The Importance of Nutrition During Addiction Recovery

March 8, 2021

"You are what you eat" is a common expression. If you're dealing with a substance abuse disorder, however, healthy eating might be the farthest thing from your mind. Many patients begin the addiction recovery process malnourished with significant nutrient deficiencies. Experts say that patients in recovery are at high risk for malnutrition, eating disorders, and major weight changes. That is why many addiction treatment programs incorporate nutrition counseling into their programming. In fact, healthy eating is a vital part of maintaining sobriety long after leaving rehab. How do alcohol and drug addiction affect your diet? What role does nutrition counseling play in successful addiction recovery? We'll answer those important questions and more, so keep reading.

Diet & Drug Addiction: What's the Connection?

Prolonged drug or alcohol abuse takes a serious toll on the body. In addition to the direct damage to your brain and organs, those struggling with addiction tend to make poor dietary choices. For example, stimulant use means you're likely to consume fewer calories than your body needs to stay healthy and strong. You're more likely to skip meals or choose foods with little nutritional value. In time, this leads to nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition. Drug addiction to marijuana often produces the opposite effect. Cannabis actually stimulates hunger, meaning you're more likely to overeat and gain weight. The same thing can happen to those who habitually binge drink.Other drugs, such as opiates, wreak havoc in the digestive system. You may experience bouts of diarrhea, constipation, or vomiting. Over time, this can damage your gut, which further affects your ability to give your body the nutrients it needs. Meanwhile, alcohol abuse is one of the leading causes of nutritional deficiency in the US. People entering rehab for alcohol addiction often have B vitamin deficiencies, as well as anemia and neurological problems. Without the nutrients it needs, your brain chemistry will become unbalanced. As a result, you might experience anxiety, depression, mood swings, and insomnia.

Tips for Healthy Eating During Addiction Recovery

It's clear that alcohol and drug addiction can result in a host of diet-related health problems. The questions now are: What should you eat during addiction recovery? And how will this help you to maintain sobriety in the future? Professional nutrition counseling during rehab seeks to correct those deficiencies and allow your body to begin the healing process. The goal is to equip you with good dietary habits now that you'll continue to use after you return home. Here's what you can expect with nutrition counseling during the recovery process.

A Properly Balanced Diet

Remember those nutritional pyramid charts we studied in school? You might recall that the largest part of the pyramid includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The smaller blocks of the pyramid include lean proteins and healthy fats. Fad diets come and go, but the concepts of healthy eating remain the same. A balanced diet is key to stabilizing your blood sugar and stopping food or substance cravings before they happen. This balanced diet occurs with (or near) these ratios:

  • 45% carbohydrates
  • 30% fat
  • 25% protein

Nutrition counseling includes meal plans and other dietary advice that is tailored for your body's specific needs and will help you visualize what healthy eating looks like. You'll learn how to prepare and cook meals that will heal your body now while setting you up for long-term success.

Specific Foods for Specific Deficiencies

Poor diet, fat malabsorption, and gut damage lead to a long list of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Depending on the nature of your addiction, your nutrition counseling plan will aim to correct these imbalances. Here are some examples of common deficiencies and how they can be corrected through diet:

  • Vitamin A: carrots, milk, fish, cantaloupe
  • B Vitamins: legumes, whole grains, seafood, dairy products
  • Vitamin C: citrus fruits, potatoes, strawberries
  • Vitamin D: egg yolks, red meat, salmon, tuna
  • Vitamin K: leafy green vegetables, broccoli, parsley

In addition to a balanced diet, your nutrition counselor might also have you take multivitamins or other supplements. Long-term alcohol and drug addiction can result in iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc deficiencies.

Learning Which Foods to Choose (And Which Foods to Avoid)

Just as important as what you put into your body are the foods you choose not to eat anymore. Your healthy eating plan will likely include some of these goals and principles:

  • Choosing fresh, whole foods
  • Avoiding processed foods and fast food
  • Avoiding refined sugar and foods that contain it
  • Choosing natural sweeteners like honey, stevia, or maple syrup
  • Avoiding processed cooking oils (canola, vegetable, etc.)
  • Choosing healthier oils (olive, avocado, etc.)
  • Choosing grass-fed meat and wild-caught fish
  • Avoiding grain-fed meat and farm-raised fish
  • Eating a wide variety of different foods

What benefits can you expect to see from making these dietary changes? You're sure to find that you have more energy, better focus, and a stable mood. You'll experience fewer cravings while boosting your body's natural resilience. Most importantly, you'll give your body the tools it needs to heal from the inside out. It won't happen overnight, especially if you've struggled for years with a substance abuse disorder. By adopting a healthier lifestyle, better diet, and good self-care routine, you'll be better equipped to stay clean and sober.---

Maintain Sobriety With Nutrition Counseling & Healthy Eating

Nutrition counseling is an integral part of any addiction recovery plan. A balanced diet ensures your body has the resources it needs to heal now and remain healthy in the future. Are you struggling with drug addiction or a substance abuse disorder? Are you interested in learning more about the link between healthy eating and maintaining sobriety? Wherever you are in the recovery process, we're here to help. Professional nutrition counseling is just one of many programs we offer to help you live your best life. Contact us today to learn more about nutrition counseling and our other treatment programs.

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