While most providers instinctively know that fresh foods and a diet including lots of fruits and vegetables are best for their patients, there are more nuanced food choices to consider specific to addiction treatment.
Keith Kantor, PhD, nutritionist, says treatment centers should be selecting a menu tailored to avoid stimulating patients’ opioid receptors. For example, sugar and gluten stimulate the receptors, so it is important for those in treatment to avoid high calorie junk foods with low nutritional value.
“What most clinics do now is give their patients healthy food, but they also give them sugar and things that stimulate the opioid receptors,” Kantor says. “And by having that high and low with sugar, the insulin in the body goes up and down, and they get the same feeling as with drugs or alcohol, going up and down. That’s why they often transfer from one addiction to another.”
Kantor also cautions that those with addiction are likely to have acidosis, in which the pH of the body is too acidic. It causes inflammation inside the stomach and gastrointestinal track, near the heart and brain, and it causes exacerbation of various chronic health conditions.
“It causes the insulin mechanism in the body to not work properly, and it can produce cravings for sugar or tell the body to drop the sugar it has, which produces cravings for those who are addicted,” he says.
A menu with choices that have a higher pH can help. For example, alkaline water, which can be purchased, or even water that is left overnight with lemon slices in it, can be a good beverage option. Although it seems counterintuitive, with fresh lemons, the water becomes alkaline when digested.
“If you’re in a program with food that does not stimulate the opioid receptors and gets rid of inflammation, and you’re in an addiction facility, it greatly increases success and reduces the withdrawal and relapse rate,” Kantor says.