Proper nutrition is imperative for healing the body of the damages of drug and alcohol abuse. It’s easy for addiction to lead to malnourishment. Alcohol abuse can lead to weight gain from excess calories, stimulant drugs can dangerously reduce the appetite, and addiction itself can inhibit nutrient absorption.
Eating a healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats can help treat reversible damage to the body and halt progressing injury caused to the brain, organs, cardiovascular system, and immune system by the effects of substance abuse. It can even improve cognitive function from thinking and memory recall to long-term brain health. There are also nutritional needs that are specific to certain types of substance abuse.
AlcoholSince alcohol provides ample calories but little nutrition, alcoholics may face being both overweight and undernourished. In addition to poor nutritional intake, alcohol abuse may also affect how well a person absorbs the nutrients they do consume. Most often, alcohol abusers are deficient in vitamins A and C and thiamine. During recovery, it’s especially important to include these nutrients in a diet. Vitamin A can be found in dark leafy greens, winter squash, and fish, among other sources. Beta-carotene is especially important, so add sweet potatoes and carrots. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruit, kale, bell peppers, and brassicas like broccoli and brussels sprouts. Milk, nuts and seeds, legumes, and eggs are good sources of thiamine, or vitamin B1.
OpiatesOpiates like prescription narcotics and heroin can impact nutrient absorption, and opiate addiction can to lead to calcium, iron, and vitamins D and B6 deficiencies. To replenish the body with these nutrients, recovery should include a diet with plenty of legumes, leafy greens, fish and other seafood, poultry, eggs, and fortified foods like some milk, orange juice, and cereals. Heroin abuse may cause glucose intolerance. To manage this, avoid simple carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, and sweets, and consume whole grains instead. Limit sugar intake and monitor blood sugar, which may cause mood swings.
StimulantsStimulants like cocaine and amphetamines can lead to weight loss from a lack of appetite, and are often deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids, found in some fish, flaxseeds, walnuts, and fortified eggs, milks, and juices. Another common problem for stimulant users is poor dental health; in this case, it’s important to include plenty of calcium and vitamin D in the recovery diet. Potassium, phosphorous, and vitamins K, C, and A also support healthy teeth; eat leafy greens, sweet potatoes, legumes, seafood, and citrus fruits for these important nutrients.
A good diet in recovery can help beyond physical healing —it can benefit the mental recovery process as well. The typical high-fat, carb, sugar, and salt Western diet itself has been linked to addictive behavior due to high sugar consumption, and alcohol-dependent people are even known for a sweet tooth. Replicating addictive behavior in one’s diet could potentially hinder the recovery process, whereas good nutrition can promote healthy habits that pervade one’s entire life.
Good nutrition can improve every aspect of life, from mental health to recovery from addiction and illness. It’s important not to neglect this crucial aspect of health when healing from addiction.
Image via Pixabay by fancycrave1
Author: Paige Johnson