Tree House Recovery NC

Foods To Shorten Withdrawal – How to Shorten PAWS

What is PAWS?

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is a constellation of symptoms that sometimes occur after a person has finished the detox phase. During detox, people recovering from substance abuse disorder frequently experience physical symptoms like shakes, nausea, and fever. PAWS symptoms, on the other hand, are primarily psychological. Common examples include depression, anxiety, insomnia, and irritability.


PAWS symptoms are most likely the product of imbalances in your brain chemistry as a result of substance abuse. When it comes to PAWS, the most important of these is dopamine, however evidence suggests that serotonin, norepinephrine, and GABA also play a role in regulating PAWS symptoms. Together these neurotransmitters control mood, mood stability, energy levels, motivation, memory, and most importantly brain growth (neurogenesis) which is what eventually erases PAWS symptoms.

Although certain medicines can be used to stimulate production of these neurotransmitters, some of them can carry unwanted side-effects, medicine interactions, or be habit forming. Below are a list of vitamins and foods that can be eaten regularly to help naturally treat PAWS. 

  • Tyrosine: Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid that is an essential component of dopamine and norepinephrine production in the brain. Tyrosine can be found in: soy products, chicken, turkey, fish, peanuts, almonds, avocados, bananas, milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds [4][5].
  • St. John’s Wart: St. John’s Wart is made from the flower (Hypericum perforatum) and has been used to treat mood-related symptoms for centuries. In Europe, physicians prescribe it as commonly as antidepressants [6]. This supplement is available without a prescription at many stores and pharmacies.
  • Tryptophan: Tryptophan is a non-essential amino protein that is necessary for making serotonin, which regulates mood, the sleep-wake cycle, appetite, mood, and pain sensitivity [4][7]. Tryptophan can be found in milk, canned tuna, turkey (moreso in the light meat), chicken, eggs, spinach, oats, cheese, peanuts, bread, bananas, and prunes [8]. 
  • GABA: A natural anti-anxiety neurotransmitter produced by the brain to inhibit neural activity. The use of GABA to treat PAWS symptoms is connected to the Stress Hypothesis of depression (SHD). SHD is based on brain scans showing that high levels of stress cause key brain regions to shrink and lose function. GABA is the natural remedy to stress and thus allows those brain regions to regrow and regain function [9]. GABA can be found in spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, broccoli, barley, beans, rice, and peas [4][10].

Recommended Vitamins:

The vitamins below all assist with the production of dopamine and serotonin which help with mood control and to decrease symptoms of PAWS.

  • Iron
  • Niacin
  • Folate
  • Omega-3, Magnesium
  • Vitamin B6

Foods to Avoid:

  • Saturated Fats: Saturated fats decrease dopamine production. This might make PAWS symptoms worse or last longer. Limit things like animal fat, butter, full-fat dairy, palm oil, and coconut oil.