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Nutrition and recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Presented by Lulu Cook, APD, RDN (USA)

By Anthea Talliopoulos

Nutrition in drug addiction is a space that until now dietitians have shied away from. Lulu Cook is a counsellor, registered dietitian in the USA, APD in Australia, and mindfulness teacher. She also has a lived experience of overcoming addiction.

With increasing awareness around drug and alcohol addiction, nutrition is a critical area which can be utilised to improve quality of life and optimise recovery. Beyond the psychological effects, over time, substance abuse can have a significant impact on liver health through impacting on natural detoxification and metabolic processes, as well as also altering gut health. More specifically, when the gut-brain axis is observed, a degree of gut dysbiosis occurs in all instances of drug and alcohol abuse, highlighting the importance of nutrition intervention in individuals struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.

In this relevant presentation, Lulu Cook offers her knowledge, expertise and personal experience on the direct relevance of nutrition in recovery from addictions, including withdrawal symptom management, the impact of food intake and mood, and the management of cross-addictions. She explains the bi-directional communication between the gut and the brain, with approximately 80-90% of serotonin and 50% of dopamine being synthesised in the gut, with levels of neurotransmitter synthesis being directly impacted by substance abuse disorders.

Lulu explains the importance of focusing on mood-enhancing foods and, where relevant, supplements including probiotics, the elimination of pro-inflammatory foods, a focus on foods high in antioxidants, potent natural anti-inflammatories, and addressing dietary micronutrient insufficiencies.

Key take away messages:

  • The importance of nutrition in drug and alcohol recovery is one which is growing in awareness.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse has a significant impact on gut health, with gut dysbiosis being evident in individuals effected.  
  • There is a bidirectional relationship between the gut and the brain, indicating that nutrition intervention is pertinent in mood and appetite regulation, through a focus on wholefoods with gut-enhancing and liver-enhancing properties.
  • Supporting individuals with drug and alcohol addiction via a sustainable, client-centred, and empathetic approach is crucial for their recovery in best-managing the psychological, physical and nutritional implications of addiction.

Lulu Cook is a counsellor, nutritionist (credentialed as a registered dietitian nutritionist and accredited practicing dietitian the USA and Australia), and mindfulness teacher. She is the co-author of the best-selling The Complete Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Beginners (2017) and author of The Simple Thyroid Cookbook (2021). Lulu helps clients achieve successful, sustainable behaviour change at the personal and systems levels.

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