The Importance of Nutrition for Methadone Detoxification
Effects of Methadone
Methadone is a synthetic morphine. Incredibly addictive and detrimental to health and well-being, this drug has been prescribed for the past thirty years to help addicts get off of heroin, and other opioid drugs. More recently, it has been given to patients in cases of severe pain, as a treatment for relief. Due to the upsurge in the use of this drug, methadone-related deaths have skyrocketed. According to reports by the Centers for Disease Control, from 1999 until 2006, they rose from just under one thousand to over five thousand per year.
Methadone has a negative effect, more so the longer it is taken. It blocks the absorption of nutrients, causing the body to slowly lose its ability to function properly. Symptoms such as insomnia, poor mental function, chronic fatigue and irritability are common signs.
Not only does this drug affect nutrient absorption, but it also inhibits normal neurotransmitter production. The body can not create brain chemicals, such as serotonin. The glandular system is affected, which is probably the reason that methadone leads to fatigue — the adrenal cortex is not functioning properly. Opiate receptors are also affected, which is why aches and pains are associated with withdrawal.
The process of returning the body to a state of health can take weeks, or months. Taking the necessary nutrition for methadone detoxification is a way to give the body the tools that it needs to find harmony again. The body has been in an extreme state of discord, whether methadone is taken as an alternative for a heroin addiction, or for pain relief. An extreme approach to health is the appropriate response. Although healthy eating is necessary, always withdraw from methadone with the help of a health care practitioner as well.
Taking nutritional supplements can begin before methadone withdrawal begins. Some health care professionals give patients intravenous nutrition to start, because of the difficulty an addict’s body has in absorbing nutrition. During the detox period, and even afterwards, add extra vitamin C to the diet. Vitamin C is necessary for regeneration, immune health, and for the production of the stress hormone, nor-adrenaline. It also acts as a powerful antioxidant, reducing inflammation and protecting cells. Buffered ascorbic acid crystals, such as Ester-C, are an excellent, more readily absorbable way to take this way vitamin.
For brain health, and the well-being of cell membranes, essential fatty acids are vital. Take one tablespoon, twice daily of either flax seed oil, or hemp seed oil. Also, include a multivitamin in the diet. Look for a natural supplement, made with herbs or food; the less processed, the easier for the body to absorb.
Amino Acids and Protein
One of the most important factors of proper nutrition after methadone use is amino acids. They are the building blocks of protein, which are needed for the formation of the majority of body tissue. Essentially, to regenerate neurotransmitters and receptors, opiate receptors, healthy muscle, skin, and organ tissue, sufficient protein is needed.
Eat plenty of lean protein sources, avoiding red meat completely. Red meat will make pain and inflammation worse than it already may be. Focus on chicken and turkey, which are rich in protein, and valuable amino acids such as tryptophan, which are necessary to fend off depression. Eggs, fish, nuts, tofu, and whole grains should also be eaten for amino acids.
Try eating a variety of protein sources throughout the day. For example, eggs for breakfast, a turkey breast sandwich on whole grain bread for lunch, a piece of fish with brown rice or quinoa for dinner, and snack on almonds or walnuts throughout the day.
Grains are an essential source of amino acids, but also of fiber, minerals, and the B-complex vitamins. Avoid white flour products as much as possible, as they are almost bereft of nutrition, and are more likely to disturb healthy absorption and blood sugar levels. Eat only whole grains—oats, wheat bread and pasta, buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, brown rice, barley and rye. Try incorporating five or six servings per day.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables are also a necessary part of a healthy detox diet. Eat raw or mildly cooked whenever possible, for the maximum amount of nutrition and enzymes. Fruits and vegetables will supply both water and fiber for cleansing, enzymes for healthy digestion and body functioning, and a range of vitamins and minerals. Eat plenty of bananas and peaches for magnesium, mineral and essential fatty acid-rich avocados, bioflavonoid-rich berries and citrus, and fortifying garlic, cabbage and broccoli. Drink cleansing juices, such as fresh carrot juice, pineapple, tomato, and apple. Try a daily cucumber-watermelon smoothie to support the liver throughout the detoxification process.
Be sure to include nutrient-rich, cleansing and calming teas. Nettles is an excellent, easily absorbable source of vitamin A, C, K, B-vitamins, chlorophyll, calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, potassium, zinc and trace minerals. It also helps cleanse the blood naturally. Drink a cup of nettles tea every day, and calming, nurturing oatstraw tea at the end of the day to prevent insomnia. Red clover, echinacea, dandelion, lemongrass and valerian are all excellent herbal teas to drink while detoxing.
Foods to Avoid
During the withdrawal process, there are many foods that should be avoided. They actually slow the healing process, inhibit nutrient absorption, and make the body sluggish.
- Red meat
- Processed foods
- Sugary foods; candy
- White flour products
- Fried foods
Focusing on nutrition for methadone detoxification is a method of hope for many people who are dependent on this drug. Be patient, determined, and positive, and give the body and mind a chance to heal. Just as with a drug, the body will eventually will falter, with a healthy diet, eventually it will thrive.
Boyles, Salynn. “CDC: Alarming Increase in Methadone Deaths.” (WebMD, September 30, 2009). <webmd.com/pain-management/news/20090930/alarming-increase-in-methadone-deaths>.
Arneson, David, MD. “Detox and Nutrition for Opiate/Methadone Addicts.” (Med Help). <medhelp.org/tags/health_page/216/Nutrition/Detox-and-Nutrition-for-Opiate-Methadone-Addicts?hp_id=55>.
Page, Linda. “Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone, 11th Edition” (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).
photo by: Satoru Kikuchi (CC/flickr) <flickr.com/photos/satoru_kikuchi/4214787005/>.
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