List Of Foods That Help Manage Drug And Alcohol Cravings

Amritha K

If you think quitting the habit of drinking or using drugs is difficult, you are wrong. Health experts say that after one quits the habit of smoking, alcohol consumption and drug use (minor usage), it is the cravings that cause almost 50 per cent of recovering individuals to relapse [1].

In the initial stages of recovery, the cravings can be unbearable, often resulting in physical irritation and difficulties such as vomiting, dizziness, lack of appetite etc. [2]. For a long-term and complete recovery, proper nutrition and hydration are essential.

Studies have pointed out that drug and alcohol cravings, during recovery can be managed by the help of the right diet and essential nutrients [3].

Alcohol And Drug Craving During Recovery

Individuals who suffer from alcohol addiction crave for alcohol when the blood sugar level drops. This can be managed by eating a sugary snack; while this can help for the moment, one needs to follow a diet that has complex carbohydrates such as a piece of fruit or some cheese that will help keep the blood sugar levels at an even level [4][5].

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Substance abuse also causes the loss of essential amino acids from your body, which can be replenished by consuming foods that also have the ability to manage and eventually reduce your cravings [6].

Excessive use of heroin, alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, speed, ecstasy etc. can lead to the following health (mental and physical) issues [7]:

  • Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS)
  • Depression
  • Low energy
  • Lack of focus
  • Drug cravings
  • Low self-esteem
  • Obsessive/compulsive behaviours
  • Sleep problems
  • Heat intolerance
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Seasonal affective disorder
  • Tensed muscles
  • Mood swings
  • Stress
  • Hypoglycemia

Drug and alcohol abuse causes your body to be unhealthy and lose the necessary nutrients and acids that are required for the proper functioning of your body. Some of the major amino acids you lose are L-Phenylalanine or L-Tyrosine and GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) among various others [8].

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L-phenylalanine is an essential amino acid that the body uses to make L-tyrosine and other transmitters in the brain such as dopamine, epinephrine, serotonin and norepinephrine [9]. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a natural calming and anti-epileptic agent and help make endorphins, the chemicals that make you feel happy [10].

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It has been proven that consuming certain foods can help bring back the lost amino acids and help maintain a healthy balance of your overall bodily functions. Here is a list of foods that can help with drug and alcohol cravings. Take a look.

1. Cayenne Pepper (lal mirchi)

Hot peppers or cayenne peppers help increase your metabolism and stimulate endorphins, which then gets the blood flowing to all the essential areas. Studies have shown that cayenne pepper can help manage alcohol cravings and help reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting and increase your overall appetite [11].

The appetite-inducing ability of this spicy wonder can help reduce alcohol craving and speed-up the process of recovery as reduce appetite and nausea are the primary concerns related to alcohol withdrawal [12].

2. Kava Kava

A herb, kava has been proven to reduce craving associated with cocaine, heroin, alcohol and tobacco addiction [13]. It possesses an active ingredient called kavalactones, which are known to help reduce drug cravings and anxiety [14]. Kava can be consumed in the form of capsules, tea, and tincture form. Experts recommend that the daily dosage of kavalactones should not exceed 250 mg.

3. Milk Thistle (gokhru)

Milk thistle is a herb that has been used to improve liver and gallbladder health. The herb contains active substance silymarin and is an effective herb being used for its anti-alcoholic properties [15]. Apart from controlling cravings, silymarin also helps in organ healing.

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More studies are being carried out to examine if milk thistle can prevent the progress of alcoholic liver disease [16], as it has been shown to manage the symptoms in people with advanced alcoholic liver disease.

4. Dandelion (sinhaparnee)

A cleansing herb, dandelion has been shown to help with alcohol cravings and alcohol withdrawal symptoms [17]. The herb is also beneficial for curbing sugar cravings. You can consume dandelion by adding some in your tea or chopping some fresh dandelion roots into your salad. Consume up to three times a day, steeping 3 to 5 mg of the dried roots [18].

5. St. John’s Wort (choli phulya)

Studies show that St. John's wort is used to treat severe depression as its effect is similar to many prescribed antidepressants [19]. The herbal antidepressant contains a chemical called hyperforin which is directly responsible for reducing alcohol intake and is beneficial for an individual who is recovering [20].

6. Passion Flower (jhumaka lata)

Proven to be beneficial for treating ailments such as anxiety, insomnia and stomach upsets, the flower is helpful against ulcers caused by alcohol [21]. More studies are required to understand the impact the plant has on drug cravings.

7. Kudzu (sural)

Also called Japanese arrowroot, the wild wine contains daidzin, a chemical that has been shown to reduce alcohol cravings. You can consume it as tea or use the tincture in warm water three to five times a day. The standard dose of kudzu root 30 to 150 mg [22].

8. Gingko Biloba (bal kumari)

Ginkgo biloba is mostly used for treating the ailments in older people but is justly beneficial for people of all age groups. Studies have shown that ginkgo biloba supplements can protect against alcohol-induced liver injury by facilitating the reduction of lipid peroxidation [23]. The herb is used for treating withdrawal symptoms of certain drugs and for alcoholism.

9. Ginseng (ashwagandha)

This herb helps reduce the symptoms of alcohol and drug withdrawal and also help manage cravings [24]. Ginseng speeds up metabolism and helps break down alcohol more quickly thus aiding detoxification from alcohol. It also aids in the removal of toxins from the body.

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10. Liquorice (mulethi)

The roots of liquorice have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that can help fight alcohol addiction [25]. Drinking a cup of liquorice tea can help manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

11. Vitamin B

Your body loses vitamin B from drug or alcohol abuse, which is responsible for stabilising the nervous system [26]. Consume supplements or foods rich in B1, B3, B6, and B12 vitamins to help control the craving, while improving your overall health.

Some other herbs and plants that may help manage alcohol and drug cravings during recovery are as follows:

  • Goldenseal
  • Iboga
  • Angelica
  • Skullcap
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Apple
  • Grapes
  • Green tea
  • Amla

On A Final Note…

The aforementioned herbs and remedies are beneficial when the individual is in the recovery process. Please note that these alone will not help you or your loved ones from the dreaded habit of substance abuse. It is important to consult a doctor and discuss the necessary treatment options and speak to them about the use of home remedies.

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