Balanced nutrition and a healthy diet become especially important when you’re recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. Your brain and body need the right kinds of nutrients to thrive and function well. A nutrient-dense diet can not only undo the toll substance abuse has taken on your brain and body, but can also reduce stress and anxiety, decrease your risk of substance-use-related diseases, improve your mood, increase your energy, and boost your immune system, as well.
The Toll of Substance Abuse on the Body
Misusing substances like drugs and alcohol can make a major impact on your long-term health. Addiction can harm vital organs in your body, including your brain, liver, lungs, kidneys, and heart, but substance abuse can hinder your body’s ability to absorb essential vitamins and minerals, too.
Substance abuse challenges can cause:
- Suppressed appetite. Some drugs like heroin suppress your appetite. Stimulants like cocaine, Adderall, Ritalin, and ecstasy can make you feel like you can function without eating for days at a time. In addition, being high or drunk can make it easy to forget to eat, as well.
- Poor diet. When you’re struggling with addiction challenges, consuming your substance of choice often becomes your primary concern. This means it’s easy to neglect proper nutrition. If you do eat, you might rely on quick options like fast food or unhealthy snacks which can leave you with a nutrient-deficient diet.
- Immune system damage. A strong immune system needs amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Large amounts of alcohol and recreational drugs can impact how well your body absorbs and metabolizes the amino acids, vitamins, and minerals within food. This, in turn, can increase your risk of infections and other health problems.
- Overeating. While some substances can suppress your appetite, others can make you consume more food than your body needs.
- Organ damage. Abusing drugs and alcohol can damage your liver, pancreas, stomach lining, and other organs that help you digest food and absorb vitamins and minerals.
- Hypoglycemia. Substance abuse challenges and poor nutrition can lead to low blood sugar.
- Malnourishment. When you fail to eat consistently over a long period of time, your body can become malnourished. You can also become undernourished when your body can no longer absorb the nutrients necessary to function.
- Gastrointestinal disorders. Chronic misuse of alcohol and drugs can lead to irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal inflammation, leaky gut syndrome, fungal intestinal infections, and pathogenic bacterial overgrowth.
Fortunately, following a nutrient-rich diet can help mitigate a number of health conditions, restore your body back to health, and help you rehabilitate your life as well.
How Nutrition & Diet Support Addiction Recovery
Proper nutrition and a healthy diet can support you through every stage of addiction recovery.
Proper Nutrition Supports The Detox Process
Detox, or the process of removing drugs and alcohol from your body prior to treatment, is physically demanding. Side effects of detox can include vomiting, constipation, nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue. A healthy diet and proper nutrition can help combat, relieve, and even ease some withdrawal symptoms. For example:
- High-fiber foods can help ease constipation. Fruits, leafy vegetables, and whole grains can help ease this common side effect of detoxification.
- Light, easy-on-the-stomach foods can help relieve nausea and vomiting. Some nutrient-rich options to consider include yogurt, chicken soup, wheat toast, ginger or peppermint tea, and chilled fruits.
- Protein shakes and smoothies can help provide nutrients when detox decreases your appetite. Sometimes, the entire detox process can suppress your desire to eat. When this happens, rely on protein shakes and fruit and vegetable smoothies to help provide your body with the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids it needs to function properly.
- Complex carbohydrates can help balance your serotonin levels, helping your brain to relax. Eating lots of beans, lentils, peas, potatoes, pasta, and carrots can help ease the anxiety and stress your brain may experience during the detox process.
As you fill your body with a balanced amount of foods that are high in nutrients, you should notice an increase in your energy and an improved mood which can help you stay motivated and ease anxiety and depression as you move from detox to addiction treatment.
A Healthy Diet Can Help Sustain Your Recovery
As you begin addiction treatment and the next level of your recovery, you’ll need to keep your nutrition levels as high as you can, which may help:
- Rebuild Damaged Tissues and Organs. To make sure your body functions the way it did before addiction took its toll, you’ll need to rebuild damaged tissues and organs. Vitamin B12 helps produce red blood cells, DNA, and RNA, and also helps maintain healthy nerve cells. Calcium, zinc, iron, selenium, and vitamins A, B, and C also help heal damaged tissue in the body. Some of the best foods to heal your body from illness and trauma include leafy green vegetables, eggs, berries, nuts, seeds, and sweet potatoes.
- Reduce Stress and Anxiety. So much of the recovery process involves learning to manage stress and anxiety in a healthy way. Foods high in magnesium folate, theanine amino acid, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, folate, and potassium can help you overcome stress and anxiety, which can help decrease your risk of relapse. Green tea, salmon, blueberries, and leafy greens are great sources of these essential minerals and vitamins.
- Strengthen the Immune System and Reduce Risk of Infection and Disease. Once you start feeling better, you’ll want to stay better, especially as you prepare to leave the rehab center and transition back into the “real world.” Vitamin C, E, A, D, folic acid, iron, selenium, and zinc can work together to strengthen your immune system. A stronger immune system can help you fight off infections, conditions, and even some diseases. Some great-tasting immune-boosting foods are citrus fruits, shellfish, yogurt, red bell peppers, almonds, sunflower seeds, green tea, papaya, and poultry.
- Improve Your Mood and Promote Happiness. Once you leave treatment and begin to manage your recovery at home, a proper diet and nutrition can help improve your mood and promote happiness. Handling negative emotions can make you want to use substances again, but foods like fatty fish, dark chocolate, bananas, berries, and avocado can really brighten your mood.
A Holistic Approach to Treatment
At Genesis Recovery, we strive to provide treatment that’s good for your mind, body, and spirit. We know that consuming healthy fats can help support brain function and eating protein can help restore the neurotransmitter balance that addiction disrupts. That’s why we prioritize healthy eating and proper nutrition alongside our 12-step program, community environment, and clinical practices.
We believe that your mind, body, and spirit work together, so true recovery must work to rehabilitate all those aspects of your life. Our holistic approach to treatment can help you obtain that level of recovery. Contact us today at 619-797-7319 if you or a loved one are struggling with addiction challenges.