Top 7 Foods to Eat to Ease Opioid Withdrawal
The opioid epidemic is one of the most severe public health crises facing the United States. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), nearly three million Americans have opioid addiction — that doesn’t include the thousands that succumb to their drug abuse annually.
For many, detoxing from opioid use is exceedingly difficult, requiring an integrative approach to renew one’s health without opioid dependence — that means improving your diet to ease withdrawal.
While there are numerous ways you can alter your diet to better cope with the effects of any drug withdrawals, here are seven foods to eat in opioid addiction recovery.
Although water isn’t food, per se, hydration is critical when coming off opioids. Although your body naturally loses fluids through sweating and urinating, many people coming off opioids experience those symptoms, plus diarrhea and vomiting. This results in an increased risk of dehydration.
Drinking enough water ensures your body functions correctly and can flush out residual toxins from the drugs. Men should try to drink the recommended 15.5 cups daily, while women should have 11.5 cups — of course, it wouldn’t hurt to drink more.
If you’re struggling to consume enough water, consider infusing your drink with lemon and oranges, setting an hour timer, sipping on soups and broths or eating more water-based foods like watermelon, celery and cucumber.
- Whole Grains
Whole grains are also crucial for staying hydrated, increasing the body’s ability to absorb and retain water. Oatmeal, multigrain bread, flax seeds and brown rice contain ample fiber for more consistent bowel movements.
Complex carbohydrates also keep you satiated, with mood-boosting properties that improve your mental health and cognition.
Although eating too many carbohydrates isn’t the best for you, whole grains are essential to a balanced, nutritious diet.
- Leafy Green Vegetables
Filling your plate with superfoods, such as leafy greens like kale, spinach and collards, is an excellent way to ease opioid withdrawal. Indeed, you’ve heard that the bolder and more brightly colored vegetables are, the more enriched they are with essential vitamins and minerals — they’re also high in fiber.
Leafy greens help stabilize your blood sugar levels, which could otherwise increase your irritability and anxiety. They also contain vitamins A, B and C, magnesium, iron, potassium and calcium — essential to those recovering from addiction.
Some sea vegetables, like seaweed, have anti-inflammatory properties that enhance gut health and stimulate detoxification.
- Healthy Fats
Healthy, unsaturated fats promote efficient vitamin absorption and reduced inflammation while ensuring hormones remain balanced.
Omega-3s are prime examples of healthy fats you should eat more of — they can be found in salmon, flax seeds and walnuts, among other foods and can help stabilize your moods and brain health.
Nuts and seeds also contain high levels of magnesium and zinc for optimal cognitive performance. Magnesium, in particular, is an electrolyte that can decrease feelings of nausea and improve your nerve and muscular functioning — which are common symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
- Various Teas
Believe it or not, various teas are beneficial during opioid addiction recovery. In addition to helping you stay hydrated, some teas relieve digestive discomfort.
For example, ginger tea contains medicinal properties to ease opioid withdrawals in the following ways:
- Helps decrease nausea and vomiting
- May relieve inflammation and muscle soreness
- Stabilizes blood sugar levels
- Reduces abdominal pain
- Lowers blood pressure
Other studies have shown that white tea may improve your liver function. This is because its processing is minimal compared to black or green teas, enabling it to hold onto most of its flavonol and flavone glycosides and amino acids.
Of course, green tea has some of the most health benefits that can make addiction recovery less uncomfortable. Green tea contains anti-oxidative properties that enhance one’s alertness and improve digestion and headaches. Studies have also suggested that green tea protects you against cancer and heart disease.
There’s evidence of protein aiding tissue repair and helping to rebuild muscles, including after substance abuse. Protein also balances blood sugar and increases satiety — an excellent way to prevent grazing snacks during recovery.
What makes protein one of the best foods to eat in opioid addiction recovery is its high amino acids, which promote dopamine and serotonin production in the brain. Increasing these brain chemicals can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.
Although you can get protein from eggs, seafood, poultry and other animal meats and byproducts, plant-based sources include beans, lentils, Greek yogurts and soy products like tofu or edamame.
A list of top foods for opioid withdrawals wouldn’t be complete without berries. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and acai are superfoods that make opioid addiction recovery easier on your body.
The benefits of increasing your berry consumption include the following:
- Improved cognition
- Decreased inflammation throughout the body
- Better digestion, thanks to their high fiber content
- Weight management
- Lowered blood pressure
- Healthier gut
Due to their naturally sweet flavor, berries can also reduce cravings for sugary foods.
You Can Ease Opioid Withdrawals With a Healthy Diet
Food is often considered medicine for the body and a well-rounded, nutritious diet can help ease some of the symptoms of opioid withdrawals. Consider eating these top foods in opioid addiction recovery, and remember to stay hydrated.
Beth is the Managing Editor and content manager at Body+Mind. She shares knowledge on a variety of topics related to nutrition, healthy living, and anything food-related. In her spare time, Beth enjoys trying out new fitness trends and recipes.