Studies have shown eating healthy can greatly contribute to your path of recovery.
A common misconception in recovery is that when we are overcoming a drug or alcohol dependency, we should permit ourselves to over indulge in junk food and sweets. We think, ‘why deny ourselves this seemingly harmless pleasure while tackling greater issues?’ In reality, research suggests these poor eating habits may impede our journey to recovery, rather than help.
The nutritional dilemma
Lifestyle greatly impacts an addict’s nutrition. Sufferers seldom eat very healthy. Many drugs can cause you to eat a lot, and other drugs not enough. Often times, at the apex of their drinking, alcoholics may obtain up to 50 percent of their daily caloric intake from alcohol alone. In almost all instances, the desire for drugs or alcohol takes priority over a nutritious meal. This nutritional dilemma is compounded by the fact that drugs and alcohol can hinder nutrient absorption by the body. Opiate withdrawals can cause diarrhea and vomiting which can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Alcohol directly impedes the assimilation and breakdown of nutrients, which can result in malnutrition.
When we consider the nutrition of people in recovery, it’s astonishing that correct nutrition is not given greater attention. Research has found nutritional therapy can immensely help addicts in their recovery. This may seem like a given, but eating right can potentially make people in recovery feel better both psychologically and physically. Research has shown success in achieving and maintaining sobriety can be helped by including nutritional guidance in treatment programs.
How Nutrition Helps Us Heal
Correct nutrition helps us feel well because our bodies derive energy from nutrients. Nutrition also helps repair the tissues of organs and build up our immune systems. Most of us in recovery have damaged our organs while abusing alcohol or drugs; proper nutrition can provide us with what we need to begin repairing our weakened tissues.
Nutrition also has an impact on our moods. Research has shown, chemical and physiological brain structure which affect behavior, can be caused by diet changes. The production of important neurotransmitters such as serotonin has been linked to certain foods.
Recovering addicts can improve both physical and mental well-being by eating a diet which provides their bodies with nutrients needed to repair past damage and operate on a better level. Many times, feeling better will decrease the chance of relapse, in contrast to addicts with a poor diet are more likely to relapse. Many times, addicts are so out of tune with their bodies that they will mistake a drug craving for what is actually hunger and lose their sobriety. Eating regular, frequent meals can help to avoid this potential disaster.
It’s important to collaborate with a health professional when adding nutrition to a program of recovery. Some nutritionist and dietitians have struggled with addiction themselves and have chosen to specialize in recovery.
A Nutritional Primer for Addicts in Recovery
- Stick to regular mealtimes
- Eat foods that are low in fat
- Get more protein, complex carbohydrates, and dietary fiber
- Vitamin and mineral supplements may be helpful during recovery (this may include B-complex, zinc, and vitamins A and C)