Different kinds of addiction especially those involving harmful substances such as alcohol, drugs, and nicotine can damage the brain. These damages while often go unnoticed can slowly destroy one’s cognitive ability impairing memory, consciousness, and language.
It’s common knowledge that people who suffer from severe addiction are recommended to undergo a rehabilitation process in order to overcome their addiction. Treating patients in a rehabilitation facility usually involves medication, physical, and emotional conditioning.
But another important and overlooked factor that should help hasten the process of rehabilitation is nutrition. During rehab, it’s important that doctors pay attention to their patient’s nutrition. With proper nutrition, a patient can recover faster and smoother. In this post, I’m going to show you the best brain foods for rehab patients.
Food Your Brain Needs during Rehab
Your brain’s nerve cells can regenerate through a process called neuroplasticity. This can undo the damage of drug abuse that have inflicted trauma in various brain areas. And yes, you guessed it right – food holds the key to nerve cell regeneration. Patients undergoing rehab should eat a diet high in these following food groups:
Food rich in Omega 3
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for brain healing. In fact, they are an essential element for nerve cell reparation. These fatty acids create flexibility in the brain’s membranes helping neurotransmitters transfer messages more effectively. Fats are about 2/3 of the brain’s dry weight so it’s important to get enough amount of it on a daily basis. Aside from this brain-boosting benefit, omega 3 fatty acids also help lower your risk of diabetes.
Examples of food rich in Omega 3
- Fish oils
- Flax seeds
Food rich in Protein
Protein is the building blocks of our muscles – although the brain isn’t a muscle, you should treat it like one. Some people suffer from depression and anxiety during rehab. In order to control their anxiety and stabilize their mood, they need adequate protein.
Examples of food rich in Protein
- Dairy products
Food rich in Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are essential for the formation of adrenaline and dopamine. Adrenaline and dopamine are needed by our body for proper brain function. They are crucial in the communication of the chemicals known as neurotransmitters. A brain with complete nutrients can repair, maintain, and encourage growth along damaged regions.
Examples of food rich in Vitamins and Minerals
Food rich in Complex Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates should be chosen instead of refined sugar snacks. The brain uses carbohydrates as a source of energy and it needs at least 120 grams per day. It is a pure glycolyzer, which means it prefers glucose for energy. Complex carbohydrates will keep you full and provide energy for the brain.
Examples of food rich in complex carbs
- Brown rice
And lastly, make sure that the patient drinks enough water every day. Proper hydration is essential for normal function of the brain. A person needs at least 8 cups of water every day. On the other hand, too much water consumption can lead to water toxicity and mineral loss.
Foods to Avoid, or take in Moderation
Following a rehabilitation treatment, patients should instinctively avoid food that can affect their progress. This includes alcohol, junk food, and highly addictive palatable food.
Naturopathic physician Dr. Henninger believes that eating “real food” is the best option to higher chances of full recovery. “I urge people in recovery to eat nothing artificial to ease the load on the liver, which has to struggle to break down chemicals and preservatives. Foods should be in as close to their natural state as possible.”
The following are guidelines on nutrition after rehab:
- Do not consume too much saturated fat, omega 6 fatty acids or trans-fatty acids. These fats cause problems with the heart and the cardiovascular system. They also limit the transport of oxygen to the brain.
- Food can affect our mood. For example, too much sugar or caffeine can create mood swings that can affect an addicts early stage of recovery. Make sure your sugar level is just right. And limit your coffee intake. In order to keep the blood sugar at normal levels it is recommended to have a mixed diet with complex carbohydrates, proteins, and vitamins. You should also avoid sweetened beverages, candy, and fried food.
- Even though coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world, you should not consume more than 2 cups a day. Coffee overstimulates the nervous system which can cause anxiety and insomnia.
Any addiction can be overcome with the right treatment. So don’t hesitate to seek help. There are lots of drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers today that can help people with severe addiction. In order for you to help a loved one or a partner recover faster, it is important to understand the benefits of nutrition. Patients should be encouraged to have a healthy diet and daily exercise.