Cavemen in Recovery: The Benefits of a Paleo Diet For Recovering Addicts
Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “going native.” The idea is that a person decides to shed their habits, beliefs and traditions in order take on the cultural traits of whatever geographical location they’re in. Adopting a Paleo Diet, which entails following the eating habits of some of our oldest ancestors, might then be considered “going all the way native.”
There’s a growing consensus among addiction recovery experts, as well as from individuals recovering from substance addiction themselves, that a Paleo-diet dovetails seamlessly with a sober, active and healthy lifestyle. In fact, some claim, that a balanced Paleo-diet can even reduce cravings that occur in the brain.
The Paleolithic era spans from 2.6 million years ago to roughly 10,000 years before our present time. During this period, humans congregated in small bands or societies. Their diets consisted of gathered plants, fish and wild animals they hunted.
What are the Basics of the Paleo Diet?
- Eat moderate amounts of lean animal protein; red meat, poultry, eggs, fish, pork, pasture raised or grass-fed if possible
- Generous amounts of saturated fats; avocado, macadamia nuts, olive oil, and even butter
- Large portions of fresh or frozen vegetables, either raw or prepared with fat (organic and locally grown vegetables if possible)
- Smaller portions of nuts and fruits, particularly fruits that are lower in sugar and higher in nutrients, such as berries
- Cut out cereal grains; wheat, rye, barley, corn etc.
- Eliminate sugar, both natural and artificial
- No dairy, aside from butter
- Sleep at least 8 hours a night
The full-size infographic can also found here.
The Paleo Diet, Blood Sugar, and Exercise
Many suffering from dependency issues have blood sugar problems because alcohol, in particular, impairs pancreatic function that destabilizes blood sugar levels. One consequence of blood sugar fluctuation is severe mood swings. There is also clinical evidence that suggests sugar cravings are a precursor to substance abuse. A balanced and nutritional diet can aid in alleviating shifting blood sugar levels, and limit cravings.
Additionally, the Paleo diet minimizes the production of insulin and inflammation in the body. This means fewer aches and pains from swollen joints, and quicker recovery after exercise or injuries.
When it comes to exercise, the Paleo community views exercise as a way of incorporating natural movement into your entire day and lifestyle.
Exercise promotes good heart health, a better immune system, and an overall increase in quality of life. Just as our ancestors didn’t have access to exercise machines and cardio programs, we should look for natural movement exercises such as hiking, swimming, and running.
While “Crossfit” is popular among Paleo devotees, other strength and conditioning programs are also ideal.
There are many valuable Paleo resources online, from cookbooks to websites, such as Paleo Leap, to forums and communities where devotees ask questions and discuss the lifestyle.
A Paleo lifestyle might not exactly fit the needs of everyone recovering from substance abuse. A holistic approach to recovery, though, treating both mind and the body, which by extension includes diet, has proven beneficial to being happier and healthier day to day. As with all dietary programs, it’s always best to check with your doctor before starting something new.
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