It’s not news that abusing substances changes your brain in profound ways. Studies have been conducted showing permanent and short-term effects on brain processes and plasticity (the ability of the brain to change and grow). But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways we can help our brain revert back to its state before the substance abuse started. It’s pretty simple, really, and it starts with one very important aspect of self-care; diet.
Adding Amino Acids to Your Diet
Our brain’s chemistry is a delicate thing. Naturally, our brains produce endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. These are what neuroscientists refer to as “happy chemicals.” The brain releases these chemicals in moderate amounts from stimulation such as eating, engaging in joyful activities, exercise, and sex. However, when we abuse drugs the brain begins producing these chemicals in elevated amounts. Our bodies become accustomed to these higher amounts of chemicals.
The brain will then seek that reward unless we “recalibrate” our levels. This is why relapse is a risk for us. Our brain associated the drug abuse with the high levels of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins and we will seek out those substances to maintain those levels. We can begin to recalibrate our brains by adding amino acids to our diets. Amino acids are organic compounds composed of nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. The nine essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Food for Thought
Adding amino acids into your diet is easier than you may think. Changing your lifestyle is a common necessity when in treatment and recovery and that includes maintaining a healthy diet. Foods that contain all nine essential amino acids are referred to as complete proteins. Complete protein sources include:
Soy, quinoa, and buckwheat are plant-based foods that contain all nine essential amino acids, making them complete protein sources. Other plant-based sources of protein like beans and nuts are considered incomplete, as they lack one or more of the essential amino acids. If you feel that it may be hard for you to get amino acids from your diet alone, there are supplements available over the counter.
If you choose to explore adding amino acid supplements to your diet, it is essential to consult your healthcare provider. Certain amino acids can have an adverse effect on people taking MAO inhibitors.
Amino acids can make the world of a difference in recovery. Without them, our brains can become depleted of neurotransmitters, a condition that is connected to addiction. Creating a healthy and sustainable nutrition program is important in helping your mind, body, and soul heal during your recovery process. But eating a healthy diet with proper nutrition isn’t always easy for everyone. At Avalon Malibu, we have a four-star chef on staff and excel in providing both nutritional intervention and dynamic dietary support. Your health and sustained recovery is of the utmost importance to us. Located on the breathtaking coast of southern California, our world renowned facility offers an extensive menu of modalities that allow us to help you develop a program personalized to your unique needs. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction or maybe at the risk of relapse, do not hesitate to call us now (844) 857-5992.