NUTRIENTS a better understanding of what addiction is

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Last updated: September 9, 2019

NUTRIENTS IMPORTANT TO RECOVERY  NUTRIENTS TO BE EATEN IN LARGE QUANTITIES (MACRONUTRIENTS) Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats and water.  NUTRIENTS TO BE EATEN IN SMALLER QUANTITIES (MICRONUTRIENTS)  Carbohydrates have two classifications, simple and complex – depending on the structure of the carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are quickly absorbed into the body, while complex carbohydrates take longer to assimilate, resulting in a sustained energy level. Complex carbohydrates provide optimal health benefits over simple carbohydrates.

  Fats consist of molecules that contain many fatty acids (long chain of hydrogen and carbon atoms). Fats have two classifications, saturated and unsaturated, depending on the structure of the fatty acids. Most fatty acids are not essential, which means that the body produces them as it needs them. However, humans require two fatty acids that are categorized as “essential fatty acids” which are called Omega 3 and Omega-6.  Omega-3 and Omega -6 fatty acids have been shown in some research to improve mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder and depression. 3 Depression and addiction are common co-occurring conditions and when one improves, it usually results in the improvement of the other.

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   Addiction is a complex disease that is both physical and physicological. Using a 1 dimensional approach is not an option but one that is regularly the case currently in the medical field. Integrating proper nutritions to restore the body’s Neurotransmitters and nutritional reserves will produce more successful outcomes.  We have a better understanding of what addiction is and how it causes biochemical changes which alter the function and structure of the brain. This alteration throws off other brain and body systems and functions as well.  When starting a recovery program it is important to assess the body’s status and state of weakness due to any deficiencies that may have occurred or often overlooked. Many withdrawal symptoms are actually manifestations of deficiencies that can be eliminated or corrected with proper nutrition.

   Living a life in active addiction to drugs and/or alcohol greatly impairs digestions and the functioning of the liver. Specifically how the liver and intestines process Amino Acids. Therefore, recovering addicts should consume more protein and Amino Acids.   NEURONS: Neurons are known as an “electrical excitable cell” which not only transmits signals but processes them too. Neurons do this by a “synapse” which permits neurotransmitters (chemicals) to travel from one neuron to the other.

Neurons are able to connect to other neurons, which forms pathways or “neural networks.”  Neurons are the central component to the nervous system (including the brain and spinal cord). Essentially, neurons have electricity which makes them excitable cells. Neurons do not divide, as other cells do, but are generated by stem cells. These neurons are constantly working in the brain.

They are at work while asleep and when awake. Neurons are responsible for a lot of activity in the brain. They are responsible for the transmission of signals.

Because the brain is constantly at work in such important functions, the brain’s neurons require nearly two times the amount of energy then other cells do.  Because of the amount of energy the brain uses, it has a high demand for fuel and needs to be fueled properly. Neurons get their fuel from glucose (blood sugar), which the body produces from carbohydrates. Neurons do not store glucose, so they need a constant supply of it in order to function optimally.  Those addicted to drugs or alcohol often feel a need for glucose and this need is typically met through processed food, snacks, soda, sugar, caffeine or nicotine. This is why, as mentioned previously, that cravings increase, not only for alcohol or drugs, but for sugary snack foods and sweets.  Consuming too many artificial snacks results in increased fluctuations of glucose levels, which subsequently leads to imbalanced brain functioning, adrenal fatigue or hypoglycemia.   NEUROTRANSMITTERS: Neurotransmitters are chemicals that originate within an organism (endognenous).

Neurotransmitters are tiny molecules that transmit signals by crossing between two neurons. When these neurotransmitters are released by one neuron, they cross over and bind to another “target” neuron.  Once the neurotransmitter is received by the target neuron, it is either reused by transmission of another message, or it is broken down and destroyed by the body’s enzymes.  These neurotransmitters are synthesized by amino acids which come from one’s diet. When you eat, amino acids are converted into neurotransmitters.  The neurons that are receiving a message, also known as the receptors, are very specialized and only respond to certain types of neurotransmitters and the messages sent. Like a key to a lock, the neurotransmitters will only fit into the proper docking site.  The chemical composition of drugs or alcohol either mimics or prolongs the natural chemical flow between receptor sites.

  Addiction throws off many components of the brain starting with neurotransmitters. When an addict uses, chemicals are boosted in the brain. After some time of continually boosting chemicals through drugs (or other means), the brain starts to anticipate this over-stimulation. The brain then starts to build a natural defense mechanism to prevent this over-stimulation. This results in making neurons less responsive.  When neurons are less responsive, the transmission of neurotransmitters (signals) is affected, whereby they cannot efficiently bind to the target receptors.

 This often results in mood dysregulation. This is manifested in many addicts when emotional responses seem inappropriate or do not fall within conventional range.  Angry outbursts, increased frustration, irritability, depression, anxiety and panic is all too common to an addict.

These negative emotional states trigger the addict’s brain to “crave” their drug or sugary foods to eliminate such uncomfortable feelings.  Neurotransmitters greatly contribute to relieving emotional or physical pain, reducing stress and shaping your life, by how you feel, act and think.   CATECHOLAMINES: Catecholamines are organic compounds derived by the amino acid, tyrosine. Tyrosine has a very special role in signal transduction (when a molecule activates a receptor, it creates a chain event which also leads to creating a response).  The most abundant types of catecholemines in the body are dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. These catecholemines are greatly affected by addiction.

  Dopamine is created in the body through specific catecholamine-secreting cells. These cells convert tyrosine to a chemical, L-DOPA, which then is converted to dopamine. Depending on the type of cell, dopamine can then convert into norepinephrine, and then through further metabolic modification, to epinephrine.  Both dopamine and norepenephrine contribute to the functions of energy within the brain, including focus and alertness.

Dopamine regulates short-term concentration and alertness, while norepenephrine controls the long-term or sustained focus.  Stimulant drugs interfere with the natural production of dopamine’s recycling process in the brain. Amphetamines will bind right onto dopamine receptors and trick the brain into thinking that it is naturally-produced dopamine.

Other drugs, such as cocaine, block dopamine from being reused or broken down and destroyed by the body. Subsequently, dopamine starts to build up at unusual high levels. This is what causes temporary euphoria.  ENDORPHINS: Endorphins are naturally occurring chemicals (more accurately neuropeptides) produced in the brain.

When experiencing stress or pain, endorphins help you feel better. They are known as the body’s “natural pain killers.” The term endorphins, is a short form of both words, endogenous (originates within the organism) and morphine. Thus the term “endorphins” means a morphine-like chemical that originates within the body.

  When endorphins are released, they affect how you feel. There are ways to naturally increase endorphins and increase your mood. Exercise, for example, may give you what many athletes call a “runner’s high.

” This is what happens when they push their body to the limit. Athletes also experience what they call “second wind” while running. They do not feel pain or exhaustion but start to feel more energized.  Although there is a demand for more research on this “endogenous morphine” produced in the brain, it is believed that endorphins enhance the immune system, reduce stress, relieve pain and postpone the aging process.  Drugs like alcohol, heroin, codeine, methadone, Demerol, marijuana and morphine have chemical structures that mimic the natural shape of the endorphins that is produced in the brain. This is why these chemicals structures of such drugs can bind directly onto the receptors that are specialized to only accept naturally produced endorphins.  Abusing the drugs mentioned above also interferes with the breaking down of the endorphins (a natural process). This would result in the drug occupying the receptor for an abnormally longer period of time, experiencing higher euphoria or pain numbing that normal.

   GAMMA-AMINOBUTYRIC ACID (GABA): Gamma-Aminobytyric Acid or otherwise known as GABA, is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter within the brain. It plays a vital role in reducing excitability in neurons. It is a chemical that is associated with relaxing the mind. Researchers have called it a “natural Valium of the brain.” This is because when adequate amounts of GABA are present, it promotes deep sleep and calms mood by affecting the other chemicals: dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin.  Drugs such as Valium, Xanax and alcohol help one to relax because the chemical structures of these depressants mimic the naturally-occurring GABA within the brain. A respite from anxiety, for example, can result by taking such drugs, but it also disrupts the normal production of GABA.  Glutamate is an amino acid that produces GABA.

When glutamate levels are low it leads to difficulty relaxing, anxiety and troubles sleeping. A diet that is low in glutamate disrupts the production of GABA. 6 Individuals that lack GABA often crave foods or substances that help them to relax them. This includes carbohydrates, nicotine, alcohol and pharmacological drugs such as Valium.  SEROTONIN: Serotonin is a chemical that is derived from tryptophan, an essential amino acid. Serotonin is responsible for contributing to feelings of happiness and well-being, as well as regulating pain perception, sleep, emotion and mood.  Serotonin contributes to cognitive functioning abilities, including learning and memory formation.

Serotonin also plays a role in growing some cells which may increase the speed of healing wounds.  Researchers believe that serotonin also contributes to one’s self-control. It has been called the “control” neurotransmitter. This is because it is an inhibitory chemical that helps to regulate impulses.  Researchers found that both serotonin and GABA play an important role in delaying gratification, 8 something that is a valuable asset to an addict during recovery.

  Serotonin is correlated with one’s ability to control actions. By proper serotonin levels and a balance in the serotonergic system, the assumption is that more control over one’s actions would result. When serotonin is at normal levels, this prevents you from getting caught up in your emotions and overreacting.

  Drugs, such as Extacy (MDMA), disrupt a healthy and normal serotonin level. What this drug does is actually causes the serotonin chemicals to linger in the receptors longer than usual. This makes the receiving neurons to be continuously stimulated through artificial means.

  Again, the brain sees this over-stimulation as though it is producing too much serotonin and then tries to combat this by slowing down the natural production.  Because serotonin is important to impulse control, low amounts of serotonin lead to emotional outbursts, short attention spans and increased depression.  Serotonin also greatly impacts cortisol (the stress hormone) production. People that lack adequate serotonin levels crave simple carbohydrates (sugar). When people eat sugary and highly refined foods, this increases the serotonin levels. This is why you may feel more comfortable and relaxed after consuming simple carbohydrates such as candy, cake or pie.   DRUGS AND THE BODY  OPIATES ON THE BODY  HYPOGLYCEMIA: Many recovering addicts suffer from hypoglycemia but do not realize it. In one study, researchers found that 85 percent of inmates have hypoglycemia.

  Hypoglycemia literally means “low blood sugar” and is the result of abnormally diminished glucose in the blood.  Some common symptoms include a state of uneasiness or dissatisfaction (dysphoria), agitation, anxiety, depression and can lead to more serious health issues including unconsciousness, seizures and brain damage. The reason that many of these symptoms affect the brain is because the main problems arising from hypoglycemia is the inadequate supply of blood sugar (glucose) to the brain.  Researchers have noted that there are certain illnesses (tumors and liver disease) that cause hypoglycemia, but most of the cases are caused by food consumption (functional hypoglycemia). This happens when an individual continues to consume relatively large amounts of food that contains high levels of refined sugar.

  When food is taken into the body, it is broken down and converted to nutrients. From there, nutrients are absorbed by the bloodstream so that they can be used as the body’s fuel. Glucose (blood sugar) is one of the nutrients that the body needs. However, addicts often crave highly sugary and refined foods such as soda, alcohol, white bread, candy bars or donuts.

  When these types of foods are eaten they are absorbed quickly by the blood and abruptly spikes blood sugar.  Just as the brain has its natural defense mechanism to detect and correct the process of tolerance when detecting the over-stimulation of the reward center, the body reacts in a similar way manner. The body counteracts high surges of blood-sugar by increasing insulin which removes the blood sugar, but often removes too much, resulting in blood levels abruptly dropping.

  Insulin is produced in the pancreas and is signaled to release when there is either a frequent or an abundant intake of sugars. But the body’s natural defense removes too much sugar and often results in the cells within the body and the brain to be starved of glucose. The initial symptoms of this process can result in irritability, fatigue, shakiness and confusion. These are usually highly exacerbated for individuals with addictions.  When blood glucose levels drop, it also affects the adrenal glands which send a signal to the liver to release glycogen so that the insulin shock can be countered. The consumption of high amounts of sugars throws off the body’s system and its ability to properly manage the blood sugar levels.

Hypoglycemia usually happens gradually over time as an addict, or anyone, with a poor eating habit continues to eat high levels of refined sugars. This process described, also makes the adrenals to work overtime.  Adrenal fatigue is a common symptom of recovering addicts, and the noted symptoms above contribute to why recovering addicts feel so poorly when trying to quit, impelling them to further self-medicate with drugs or high sugar foods to quickly make them feel better.  To correct hypoglycemia, the blood glucose level must be restored by ingesting dextrose or complex carbohydrate foods. Hypoglycemia can usually be managed and treated successfully by self-administering with balanced meals (to have glucose at a steadily rate).

Balanced meals are particularly important for recovering addicts because they do not over-stimulate the body and brain with abrupt fluctuations of sugar foods.  It is important to replace the high-refined and high-processed foods, known as simple carbohydrates, with complex carbohydrates or starchy foods such as vegetables and whole grains. Also, adding protein and some fats into your diet helps the carbohydrates to become absorbed at a more steady rate. It is important to eat regularly throughout the day instead of skipping meals. This will also help regulate the blood glucose levels.   THE NEED FOR VITAMINS & MINERALS:  The body needs a small amount of vitamins and minerals each day so that it can function optimally. Vitamins and minerals help to boost cellular function within the body and they are needed to carry out nearly all complex body functions. Vitamins need minerals and minerals need vitamins to propel the body to optimal health.

  Biochemical processes involving both vitamins and minerals boost health and functionality greater than any single vitamin or mineral on its own would. Vitamins and minerals work in a synergistic way, and if the body does not receive adequate amounts of one or the other, the effect is either nullified or reduced greatly.  Alcohol and drug addicts often lack adequate amounts of both vitamins and minerals. Notable minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc and vitamins, such as vitamin C, along with B vitamins are often greatly reduced in an addicts body and diet. Another reason is that addiction throws off the brain and the body’s organs that process and synthesize these nutrients properly.

 

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