gut health in addiction recovery

How Caring for Your Gut Health Can Impact Addiction and Recovery

The gut and the brain are two critical organs in the body. While they are far apart, they share a close connection. Metabolic and neural crosstalk between the gut and brain impacts brain function, mood and behavior. And now, a growing body of research suggests that gut microbiome composition may be associated with substance use disorders. 

If it’s true that the gut can influence your predisposition to substance use disorders, and play a role in drug cravings, then it’s also true that a healthy gut can help you heal from addiction.

Let’s learn more about this interesting connection and how caring for your gut health can make a big difference in your recovery. 

What is the Gut Microbiome? 

The gut microbiome consists of trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. Apart from aiding digestion, destroying harmful bacteria, and controlling your immune system, gut health has also been linked to various physical and mental health conditions. 

Recent research has shown that the gut microbiome may also influence addiction by affecting the way the brain processes rewards and behavior. For instance, neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and GABA regulate mood, behavior and other physiological processes in the brain. Imbalances in these chemicals have been linked to addiction and other mental health conditions. 

How Does the Gut Microbiome Affect Addiction? 

Studies have found that certain strains of bacteria in the gut microbiome can influence the production of dopamine, serotonin and GABA, potentially increasing the risk of addiction. Dopamine, specifically, has been classically associated with addiction because it reinforces the effects of drugs and alcohol. It may also trigger neurobiological changes associated with addiction. 

Inflammation is another concerning issue. Inflammation in the body has been linked to various health conditions, including addiction. Even though inflammation plays a role in protecting your body, too much inflammation can be a problem. The gut microbiome plays a key role in regulating inflammation in the body, and imbalances can lead to chronic inflammation, which can increase addiction. 

Furthermore, the gut-brain axis, which refers to the communication network between the gut and the brain, may also play a role in substance use disorders. Studies have found that changes in the gut can lead to changes in the brain’s reward system. This can impact your susceptibility to addiction. 

How to Improve Gut Health in Recovery 

To protect your recovery, it’s important to improve your gut health. Doing this can help you feel better, make it easier to make good decisions, and reduce your risk of relapse. Here are some tips for improving your gut microbiome in addiction recovery: 

  • Eat a diverse range of foods
  • Focus on fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes
  • Add fermented foods to your diet 
  • Eat prebiotic foods 
  • Increase your intake of probiotics
  • Exercise often 
  • Reduce stress levels 

Holistic Treatment for Substance Use Disorders 

While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between gut health and addiction, there are steps you can take to improve your gut health and lower your risk for relapse. Fortunately, this is what self-care is about! Eating healthy foods, getting enough exercise, and sleeping well at night. 

If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction or relapse, contact Awakenings Treatment Center. We are an intensive outpatient treatment center that offers holistic care. We believe in treating the whole self – mind, body and spirit – for complete healing and restoration. As a client of ours, you will learn how to restore your gut health and lead a healthier life. 

Start your life-changing journey today!