Archive for July, 2015

healthyOvereating processed foods is one of the most common ways to replace a drug or alcohol addiction. Pamela M. Peeke, MD, MPH, has worked with addiction treatment centers across the country to educate residents about “hyper-palatables”—sugary, fatty, or salty foods—and how they hijack the brain and trigger compulsive behaviors, making relapse even more likely for those in early recovery.

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At St. Joseph Institute, we strictly limit sugar and processed-food intake and encourage our residents to continue to make healthy choices after they complete the program. We have posted on the importance of nutrition before, and new research continues to point to the immense power of food to trigger compulsive behavior, including addiction.

An article in the August 2015 issue of Psychology Today reveals evidence that what happens in our gut may have just as much power over our behavior as what happens in our brain. Laboratory tests on animals have revealed that when intestinal bacteria, or probiotics, are out of balance, subjects are more prone to stress, anxiety, depression, autism, chronic pain, poor cognitive function, and weakened immune systems. Imbalances of gut bacteria can also compromise the brain’s reward system and produce the cravings that stimulate compulsive behavior.

There are many products and supplements intended to foster healthy probiotics. You should talk to your doctor about whether you need any particular product or supplement. But the best way to ensure a healthy gut is to eat the foods that support it: whole foods that are naturally low in sugar, fat, and salt.

The evidence continues to mount: take care of your gut, and you will take care of your brain. Don’t underestimate the power of a healthy diet to combat anxiety, depression, and compulsive behavior. Continue to seek out tools and tips for living healthfully in recovery.





Addiction among seniors is a growing problem. Unfortunately, this problem often slips under the public radar, and the government does not provide seniors the education, attention, and funding they deserve. This article looks at 10 barriers to age-appropriate treatment for seniors. The barriers come from all sources: families who are embarrassed by the problem or don’t want to acknowledge it, inadequate treatment and misdiagnosis by doctors, denial, loneliness, lack of senior support groups, and more.

St. Joseph Institute is aware of the senior addict or alcoholic’s unique needs and strives to reach out to older adults. While we are not a senior-specific facility, the average age of residents in our program is higher than most, and residents over 40 usually find the Institute environment comfortable as we typically have other residents of a similar age. In addition, our emphasis on sustaining a loving, welcoming community ensures that all residents, regardless of age, feel comfortable and supported while in treatment.

Research has identified 7 important factors for treating alcoholism and addiction in older adults:
• Be supportive and non-confrontational
• Link with other health and social services
• Focus on the social and psychological needs of older adults
• Focus on rebuilding social support networks
• Match teaching speed and content to an older audience
• Offer respect
• Individualize and be flexible with program duration

St. Joseph staff and faculty enjoy working with seniors. We understand that the causes of addiction for seniors are often different than those for younger people, and we are equipped to treat the loneliness, depression, grief, and loss that often lead seniors to alcohol or drugs.

We are aware that seniors often feel isolated from their families and might need more extensive after-care support for that reason. Through our alumni network, after-care program, and family program, we can help older adults find the support they need after they leave treatment.

While we require that our residents be ambulatory and without need for the constant medical care that would be found in a hospital setting, we make every effort to accommodate seniors who may need more time or space to transition between buildings and activities.

We encourage families to learn more about addiction in seniors and to understand that the difficulty you might face in confronting a senior family member’s addiction is worth the cost. Alcoholic or addicted seniors who get treatment experience the following*:

• increased cognitive and emotional health
• decreased physical health problems
• decreased risk of falls and injury
• increased independence

It’s never too late. Let’s take care of our seniors and respect their ability to achieve a rich, fulfilling, healthy life—at any age.

85998682-6aa7-443e-abcd-f00214c09332---0-What does yoga have to do with recovery? Quite a lot, according to Google. Search “yoga for addiction,” and you will find countless articles from professional sources about the benefits of yoga in recovery. Yoga is not just for women, hippies, or the extremely flexible. It has been found to effectively regulate stress hormones that, when imbalanced, contribute to anxiety, depression, PTSD, and substance abuse.

St. Joseph Institute alumni know that a yoga practice is part of our schedule. Several mornings each week, our residents are led in a series of yoga poses. In addition to easing the symptoms of detox, yoga helps our residents surrender the desire to control their circumstances. It helps them connect to their body and their breath to reach a state of inner calm.

According to Jennifer Dewey, fitness manager at Betty Ford, “Addiction takes a person out of their body and prevents them from connecting to who they are physically and feeling what their body is telling them. Yoga is a great way to slowly reintroduce someone to physical sensation. It’s also very relaxing, so in terms of the anxiety, stress, and depression that arise from detox, it’s invaluable in helping people stay calm and grounded” (Yoga for Addiction Recovery).

The word ‘yoga’ comes from Sanskrit and is commonly interpreted today as ‘union.’ Fundamentally, yoga’s purpose is to unify body, mind, and spirit—and to unite all three with God. For this reason, meditation is the goal of an authentic yoga practice, and different types of yoga use different routines and poses (asanas) to develop strength and flexibility and to prepare the body for meditation.

Since many of us find it difficult to sit still to meditate, moving through a series of yoga poses can more easily bring us to a meditative state. At St. Joseph’s, we find that combining morning yoga with prayer and meditation helps residents connect with God and prepares their bodies, minds, and spirits for the day’s work.

Of course, it’s easy to get out of a yoga routine once rehab ends, so we encourage our alumni to continue making yoga part of their recovery. Yoga Journal offers a series of simple poses and affirmations designed particularly for those in recovery.

Or, you may decide to sign up for a yoga class. If so, consider these guidelines, adapted from
• A yoga class should make you feel safe and comfortable. If you feel like you don’t fit in, don’t force yourself to stay. Keep trying different classes until you find one that makes you feel good.
• A yoga class should push you to move beyond your physical limitations, but very gently. If you feel pressured to complete a pose or routine that is too difficult for you, find another class.
• A yoga class that incorporates meditation and holistic health will probably be more helpful for you in the long run than one that focuses mainly on yoga as exercise.
• Even if you are physically fit, sign up for a beginner’s class. Yoga is different than running, biking, or weight-lifting. Allow your body to adjust to its demands slowly and comfortably.
• Think of yoga as your own practice; call it “my yoga practice” to remind yourself that your progress is your own and that you don’t have to compete with anyone else.
• Be honest with your yoga instructor about any physical limitations or other concerns you might have.
• When possible, choose a yoga class that is conveniently located and not too expensive. It’s hard enough to get ourselves out of the house, so limit possible excuses to skip class.

As you continue to practice your recovery, consider yoga as a way to nurture your body and spirit and to help mitigate the anxiety, stress, and physical pain that can lead to relapse.