Can Healthy Eating Break Addiction?
Eating more healthily never hurts. But some experts and recovering addicts tell The Fix it has a powerful anti-addiction effect.
Does healthier eating help addicts get clean? It's common knowledge that eating better makes you feel better—and some believe almost anything can be “cured” by a nutritious diet. Making big claims for diet's effects on addiction is controversial. But there are those who swear by this approach: “I do not think I would be sober today if I didn’t try changing my diet,” Anne Robinson, a recovering painkiller and benzo addict from California, tells The Fix. “You have to think of it this way: eating right makes you feel better, and if you’re starting to feel better, you are more likely to stop using drugs, or even be more motivated to try and get sober.”
Research recently published by the Nicotine and Tobacco Research journal found that eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables does help smokers quit the habit. So can that approach find similar success with drug and alcohol addictions? The proposition has some bold backers: “Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is essential for establishing and maintaining sobriety,” nutrition consultant Diane Keddy, MS, RD, FAED, tells us. “Nutrients in the diet are used to make neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood, energy, and cravings. I have worked with recovering people for 27 years and have seen this first-hand."
Whether or not a “sobriety diet” is backed by science, eating healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins has become a way of life for Robinson. “I know, without a shadow of a doubt that this works for me,” she says. “I’m committed to eating this way for the rest of my life, and yeah, it’s challenging at first. But once you get used to it, you just don't want to go back.”