Addiction treatment is most effective when a holistic approach is taken. Treating the addiction alone does not equip a person with the tools needed to maintain sobriety long-term. Treatment is most effective when a person receives physical, mental, and emotional support throughout recovery. Nutrition in addiction recovery is necessary for long-term health and overall well-being.
It is not uncommon for those entering treatment to struggle with proper nutrition. Addiction can cause a person to prioritize substance abuse above everything else. If a person must choose between spending money on their substance of choice or food, more often than not, food comes second. Many who struggle with addiction develop numerous physical and mental health conditions as a result of poor nutrition, making it imperative to address nutritional needs throughout the recovery process.
Some substances can cause a person to not eat throughout the day or eat foods that are low in nutritional value. There are some drugs that suppress the appetite and may cause a person to become calorie deficient or impair the body’s ability to process food, leading to weight loss. Other substances can increase appetite, leading to weight gain. All of these variables highlight the importance of individualized treatment to ensure a person receives proper guidance and care in recovery.
Individualized Nutrition Counseling
Nutrition as a component of recovery is vital to a person’s success. Nutrition counseling generally focuses on achieving the following:
- Healing the body from the damage inflicted by drug and alcohol abuse
- Reducing stress levels
- Reducing cravings
- Encouraging better self-care and a healthy lifestyle
- Addressing co-occurring disorders that may have developed as a result of substance abuse
Healing the Body
Substance abuse often leads to nutritional deficiencies that damage the immune system, organs, the nervous system, and overall mental health. In addition, substance abuse is often accompanied by lifestyle changes that are detrimental to overall wellbeing. Changing sleep patterns, lack of exercise, and poor eating habits all contribute to the development of health conditions. Many who struggle with substance abuse develop issues such as eating disorders, weight problems, diabetes, or hypertension.
Providing healthy, balanced meals that are customized to meet the individual needs of a person can help offset the effects of this. In early recovery, this may not be as feasible as a person must first be stable enough to eat, consume adequate calories, and improve nutritional deficiencies. Once it is determined that they are well enough to begin working on their nutritional plan, they can start working on eating regularly scheduled meals and snacks. In conjunction with increased levels of physical activity, many begin to see improvements in sleep, stress management, and restfulness.
Additionally, providing nutrient-rich foods to a person in recovery can help offset the effects of any health conditions that may have developed as a result of substance abuse. Increased consumption of healthy foods can reduce cravings and improve overall wellbeing.
Poor nutrition can cause a person to feel depressed, agitated, and imbalanced. While some of these mood disorders may have existed prior to the development of addiction, they can still be improved through proper nutrition. Nutrition can influence mood and brain chemistry, making a balanced diet imperative to the recovery process.
Adequate consumption of carbohydrates can help in the production of serotonin, which helps a person feel more stable and happier. Additionally, they fuel the body with energy, encouraging people to engage in physical activity which also boosts mood through the releasing of endorphins.
Those in recovery are encouraged to stay hydrated and remain mindful regarding how much caffeine they are consuming. Drinking water can help with the absorption of medication and minimize the effects of withdrawal, while high levels of caffeine can negatively impact mood or sleep patterns.
Reducing Cravings and Encouraging Better Self-Care
Cravings can be triggered by negative emotions or experiences. Drugs and alcohol often serve as a form of self-medication or an escape from these feelings. Improved nutrition can help boost mood, thereby, reducing cravings. Regularly scheduled, balanced meals can provide a sense of structure and routine that may minimize stress.
Many who struggle with addiction also struggle with malnutrition and other disorders as substances become prioritized over everything else. Eating disorders are common in those with an addiction as well. Following initial detox, it is not uncommon for those in recovery to begin replacing drugs or alcohol with food. As a result, many experience weight gain early in recovery. While some weight gain is necessary, it is important to help those in treatment manage their diets in a healthy way. Individualized dietary plans can help those in recovery identify a goal weight and work towards it in a healthy way.
Recovery and Proper Nutrition
Those in treatment for substance abuse must learn about the importance of proper nutrition in recovery. In addition to being provided with an individualized nutrition plan, recovery also provides people with the opportunity to learn how to effectively shop for groceries and prepare meals for themselves.
Clients also learn about the importance of physical activity, proper sleep, and healthy hobbies. All of these factors together contribute to developing a healthy lifestyle that supports sober living. Nutrition is a vital pillar in the recovery process and helps set the foundation for a healthy lifestyle following completion of treatment.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.
The detox phase can be one of the most physically demanding stages of recovery. Physical side effects of detoxification can include vomiting, constipation, nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue. For this reason, it’s crucial to have a balanced nutritional strategy to boost energy and improve overall mood and health during the detox process .