhealthy eating and addiction go hand-in-hand. Ultimately, your diet, or lack of a healthy diet, prevents you from getting the nutrients your mind and body require, which leads to a nutrient deficiency. Proper nutrition is critical for addiction recovery. While in active addiction your body was seriously affected by the lack of nutrients, but now that you are in recovery, healthy eating can help to improve your mood and confidence, improve focus and awareness, improve motivation, energy and drive and reduce cravings as well as improve your ability to resist them and risk relapse.
Importance of Macro-Nutrients
Nutrients are made up of two main categories; macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients. Macro-nutrients are essential sources for cell development and energy and your body requires somewhat large amounts, especially during addiction recovery, since your body was depleted of essential nutrients while in active addiction. Eating a gluten-free diet means you may be missing the macro-nutrients that are typically found in a healthy diet. There are three primary macro-nutrients: carbohydrates, fat and protein.
- Carbohydrates are an energy source, but the proper amount of carbohydrate intake depends on the level of your physical activity. Keep in mind that excessive carbohydrate intake may cause problems with your metabolism, causing you to gain unhealthy body fat, which may lead to diabetes and heart disease.
- Fat is the preferred source of energy and it is important for building cell membranes, your nervous system and the production of hormones. Essential fatty acids are fats that your body requires, but it cannot produce them. These essential fats are often found in foods that contain gluten.
- Protein is vital for building and repairing every cell in your body. It is especially important for the connective and muscle tissues as well as neurotransmitters and the production of hormones. Proteins are composed of amino acids, also known as essential amino acids that your body needs, but is unable to produce on its own.
Eating healthy is one of the most important things when it comes to your addiction recovery steps. Limiting your body of the nutrients it requires means you are preventing your body and mind from healing. Healthy eating means the foods you are eating help protect you from relapsing. It also helps you keep a clear focus on your future outlook. It is essential that you eat more protein, because the amino acids found in proteins are critical for building stronger neurotransmitters, which is often missing in those with addiction. Although eating a gluten-free diet is essential for those with celiac disease, it is not recommended for those who can tolerate it, especially those who are in addiction recovery and need these proteins to rebuild damaged or lost cells.
Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.