Diet and Good Food
I’m making food and diet a separate page from my Recovery Blogs as I think it’s such an important subject in Withdrawal. I can’t offer advice on what we should or shouldn’t be eating as I only know what appears to have worked well for me. Many others have written about this and recommend going vegan or using the Paleo diet and so forth. I feel these are far too big a change for me and could only have added to the stress that my body was already going through.
The digestive system, particularly the stomach, reacts hugely to the withdrawal process. It is lined with GABA receptors and anything that passes into us can be reflected quite dramatically in our symptoms. We have to remember this is a physiological process so our CNS needs to receive no stimulus or inappropriate foodstuffs if it’s to recover as quickly as possible.
Many people lose a lot of weight at this time while others, like me, gain weight. Even if I ate very little, the weight seemed to go on. I decided not to worry and just accept what would be would be and not to add the stress of weighing myself daily or trying to eat less food. Food and nutrients are essential and we need to support our bodies in the best way we can.
First of all I eliminated all sugar, caffeine, alcohol, most processed foods and reduced red meat to once or twice a week. I now try to balance out each meal with some first class protein like eggs, chicken, sometimes cheese or hummus plus a carbohydrate such as rice or potatoes and at least half the meal contains vegetables or salad. I have salad every day and this mostly includes watercress, Romaine lettuce, garlic, ginger, cucumber, celery, carrots and avocado. I often replace potatoes with sweet potatoes for their many nutrients. My favourite vegetables are broccoli, spinach, asparagus, carrots, peppers, cabbage, kale, courgettes, onions and peas.
Fats also play an important part in that the brain needs these to repair itself. I avoid all vegetable fats and margarines and use butter, olive oil and coconut oil. All well documented as good, fats needed for healing.
Fruits provide many nutrients and they are essential in helping us to find balance. Bananas have always featured high on my list and I eat at least one a day often turning to a banana to help me relax in the middle of a chaotic, anxious, withdrawal-fuelled night. They seem to possess magical calming properties but I think it may be the B6, potassium, carbohydrate and vitamin C. Another fruit that I enjoy is the infamous little blueberry. Blueberries are well known for their high antioxidant properties. There has been recent research done which shows that a diet rich in blueberries benefits the heart. Apart from this, I just enjoy berries of most sorts including raspberries and strawberries. I have these for breakfast with my homemade, sugar-free yoghurt and a sprinkling of mixed seeds….yum!
I avoid most grains and only eat the occasional slice of bread and no cereals apart from a bowl of porridge now and again. I’m not sure if this helps but after researching my diet it seems that going gluten-free may be beneficial at this time. I do not go the ‘whole hog’ but I do limit my intake by using plain rice cakes to replace bread and also oatcakes when I feel the need for more substance.
I keep my diet as simple as possible so it is very plain although colourful. The different colours mean I am getting a variety of nutrients from my fruit and vegetables and they also make a simple meal look more appetizing.
I use Cornish sea salt or pink Himalayan salt as a condiment and add flavor with turmeric, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, black pepper and other spices. I believe sea salt helps the adrenal glands at this time and both cinnamon and turmeric are anti-inflammatory. Garlic and ginger support digestion and act against Candida which can be a problem for some when the digestion is coping with withdrawal.
Something I have everyday is pure, organic cider vinegar which contains the ‘mother’. I believe this supports the immune system and helps fight off any bugs that may be lurking. It has also cured me if I have had indigestion. Although acid, it will aid in keeping the body alkaline once taken. Of course, it should be diluted. I have at least a tablespoonful of cider vinegar in warm water and sometimes add honey, preferably the very expensive Manuka honey sold in some supermarkets and health food shops.
Finally, a word about ‘dairy’. I do have a little semi-skimmed milk and cheese. I try to limit this but have not really had a problem with them. I do love cheese and prefer to continue enjoying just a little of many different varieties. I also eat a lot of yoghurt for its probiotic contents. It is always bioactive, plain and sugar-free Greek yoghurt and I usually make my own as it is such a simple process and I can be sure it is free from additives.
Not forgetting water, water, water! I drink a lot of water or water-based drinks such as chamomile tea or any other herbal tea that takes my fancy. I also drink rooibos tea with a dash of milk. This is a naturally decaffeinated tea which I have grown to love. A big admission is that I’ve started adding a cup of good Italian coffee to my breakfast. This is quite strong and caffeinated but it definitely has a positive effect. I would not have dreamed of taking this in acute withdrawal but it now seems to wake me up and get me going! It has not caused an increase in anxiety but I would not recommend it until after several months free of benzos. I love my coffee but would stop it if there was a negative reaction in the future.
I have three main meals a day...breakfast, lunch and an evening meal (not too late, usually around 6 pm). I'm aware that eating a small amount every two hours is recommended when in the acute stage and possibly beyond as well. During a wave the blood sugar needs to be maintained at a steady level if possible. I satisfy my own hunger pangs with more natural foods such as nuts and seeds. I like most nuts and always have a ready supply of almonds and walnuts for their nutrients. I also have a pot of mixed seeds to help myself from as well as adding them to my breakfast yogurt.
Other snacks included apples, bananas and any available fruit. I often eat a banana before bed. I have tried eating cherries in the evening for their melatonin but didn't notice any difference in sleep quality. Some people do drink tart cherry juice before bed for this reason.
Although I've severely restricted my sugar intake, apart from the fructose found in fruit, I do occasionally allow myself a square of very dark chocolate as it is supposed to boost the happy endorphins and helps satisfy my craving for chocolate.
Supplements can help or hinder progress in withdrawal. They are very much a personal thing and I feel may offer nothing other than a placebo effect if they don't have any major reaction. I can tolerate no supplements although I've tried with just tiny amounts of something that's been recommended to help. The CNS is in a major crisis possibly from years of benzodiazepines and in order to recover doesn't need any further drug or supplement input to throw it out of balance.
The supplements generally discussed to be of possible help to those without sensitivities are magnesium, vitamins C and D, niacin, zinc, B12 and others. Always introduce anything you choose to try very, very slowly and up dose over a period of days to prevent any bad reaction.
Nutrients are best provided through a good diet......