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2 Tough Food Types To Avoid When You Have Co-occurring Anxiety and Addiction

There is a reason why twelve step meetings and the recovery support groups always have a pot of coffee brewing, plenty of sugar to add in, and usually some kind of sugary sweet or treat for snacking. Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, is known for offering coffee and doughnuts, especially at morning meetings. Even “The Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous indicates that sugar might be helpful for overcoming those overwhelming early recovery cravings. “One of the many doctors who had the opportunity of reading this book in manuscript form told us that the use of sweets was often helpful,” the authors describe.

Cravings, the physical and psychological urge to use drugs and alcohol, are a hallmark characteristic of addiction and a common symptom of early recovery. The need to experience a surge in the production of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, a brain messaging chemical which sends signals of pleasure through the brain, causes cravings. Sugar and caffeine fit the bill for these urges because both substances directly impact the central nervous system, causing the sought after surge in dopamine.

Shortly after indicating the helpfulness of sweets, the authors add, “…of course, depending on a doctor’s advice.” When you are in recovery with a co-occurring diagnosis of anxiety, sweets and caffeine might be suggested against, because they can exacerbate already uncomfortable symptoms. Someone might develop anxiety early in life and turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their racing thoughts and agitating physical symptoms. Depending on their drug of choice, substances might contribute to the development of anxiety or might cause anxiety entirely. Stimulant drugs like cocaine and crystal meth can cause anxiety-like symptoms. During the early stages of recovery, anxiety is common, for those who do and do not have a co-occurring disorder. Though sugar and caffeine might, temporarily, satisfy cravings for using, in the long term they could be worsening anxiety. Sugar is an inflammatory substance. Inflammation can lead to more stress, as well as disease.

Asking someone in early recovery to abstain one hundred percent from any and all stimulating substances, in any form, is difficult to do. Clearly, a cup of coffee or a frosted doughnut is a better choice than relapsing into  use of drugs or alcohol. Moderating the intake of caffeine and sugar is the key to regulating mental and physical health as much as possible. Regulation and moderation help create a successful sobriety and life.


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