In one of the forums where I lecture people on the usefulness of nutrition in the sustainability of good health one of the listeners ask a very important question. She enquired the role of protein intake in the fight against drug addiction. Her concern raised a very healthy discussion and we want to share with you some of the effectiveness of protein in addiction recovery even as we progress in to the discussion. Ideally whenever protein is mentioned what come to your mind is body building and good health it is therefore no doubt that protein is a very essential dietary component for those recovering from addiction. According to the experts at AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center under the able leadership of doctor Dalal Akoury, when poor eating patterns is combined with the use of drugs and alcohol a lot of health complications follows suit including mental, social and physical damage. Doctor Akoury says that the knowledge of this negative impact of the addiction on individuals is very important besides taking time in the proper identification of the modalities of achieving optimal health in during the recovery process. It is from these understanding that we want to take time to look at the physical health problems that addiction creates in the body and how protein can be of help in correcting some of these issues.
Proteins like we have already mention is one of six most essential food nutrients in food which is partially responsible for the structure of all cells, tissues and organs in the body. They are broken down into amino acids, which help in the process of replacing and regenerating all cells. Experts are all in agreement that protein plays a vital role in sustaining life. And this brings us to the next vital question which is “where exactly do we find this valuable nutrient from?” Even though this list may not be exhaustive, the following are some of the great sources of protein you can rely on for your nutrition:
- Meat including all the poultry, red meat, and seafood
- Legumes both dry beans and peas
- Dairy products including milk, cheese and yogurt
- Soy and tofu
- Nuts and seeds
- Some grains e.g., quinoa, whole grains etc.
On average, most people across the globe get enough protein from their diet. Like for instance in the western cultures, there appear to be more than enough quantities of in their diet which often go exceedingly beyond the daily consumption recommendations. According to the experts at AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center, the daily recommendations for dietary protein should be based on weight and physical activity levels. That is to say that for adults they should aim to consume approximately 0.8g of protein per kilogram of their weight. (Weight in kg x 0.8g/kg = protein intake in g). However it is important to appreciate that when looking at the protein and food intake of someone suffering from an addiction, their intake falls below the average. It therefore means that when drugs or alcohol are present in ones’ life, other areas fall short and nutrition is no exception thereby making repair for recovery to become very necessary. And therefore since drugs and alcohol have a harmful effect on many metabolic processes, various organs and systems are greatly affected and need repair in addiction recovery. The following are just but a few of some of the organs that are greatly affected:
The gastrointestinal tract (GIT), also known as the digestive system is one area that is affected by addiction. The GIT transports food to the stomach to be broken down, and into the small intestines where most nutrients are absorbed. The inner part of the GIT is lined with a thin layer of mucous, which protects the outer layers of cells, muscle, blood vessels and nerves.
Mal-absorption is an abnormality causing poor nutrient absorption, can occur in addicts. Chronic alcohol use is one of the major causes of a folate deficiency, as it impairs the uptake of folate in the intestines. The bigger problem with most alcoholics is that their diets are weak and limited in many food nutrients including folate. It will interest you to note that folate deficiencies alter the intestines normal physiological role of absorbing other vitamins and minerals. Besides that the other characteristic of mal-absorption is diarrhea, which accelerates the excretion of nutrients and limits their absorption. This combination of factors culminates to mal-absorption, which eventually leads to malnutrition. Doctor Akoury recommends that for a better solution to this condition, sobriety is very essential in helping reverse these damages in the gastrointestinal tract, as the toxic effect of alcohol causes this chain reaction. In addition, providing extra nourishment, from protein can help to accelerate the recovery from the effects of mal-absorption.
A common, yet painful occurrence in alcoholism is gastro esophageal reflux or heartburn. Stomach acid is very potent, and can dissolve a nail! Alcohol relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscle that separates the esophagus and the stomach. When relaxed, stomach acid rises up into the esophagus. In severe alcoholism, chronic alcohol use can create tears in the esophagus causing esophageal varicosities. In addition, alcohol causes direct damage to the esophageal mucosa (a thin protective layer of mucous in the gastrointestinal tract). As with all damage in the body, protein is an important element of the healing process.
As discussed previously, food and nutrition is not a high priority for most addicts. They are normally lazy in preparing meals for themselves. Full meals can interfere with the ‘high’, and cause unpleasant side effects when mixed with alcohol or drugs. When using drugs or alcohol, appetite is suppressed and most addicts skip at least one meal a day. Others can go for hours to days without eating and without food the source of fuel for our body is limited, causing the body to fall back on stored energy supplies to sustain energy. And before you knew such individual will be starving causing the body to rely on glycogen stores, which are located in our muscles and liver. When addicts restrict their food intake and ‘starve’ their bodies, they continuously exhaust glycogen stores which deplete and reduces lean muscle mass. This is one of the major causes of weight loss during the addiction. In recovery, it is important to rebuild strength and muscle, to support a healthy lifestyle for recovery. Protein and exercise are essential in preserving and rebuilding muscle mass, as well as increasing energy levels in recovery.
Finally doctor Akoury reiterates that the effectiveness of protein in addiction recovery is a very healthy way of solving the problems of substance abuse and should be embraced by all standards. Therefore if you or any one you know is struggling with addiction doctor Akoury is more than willing to help you through the whole process if only you can schedule for an appointment with her today.