Is Nutrition the Missing Piece of the Puzzle to Your Recovery?

In my clinical experience, patients arriving at a Drug Rehab Clinic or clients to my private practice often come with the mindset…”fix my addiction, my head, my urges, my cravings” the last thing on their mind is the importance of good nutrition let alone eating a wholesome meal for the first time in days, weeks, sometimes months. Something to consider:  Does a nutrient deficiency cause addictive behaviour? Or does addictive behaviour contribute to nutrient deficiencies? Either way, it is my strong belief that a lack of proper nutrients is, in my opinion, the root cause of most, if not all addictions.

What initially causes a nutrient deficiency?  Could it stem from pre-birth?  A birthing mother who is/was already toxic and in dysbiosis (a condition where pathogens outnumber gut friendly microbes in the birth canal ex. overgrowth of yeast). The first few years of life may include:  C-Section birth; Short-term or no breast milk feeding; Exposure to vaccinations and antibiotics before immune maturity.  These factors may have direct connections to nutrient deficiency and compromised immune function.  As a result, food and environmental allergies occur, nutrient absorption is decreased, and low levels of healthy gut flora are unable to produce neurotransmitters which are essential for cognitive health and brain chemistry, amongst many other factors. Medications to treat brain chemistry further leads to nutrient deficiency, which compounds over time.

In order to combat these deficiencies we need to address a few key items:

  • Re-establish a diverse ecosystem of gut friendly microbes in the whole body microbiome, by supplementing with probiotics, eating fermented foods such as kimchee, sauerkraut, Miso soup, kefir (organic and unsweetened), kombucha, and algae from the sea all contribute to re-population of good bacteria.
  • Eliminate likely food allergens from the diet: dairy, wheat (gluten and most grains) soy, and peanuts. By doing so, the immune system isn’t combatting these allergens.
  • Choosing local, wholesome unprocessed foods and eating healthy fats from sources such as wild Atlantic salmon, avocado, coconut (& oil), nuts and seeds to improve cognitive capacity and cellular function.
  • Support neurotransmitters by supplementing with amino acids: 5-HTPÞserotonin; Tyrosine or Mucuna Þdopamine; Citicoline Þacetylcholine; Theanine ÞGABA. 
  • Reduce carbohydrate intake and increase protein. Fluctuating high and low blood sugar is directly associated with cravings and the need for drugs, alcohol or meds which momentary relieves cravings. When blood sugar drops, cravings return.
  • Consider a juice cleanse for 4-7 days.
  • Colon Cleanse Therapy to improve digestion and eliminate toxins from the gastrointestinal tract while repopulating healthy bacteria.
  • Obviously abstain from drugs and alcohol
  • Avoid the use of antibiotics.
  • A healthy night sleep works wonders for your immune system, brain health, stress levels and most importantly, the body’s ability to detox. During sleep the liver, organs, lymphatic circulation works to detoxify the body.  A lack of proper sleep keeps the body toxic and overloaded.
  • Exercise! Physical exercise has been shown to decrease stress, lower cholesterol, improve blood circulation, stimulate neurotransmitters, build muscle and burn fat. All of which improves BDNP- “Brain-derived neurotrophic factor”, as well as enhances mitochondria health and function.


Drug and addiction rehab has helped many people. Probing deep into psychological issues and letting go of hurtful triggers is a proven tactic. Nutritional therapy, in my opinion, is just as important. By neglecting the digestive and immune system, without populating a rich ecosystem of gut friendly bacteria the underlying issue will never be resolved. Nutrient deficiencies will remain. The solution; implement a healthy nutritional protocol, fix the gut, reverse dysbiosis, improve nutrient absorption, increase the body’s natural levels of neurotransmitters, exercise daily, develop a positive attitude, healthy relationships and get a great night sleep. At a nutritional stand point it’s really just going back to basics.   


Brendan Coates is an honors graduate from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and is currently studying functional medicine. Brendan consults for Habitude Addiction Rehab Clinic in Hamilton ON, Canada and his private practice is Bodies by Brendan.