How Nutrition Affects Mental Health and Addiction

Mental health plays a major role in everyday life. Your brain uses neurotransmitters to control your feelings and bodily functions. When neurotransmitters are not consistently being produced or are unbalanced, mental disorders become more probable. A common mental disorder is addiction. Addiction is a chronic brain disorder that causes repetitive compulsive behavior or a need for substances. Oftentimes, nutrition plays a role in neurotransmitter malfunction. If you’re suffering with addiction, it may have a correlation to what you eat everyday.

Addiction and Nutrition

Proper nutrition can help with neurotransmitter function. When you eat a well-balanced diet, it contributes to a better mood and less desire for substance abuse. This is especially true for people suffering from alcohol and drug abuse. During alcohol and drug use, you actually consume less food, which makes it harder to absorb the nutrients necessary to regulate brain activity. Marijuana use encourages you to eat more food, however, frequent marijuana users typically don’t make healthy eating choices. Your body also burns more energy during drug and alcohol use, as well as increases the probability of vomiting and diarrhea, making your body lose more nutrients. 

Outside of substance abuse, not eating enough also contributes to poor mental function and causes higher stress levels. Stress leads to other symptoms, including fatigue, paranoia, and depression. Without intervention, this becomes a never-ending cycle. 

To take control of your mental capacity, which will subsequently help with beating addiction, you must practice healthier eating habits. In fact, many recovery programs emphasize the importance of nutrition. Eating properly will give you the mental capacity to follow through with your recovery process with a lower chance of relapsing. 

Foods to Help Mental Health and Battle Substance Abuse

A major component of balancing neurotransmitters and improving mental health are eating foods that boost serotonin levels. Serotonin is a hormone that has a calming effect and prevents depression. To increase serotonin levels, you should eat a diet filled with carbohydrate-rich foods. Consuming starchy foods like pasta and bread are great for increasing serotonin. Root vegetables like carrots and potatoes should also be incorporated into your diet. 

Be sure to also incorporate protein into your diet for a healthy recovery. Protein is great for building muscle but also has a positive impact on healthy brain function. Protein-rich foods produce a number of natural brain chemicals like dopamine that are responsible for mood and concentration. When your brain produces enough dopamine, you have more control of your emotional responses, making it easier to kick addiction. To increase your protein intake, you can include eggs, lean beef, and dairy into your diet. If you prefer plant-based protein sources, you can eat vegetables including sprouting broccoli, asparagus, and artichokes. 

For healthy brain function, there are things that should be eliminated from your diet. For instance, avoiding processed foods with a high sugar content will encourage better brain function and better emotional patterns. Lots of addicts replace their substances with coffee because it’s a stimulant, which is not a good idea as coffee also impacts mood. You should also make sure that you’re properly hydrated at all times. People suffering with alcohol and substance addiction often struggle with dehydration. Your body also uses a lot of energy during the detoxification process, so regularly replenishing bodily fluids will help restore your energy as you get clean.  


It is important to understand that detoxing from drug and alcohol addiction requires you to eat more food to absorb more of the nutrients necessary for adequate brain function. You should also exercise and get more rest to help your body and mind repair itself during recovery. If you are someone who has additional underlying mental health issues that are causing you to abuse drugs and alcohol, it is important to get professional help. Having someone to help you find healthy alternatives will help you on your journey to achieving sobriety and maintaining it. 
If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance abuse disorder reach out to us. Living NRhythm provides addiction counseling, housing, and rehabilitation. We can help you retake control of your life, don’t delay.

We are here to help those affected by Covid-19. If you need support during this time, book a teletherapy session or an online wellness check-in with us.

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