Highlighting the importance of nutrition for recovering addicts can get overlooked due to other factors relating to recovery.
In this article, we’ve listed details explaining how and why the right nutritional path is essential for a recovering addict’s body.
The abuse of drugs and alcohol wreaks havoc on both your physical and mental health. You become malnourished, the drugs negatively alter the functioning of metabolism, and damages your digestive tract preventing the absorption of any nutrients you do try to consume.
When you don’t get the proper nutrients your body requires, you will know it. You can develop skin problems like rashes or acne. Your skin color is pale and dehydrated. You feel tired, weak, and cannot concentrate. Plus, malnutrition makes it harder to stay sober.
Malnutrition and Addiction
Malnutrition prevents your brain from producing the right amount of chemicals needed to fight depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. Your immune system weakens when using drugs or alcohol, which is why you may be continually fighting the cold, flu, or other ailments.
During detoxification from drugs or alcohol, you may not have an appetite even when you are medically assisted. So even though you are doing the right thing, your body can still not become healthy enough to aid in recovery.
The World Health Organization states the lack of adequate nutrition can have severe health problems for all humans.
Too often, we are so focused on staying away from the wrong things that we forget to see the right things. It’s hard enough to fight cravings, attend meetings, and avoid the people, places, and things that can lead to relapse. The last thing you are focusing on is getting a healthy meal and the right amount of liquids.
What you may not realize, however, is that with good nutrition, all the other stuff becomes a little bit easier.
What Exactly is Good Nutrition in Recovery?
Good nutrition consists of multiple variables. It is not just eating well, which is a significant factor. Good nutrition for recovery also includes the avoidance of replacing one addiction with another, like sugar, nicotine, or caffeine. These are easy replacements because they can boost mood by encouraging your brain to release dopamine.
But what goes up, must come down, and there are similar crashes from all three. The less you can use these substances, the better your recovery will be.
Nutrition is more like a science. It’s the ability your body has to examine the foods and supplements you ingest, take out, and use the good stuff like vitamins and minerals, which are then used by the body for growth, development, and all other body functions.
What you put into your body is considered ammo for health. If you consume fruits, vegetables, and water, then your body has a lot of ammo to spread through your body. If you live on coffee, cigarettes, and potato chips, you are giving your body very little ammo to support good health, leading to adverse physical and mental effects.
Effects of Malnourishment
Drugs and alcohol alter brain processes. That’s why it is considered a brain disorder. Once you detox, your brain does not go back to working as well as it did before you became addicted. The substances you used could be considered as a traumatizing event for your brain.
They deplete the brain of its ability to produce healthy levels of neurotransmitters or happy chemicals by itself. The brain also struggles to send healing messages to areas of your body that need it. This leads you with an inability to cope with stressors, illnesses, and it can make underlying medical conditions worse.
One way to heal your brain is to provide it with nourishment. An actual recovery program called medical nutrition therapy provides many former addicts with the education needed to use food as medicine.
Medical Nutrition Therapy
When you enter recovery from addiction, you are not expected to know immediately all the right things to do, especially when it comes to learning how to get proper nutrition. You are just trying to survive and avoid relapse.
As part of your recovery treatments and therapies, make sure you include a course or consultation with a medical nutrition therapist. You will likely only need a session or two to establish a nutritional treatment plan to heal your body and mind.
You can learn how food affects mood and which foods will benefit your body the most.
Food as Medicine
Carbohydrates have been made out to be evil in our society lately, with everyone trying diets that avoid them altogether. However, there are good carbohydrates that don’t come from processed foods and can boost energy, stabilize blood sugars, and even produce serotonin that causes happier moods.
Foods containing omega fatty acids, amino acids, and electrolytes are essential for recovery. Because many addicts have low vitamin D levels, it’s crucial to find ways to replenish them. Furthermore, preventing dehydration with food and liquids will help erase feelings of nausea and fatigue.
Another cool thing about medical nutrition therapy is that you can learn how to use food to reduce cravings. Sometimes, when in early recovery, you may not understand your body’s signals. It could be telling you that you are hungry, but you mistake it as a craving or urge to relapse.
Even if you realize you are craving substances and not hungry, there are food tips and tricks you can learn to get you through the urges.
How to Begin
One of the best places to start learning medical nutrition therapy is while you are still in treatment, inpatient, or during sober living. In a sober home, you will be able to practice implementing nutrition therapy into your life before you return home.
You can return to your natural environment knowing how to use food as medicine, one more tool to maintain sobriety.
In sober living, you can practice everything from budgeting for healthier foods, grocery shopping, prepping, and cooking foods in a way that provides the most nutrients. You can also learn to listen to your body and to feed it when needed. Using food as a resource in recovery is an easy, but powerful technique to help you achieve success.