A New Take On Life

Orange dining plate in the top right corner, with a napkin that reads "Go with your gut feeling"

I have a gut feeling…

“Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.” Proverbs 23:20-21

People often talk about having a “gut” feeling when they must make a life-altering decision, or if they have a fear of something serious that is about to happen. Science shows that those “butterflies” in the stomach are a signal of apprehension, excitement, or fear that come from the second brain – the gut.

Substance Use Disorders are characterized by chronic dependence on a substance, despite having mental, physical, and social consequences. They also include socioeconomic, biochemical, genetic (more on this in upcoming months), and increasingly, Smicrobiological underpinnings. It is well known that addiction is a brain disorder and affects the wiring in our brain, but there are new and emerging studies showing the link between the gut microbiome and drug addiction.

The gut and the brain communicate across a bidirectional, biochemical, and neural highway (the gut- brain axis). There are nerve endings below the intestinal epithelium that receive metabolic signals from the gut microbiota, that can influence behaviors like stress and anxiety. There are other metabolites that affect the central nervous system development and brain function, like chain fatty acids that are associated with mood, cognition, and reward (serotonin and dopamine).

A zoomed in illustration of the gut-brain axis.

Those same transmitters are specifically relevant to SUDs, because substances of abuse hijack the brain’s reward system by triggering the feelings of pleasure. Researchers indicate that gut microbes are involved in reward perceptions for both natural and artificial rewards. Often ties, SUDs are characterized by increased intestinal inflammation, in part from this leaky intestinal barrier that allows the microbes and their products to interact with underlying immune cells. Once activated, the immune cells produce cytokines that spark local inflammation and enter circulation and cross the blood-brain barrier resulting in neuroinflammation that alters the neuonal activity, including within the brain’s reward pathways, and may influence responses to and tolerance of the substances themselves.

Close up image of a person's abdomen, with their hands on their stomach and red color to indicate discomfort, stemming from bacteria in the gut.

Bacteria in the gut may play a role in addiction not alcohol and a relapse for some people because it is often associated with an imbalance in the intestinal flora, also known as a ‘leaky gut,’ where people will end up with a low number of intestinal bacteia. Leaky gut is linked to inflammation and Crohn’s disease, food allergies, asthma, and arthritis. Mental illnesses including bipolar, depression, anxiety, and psychotic disorders, are not caused by trauma, stress, or nutritional deficits, but are caused by an imbalance in the body and inflammatory conditions Social and psychological stressors impact the immune system and growth of favorable species in the gut, causing inflammation, therefore directly affecting the brain.

There are many ways to treat SUDs, it seems that there should be a closer look at the gut and its involvement to heal. Probiotics can h help, along with being totally abstinent from caffeine, alcohol, and sugars that can create more inflammation. One study found that people with depression suffer from an abundance of certain bacteria that eating yogurt and other food with probiotics may help with. Another study shows some promising effects of a fecal microbial transplant and is an area of intense research.

Studies in mice have shown that transplantation of fecal microbiota of individuals diagnosed with AUD leads to altered social and anxiety behaviors and increased preference toward alcohol.

All of this to say, there continues to be more and more evidence of how proper nutrition should be taken into consideration when in recovery of addiction or mental health disorders. You are less likely to have cravings for your DOC when you are feeling satiated. Eating various foods to give the body the nutrients required to improve gut health, build lean muscles, and maintain a healthy weight are all important to long term recovery. If you’re beginning a recovery program, I urge you to seek a program that is holistic and that includes diet and exercise. Organizations like New Life Counseling value holistic healing and have a nurse practitioner as well as a licensed dietitian on staff that can assist you in these areas of your recovery. We are thrilled to come along side you in your journey and are here to answer any questions you may have.

Close up image of two hands forming a heart, to indicate a caretaker walking through the healing process with a patient.

“Eating for Recovery, The Essential Nutrition Plan to Reverse The Physical Damage of Alcoholism” by Molly Siple, MS, RD
You can reverse the physical damage of alcoholism with nature’s best medicine: food.

Common side effects of excessive drinking include poor digestive and liver function; problems with managing blood sugar; weakened circulatory, immune, and nervous systems; and impaired thinking and changes in mood regulating hormones. While the primary focus of anyone recovering from alcoholism is staying sober, a critical part of recovery involves halting or reversing the physical damage of excessive alcohol consumption. Registered dDietitian Molly Siple’s innovative program helps you improve your health, detoxify, and reduce the risk of degenerative diseases linked to alcohol abuse. Siple’s stress-free, uncomplicated program offers:

– Critical information on common physical ailments brought on by alcoholism
– Lists of “recovery foods” that can help combat specific ills and improve health
– Manageable recovery goals and easy ways to implement them
– Easy-to-make recipes for every meal, including snacks and beverages
– 21 days worth of menus to jump-start nutritious eating
– Shopping lists, recommendations for eating out, and other resources

Eating for Recovery’s guidelines, practical tips, recipes, and varied meal plans make it the essential resource for anyone seeking to restore their health and vitality after alcohol abuse.

Jessica Pottorff, MS, MA, T-LMHC, CADC

Woman with red hair wearing black dress with white polka-dots. She is wearing red glasses with white polka dots and leaning up against a brick wall smiling.

Jessica holds a Master of Arts degree in Christian Counseling of Substance Abuse and Addictive Disorders as well as a Master of Arts degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She is also a certified alcohol and drug counselor. Jessica is currently accepting new patients; please use the contact form if you would like to schedule a session with her.

Jessica is passionate about working through codependency issues, guilt and shame, and spiritual issues and allows God and Scripture to empower clients to see their potential and to find their identity in Christ. Jessica is authentic and builds rapport quickly with her clients by being personable, compassionate, and Christ-centered. She has a passion to help people develop a deeper relationship with God as they pursue wholeness in all areas of their lives.