Food choices in addiction recovery

The wrong food choices can increase your state of anxiety, stress and inability to sleep and function. In addition to caffeine and sugar, what food should you avoid in addiction recovery? We explore here.

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Addiction is a mental condition

What is the goal of therapy for addictions?  When dealing with addiction, the emphasis on recovery is healing the mind. Mental health is important. However, there are many aspects to what makes a person whole. And when you are making an addiction aftercare plan, food is a piece of the puzzle that can sometimes be overlooked. “You are what you eat,” is an extremely accurate motto.

When my husband was using drugs, I was not eating. I was drinking a lot of coffee. When he was “okay” I would eat. When I was in a rush dealing with his episodes I would grab convenience food like bagels or French fries and soda, anything to give me a quick fix so I could keep moving.

I was once very concerned with what I ate, and how I ate, but I noticed, food became less important as my co-addiction grew. I stopped caring about what I ate. I never felt right, I was tired and moody and angry. I blamed it all on my husband’s addiction and the crisis’ we were going through, but that was only partially true.  And while part of treating food cravings is about education, the other is about options.

Energy and mood

How could I have energy if I was not eating at all, drinking no water, tons of caffeine, and binging on packaged foods? So what are the top foods you should avoid in addiction recovery?

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1. Caffeine, whether in soda, energy drinks, coffee, tea, chocolate or packaged goods, affects your adrenal glands. Caffeine, especially when ingested in high doses, triggers a stress response and causes a quick high. It forces you to dump insulin into your bloodstream, causing the need to ingest sugar, and in turn, sets you up for craving and binging all day. Caffeine may increase cravings for more food like sugar, and carbohydrates. Caffeine affects your mood. The highs result in lows throughout the day which may cause a less balanced, and calm mood. The more caffeine you drink, the more you may crave. This can create a roller coaster effect with your emotions.

2. Sugar, in any form, may causes blood sugar swings, cravings, mood swings, digestive issues, and increase the risk of yeast overgrowth in the colon and throughout the body.

3. Packaged foods are laced with chemicals, MSG, and addictive substances that may be linked to behavioral disorders, the inability to concentrate and certain cancers, to name a few. If a food has a shelf life of three years then what do you think your body must go through to digest it? If your body is taxed with the digestion of “food” that are not natural how does that affect other processes in the body?

4. Fast food. Binging on fast foods, because you can’t find the time or energy to cook, may be digestively clogging, constipating, laced with sugar, chemicals, high sodium and low quality of food, and nutritionally poor. You may find yourself even more tired and with less energy.

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Do Your Own Experiment

Take notice to how you feel when you spend a day eating healthier, whole and home cooked foods and a lot of fresh water compared to when you start the day with a lot of caffeine, and eat packaged and processed foods.

Take notice that the more you eat healthier and the less taxed your body will becomes, the more stable your blood sugar, as well as other processes in the body, will be, which may result in calmer and less erratic behavior patterns.

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Food choices are connected to outcomes

If you are going through emotional trauma or living in an upsetting situation, the wrong food choices may only increase your state of anxiety, stress and inability to sleep and function. It is understandable how hard it is to focus on cooking or making healthy food choices when you are in a constant state of worry, however, these choices may affect how you are handling this situation in a negative way.

For example, if you are upset about your wife’s drug use last night and you have not slept, then you drink 3 or 4 cups of coffee to stay awake, you will increase your stress response—and thus feel more on edge, angry and tense. Odd are you will have less ability to calm down and deal with the situation in a better way.

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Even if you are in a rush or do not feel like eating, finding some quick ways to make better food choices, may help you to feel better in the long run. With less up and down mood swings, and a calmer approach, you may be able to handle your situation in more productive way. With a sense of well-being, it may be easier to not allow the troubles in your life to consume you.

About the author
Amanda Andruzzi, MPH, AADP, CHES, is a Certified Health Coach, founder of Symptom-Free Wellness, and the author of Hope Street. Her first book, Hope Street memoir is an inspirational story of one woman's frightening journey of co-addiction that led her to uncover courage, unbelievable strength and overcome great adversity. She resides with her daughter, husband, and two sons in Florida.


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  1. Judith,
    You just made my point, the addiction to sugar is what causes the mood swings. Caffeine, in excess can cause anxiety, panic and exacerbate those conditions. You just made my second point, you are talking about how to use food to help with emotional pain. Addicts just replace one addiction with another sometimes. That is the point of creating a healthy lifestyle, nutrition plays a part in that, it can help regulate mood and seratonin, it can also hurt it.
    You do not know what you are talking about, my career as a nutrition expert has really helped me understand the food-mood connection.
    Amanda Andruzzi, published author, Hope Street, a memoir from the wife of an addict
    View the video book trailer:

  2. Your information is basically erroneous . Sugar intake does not cause mood swings but increased serotonin synthesis and thus calms the mood. When the effect wears off and more serotonin needs to be made, then the bad mood returns ( like pain after a pain reliever has worn off). Caffeine is small quantities may offset the fatigue caused by dopamine inactivity ( due to receptor insensitivity because of alcohol intake). Of course complex carbohydrates should be substituted for food but it is too bad that your advice leaves the irritable recovering alcoholic devoice of foods that will help emotional pain. (author: Managing your mind and mood through food. )

  3. Thanks for your comment Anthony! Addiction is a disease that is complicated and hasn’t components. A multifaceted spproach is crucial and nutrition is a key part of it. Everything you eat eventually gets absorbed and is used to make up your blood and cells. If you are made up of junk food you will probably feel like junk.
    Amanda Andruzzi

  4. Food is another type of addiction but it may even be more difficult to recover from because it is so socially acceptable and you have to eat to live. You can avoid drugs and alcohol but you cannot avoid eating.
    There are many interventions but just like every addiction the person has to be ready, committed and want it. Success is different for everyone so don’t be disappointed if you feel like you have failed, just try another way until something works.

  5. Thank you for sharing your contact information, FA representative! We hope that this can help people in recovery from substances and those that relate to food addiction. Many thanks!

  6. Many people find help in Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous. Some of us have been diagnosed as morbidly obese while others are undereaters. Among us are those who were severely bulimic, who have harmed themselves with compulsive exercise, or whose quality of life was impaired by constant obsession with food or weight. We tend to be people who, in the long-term, have failed at every solution we tried, including therapy, support groups, diets, fasting, exercise, and in-patient treatment programs.

    FA has over 500 meetings throughout the United States in large and small cities such as Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Charlotte, Grand Rapids, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Austin, and Washington, D.C. Internationally, FA currently has groups in England, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and Australia. If you would like more information about FA, please check out our website at www [dot] foodaddicts [dot] org. If there aren’t any meetings in your area, you can contact the office by emailing fa at foodaddicts [dot] org, where someone will help you.

  7. After You did all the work DETOXING don’t set yourself of for FAILURE in the END ZONE!!! I almost did that this time around, I learned my LESSON WELL. LIVE & PROSPER Enjoy your New life.

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