Around the world, rivers of ink have run in the struggle to study, understand, prevent and avoid the problems of drug addiction; documentaries, films, television series, books and many other media have been presented to show the reality of addicts, especially those who are taken from the streets and sent to rehabilitation, where they can recover their lives and return to a society of which they once felt excluded.
Both drugs and alcohol damage the natural chemistry of the body through sedatives, stimulants or powerful depressants, for example cocaine excessively stimulates the body's functions, while heroin depresses it, decreasing the heart rate and respiratory rate; alcohol initially has a stimulating effect, but in large quantities, depresses the body, decreasing respiration. After a long period of consumption of these substances, the human body loses the ability to produce the natural chemicals that we obtain through emotions, such as love, sexual satisfaction or, my favorite, Food - emotions are then only obtained through the consumption of substances that produce those artificially.
For this reason, when an addict tries to quit drugs they may feel an inability to pleasure or fall into a very deep Depression due to the inability of their body to respond to natural emotions - a phenomenon known as anhedonia. The cause of the appearance of anhedonia from a physiological point of view is due to an alteration in our brain that inhibits the secretion of dopamine, which is a chemical that is found in the brain and that is the cause of pleasurable sensations. During depressive or stressful situations or anxiety, the brain is ‘blocked’ and unable to properly secrete this substance. This same depression is what drives addicts to re-use drugs or alcohol, so treatment for depression is one of the first steps to rehabilitation and for the recovery to be long-term, the importance of treatment lies in physical and psychological issues. Whether the cause of anhedonia is depression or drug addiction, it will be necessary to do a specific treatment for each case.
Oftentimes, an effective and complementary treatment for the intervention of depression and addiction is food. During the period of addiction the body burns vital nutrients and, because many addicts neglect proper nutrition, it’s common to lack vitamins and minerals. Similarly, addicts may have very long periods without adequate sleep and may lose their appetite completely, while marijuana addicts may suffer weight gain due to overeating (mainly comfort foods with little to no nutritional value). These behaviors reflect nutritional depletion, which may exacerbate the symptoms, so it is necessary to recover healthy eating habits and positive life habits to cleanse the toxic effects of drugs.
There is a close relationship between the mind and the state of the intestine. On the one hand, there is the cognitive component of food: eating is a conscious, educable and voluntary act. According to how we have eaten throughout life, education received nutritional and our environment, we will have a type of food or another. In the intestine there are a lot of healthy neurons and bacteria that maintain their proper functioning. The set of these bacteria are known as microbes. It’s very interesting to see that there is a high production of serotonin at the intestinal level. In fact, a lot of the serotonin in our body is found in our intestines (Mawe, 2013). Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep schedules, mood, feeling satiated and appetite. For this reason, the intestine is called the "second brain". Finally of course, the intestine is the gateway for nutrients to the body. If it is not in good condition, there will be no good absorption and health further issues may arise, such as vitamin deficits or immune reactions, which may aggravate mental health. In this context, certain vitamins, amino acid minerals and essential fatty acids help fight the symptoms.
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In addition to intervening in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, vitamin C helps counteract the negative effects produced by stress, nervousness, anxiety or exhaustion. Good doses of this vitamin keep the body in good condition and prevent diseases by improving the immune system (Lee et al, 2001). Among the main Foods Rich in vitamin C are: peppers, oranges and grapefruits; strawberries, pineapples, papayas, guava, kiwi, fresh parsley, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.
|Nutrition and Depression: The Role of Folate (Alpert and Fava, 1997)|
Studies have linked the folic acid deficit with the appearance of depressive states. A diet rich in this component can help treat depression since this vitamin is able to increase serotonin levels (DeLong et al, 2014). Among the foods richest in folic acid are the group of dark green vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, spinach, chard, asparagus, borage, avocado, etc. Legumes such as chickpeas or lentils are also rich in folates. Other foods rich in this component are: cashews, oats, oranges, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, apples, pears, potatoes, etc.
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Among the main amino acids we have tryptophan, an amino acid considered the best natural relaxant and precursor of serotonin. Foods with this component are mainly foods that contain proteins, such as legumes, soybeans, tofu, beans, etc., cereals and nuts; as well as fruits and vegetables such as garlic, onions, cashews, cabbage, pumpkins, chestnuts, citrus in general, tomatoes, figs, mango, etc.
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Phenylalanine is another amino acid that is responsible for maintaining our state of mind, increasing the level of endorphins in our body. In this way, ingesting food with phenylalanine can help reduce some symptoms of depression and Alzheimer's. Sunflower seeds are very rich in phenylalanine and other essential amino acids that help the nervous system to function properly (Yu et al, 2017).
|Types of Fat | Harvard University|
The nervous system is made up of fats responsible for the nerve connections between neurons. Providing these nutrients in the diet has been shown to help improve symptoms of depression and prevent certain types of nerve disorders. Ingesting fatty acids such as Omega 3 can help maintain mental balance, avoid depression, improve concentration, or help in the treatment of diseases such as schizophrenia or hyperactivity. The richest foods are nuts, which are also rich in choline, a vitamin that helps the formation of neurotransmitters. Other non-vegetarian sources are blue fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel, etc.). Like Omega 3, Omega 6 is an essential fatty acid necessary for the proper functioning of the nervous system. Seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, pips and sunflower oil are foods rich in omega 6 (Grosso et al, 2014).
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Calcium and magnesium are involved in the production of neurotransmitters, which makes them suitable for treating anhedonia and depressive states. Foods rich in calcium are citrus fruits, seeds (especially sesame), dried fruit (especially dried apricots), and some fruits such as figs, coconut, apples, mango, bananas, avocados and almonds. On its part, magnesium is involved in the relaxation of muscles and is suitable for reducing stress. In addition, clinical trials, such as this study published by the University of Vermont have shown that a deficiency of this mineral in the body can cause lack of appetite, apathy, irritability, sadness, changing mood, insomnia, lack of concentration, etc.We can conclude that the safe and responsible supplementation of magnesium/magnesium chloride, helps restore central nervous system functions and balances the levels of dopamine and serotonin, two of the neurotransmitters related to the person's mood, which makes it very helpful in the treatment of anxiety and other mood disorders. Foods rich in magnesium are legumes (chickpeas, lentils, etc.), seeds, nuts, hazelnuts and vegetables (especially green leafy ones). Finally, potassium helps calm the nervous system and helps fight depression. Foods rich in potassium are bananas, legumes, nuts, peanuts, artichokes, etc. Finally, foods that contain lithium are dairy, eggs, fish, tomatoes, mushrooms, beets, cucumbers, cabbage and whole grains (Majewski et al, 2015).
Note: Of course, food is not an end to the issue, but just one of the many crucial components and treatments that the addict -or anyone for that matter- must partake in order to achieve the recovery of self-confidence and self-respect, and rebuilding relationships while leading a healthier life.
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