Is Nutrition the Missing Link for Recovery and Long-Term Sobriety?


In this discussion, we will explore the profound significance of why nutrition matters in recovery, as well as how it can influence our overall well-being and mental health. With a wealth of experience and expertise, Dr. David Wiss will guide us through this essential topic, shedding light on the transformative power of nutrition in the context of recovery.

I can’t wait for you to watch it; it’s about 45 minutes or read the transcript below for some key takeaways!


Debbie Nelson: How do you apply functional medicine into your practice and what you do?

David Wiss: Early in my career, people would come for advice on food and recovery and supplements would usually be a part of that. I think the model I came into early days with is that you kind of look at their diet and makes some assumptions and pretty quickly you realize you can make some strong assumptions – if someone is coming off of drugs and alcohol and they are coming into sobriety you can say they need multivitamin, omega 3, vitamin D, a probiotic, magnesium. 

But then once you start moving into functional medicine and you start to understand how testing can be used to make personalized recommendations for people it changes everything. I do blood and urine testing for mineral and vitamins analysis which has been really helpful getting not the right supplements but the right amount they need. A big part of nutrition for mental health is anti-inflammatory eating. It’s pretty powerful to combine the nutrition for mental health paradigm shift with the functional medicine approach. 

We’ll do a stool test, combined with blood tests, urine tests, possibly a genetic test with saliva and we’ll be able to bring together all the pieces and look at all the different laboratory reports. It’s also helpful knowing the person that’s in front of me and being able to say, with a much higher level of certainty, that these are the foods that I think would be best for you. And that these are the supplements that I think would be best for you. And then, of course, getting the follow up from people a month later, and they report feeling amazing. That they “got the pep back in their step!”

And so yeah, we use the slogan in functional medicine “Test. Don’t guess.”


Debbie Nelson: I truly believe nutrition shifts our success in recovery.

We already know that statistically it’s a less than 10% success rate within this industry of recovery and mental health so when we bring in nutrition, It brings it up into the 70-80% percentile where people start having long term success. But it is just science. Ironically, no science was used before. 


Dr David Wiss: Yeah, I mean, there is the microbiome, right? It used to be “this is something I’m sure of because it worked for me and it worked for you. And we all know this is true.” Now we actually have mechanistic data describing how the food impacts our gut and how the composition of the bacterial and inflammatory cascade. How all of that affects brain function. 

And Yeah, it’s tricky science, but it’s out there. Yeah, it needs to be shared.


Debbie Nelson: Tell us about your new app, “Wise Mind Nutrition

Dr David Wiss: The app has really two major components, one of which is a food log. Which is an opportunity for people to engage in journaling and to document some of the qualities of the food they eat. So it’s not a calorie counting app. It has a lot of qualitative features built in so someone might upload pictures of their food and then figure out what’s in the certain food groups they’re eating. Or questioning when they were here hungry. Is there anything that came up for me? Feelings or details, etc.

And it does allow for practitioners, like me or you, to be able to follow along with our clients. journey to see what’s going on with them food-wise, group-wise, hunger-wise, etc. And then there’s a nightly review feature, which is part of the food log, which allows for individuals to constructively review their day. They can set some intentions for themselves. Maybe they’re working on bowel movements or the supplements they are getting each day. It’s a place where people can reflect back on how they did. 

The free app also does some summarizing so they can see how their food group distribution showed up throughout the course of the day and then engage in some recovery related questions. Like what could I have done better today or are there any corrective measures can I take so it’s an ongoing growth process? 

Then there is the actual full program. The program is something that I put so much work into over the last two years. I think I started off conceptualizing a book. I was going to write a book about nutrition for mental health addictions, disordered eating, depression, anxiety, and trauma. And then I realized people are not reading books anymore. I shouldn’t say that. It’s not true – People are reading books. But what would be helpful is something that was more of a workbook. Not just reading, but like, actually doing assignments and following a path.

And so I created a video based program that has everything that I would teach someone in the course of six months working with me. We move through all of the topics that I think have been identified to be helpful for people in a mental health recovery journey. Things like mindful eatinganti-inflammatory eating, gut health, body positive messaging. I put all my recipes, all my articles, all my videos, everything that would be helpful to someone looking to improve their well being with nutrition and recovery wellness. It’s just designed to be like a big hug. 


Dr. David Wiss became a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) in 2013 and founded Nutrition in Recovery, a group practice of RDNs specializing in treating eating and substance use disorders. In 2017, David received the “Excellence in Practice” award at the National Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo. The California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics awarded him the “Emerging Dietetic Leader Award” in 2020. He earned his Ph.D. from UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health in the Community Health Sciences department (with a minor in Health Psychology) by investigating the links between adverse childhood experiences and various mental health outcomes among socially disadvantaged men. His treatment philosophy is based on a biopsychosocial model which incorporates an understanding of biological mechanisms, psychological underpinnings, and contextual factors that integrate the social determinants of health. Wise Mind Nutrition is an app-based interactive treatment program available for download now -

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