How to Run Away from Addiction (Literally)

Physical exercise

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

Probably one of the biggest misconceptions about addiction is that it is not really a disease. Some prefer to refer to it as just a loss of self control.

But in reality, addiction is a very complex disease which negatively affects the most complex organ in our bodies - the brain.

“Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain—they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long-lasting, and can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs.”

So it is almost impossible to treat addiction without treating the brain. And good nutrition plays a critical role in addiction recovery, including the prevention of relapse. If nutrient levels are not maintained and/or the wrong types of food [like nutrient-void, ultra-processed foods] are consumed, then neurotransmitter levels will decline and disruption of mood, thought and behavior and the inevitable cravings for alcohol or the substance of choice may return.

However, one overlooked function of good nutrition is the energy it provides to perform the physical activity necessary to overcome addiction.

According to new research, aerobic exercise may be just the “medicine” a person struggling with addiction needs. Researchers  identified a key mechanism in how aerobic exercise [cardio] can help impact the brain in ways that may support treatment—and even prevention strategies—for addiction.”

Reportedly, when we exercise,”blood pressure and blood flow increase everywhere in the body, including the brain. More blood means more energy and oxygen, which makes our brain perform better.”

And one of the lead authors of the research reported “that, in addition to these benefits, aerobic exercise has been effective in preventing the start, increase and relapse of substance use in a number of categories, including alcohol, nicotine, stimulants and opioids.”

Specifically, “...daily aerobic exercise altered the mesolimbic dopamine pathway in the brain. Dopamine is a key neurotransmitter associated with substance use disorders, playing an important role in reward, motivation and learning.”

So it might be necessary to integrate exercise programs as an integral part of addiction recovery strategies.  

"Further studies that focus on people with substance use disorders should help researchers develop new methods to integrate exercise into treatment regimens that may help prevent relapses," says the lead researcher.

Preventing drug abuse is critical to the health of our country. Peer and family pressure to not abuse substances is one way to reduce abuse. And creating an incentive not to abuse drugs or to get treatment as a condition of receiving an inheritance is another  way to be proactive about drug abuse.

But remember that if you have an addiction problem, it is important to be able to identify informed professionals who can actually help you to overcome your addictions. Furthermore, professional counseling alone may not be sufficient. It may also be important to incorporate lifestyle changes which include diet and exercise to beat your addictions.

Finally, be discriminatory when trying to identify relevant treatment facilities to assist someone with an addiction problem. Facilities that do not emphasize proper nutrition and exercise should perhaps be eliminated.  

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


Related Products

Minerals - The Forgotten Nutrient: Your Secret Weapon for Getting and Staying Healthy