Addiction takes a serious toll on your body, but nutritional therapy can help repair some of the damage caused by substance abuse.
Working with a registered nutritionist and/or dietitian will help you learn how to make food choices that set the stage for continued recovery.
Understanding the Importance of Proper Nutrition in Addiction Recovery
When you’re struggling with addiction, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of a balanced diet. However, good nutrition does much more than simply keep you at a healthy body weight. For example:
- Poor general nutrition can compromise the immune system, putting someone in recovery at a higher risk of experiencing illness or other complications during treatment.
- Magnesium deficiencies can increase the intensity of common withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, and anxiety.
- A deficiency in amino acids can cause a decrease in serotonin levels, leading to depression and anxiety.
- Vitamin B deficiencies can result in factor-deficiency anemia.
- Thiamine deficiency can lead to Korsakoff’s syndrome, which is characterized by memory problems and other forms of cognitive impairment.
- Vitamin K or Vitamin C deficiencies can make it harder for wounds to heal.
Nutritional therapy is personalized to fit each client’s individual treatment needs. For example, someone who has been abusing amphetamines will often have no appetite and need to create extra incentives to eat regularly. On the opposite end of the spectrum, someone who has been abusing marijuana may be eating to excess and need help making healthier food choices.
Rethinking Your Relationship with Food
In addition to addressing specific nutritional deficiencies, nutrition therapy often involves rethinking your relationship with food. Some of the specific steps that might be recommended as part of your treatment include:
- Learning how to plan healthy meals
- Choosing nutritious snacks
- Making smart choices when you eat out
- Evaluating how your dietary choices affect your recovery goals
- Working around any specific allergies or food intolerances that you may have
- Eating every two to four hours to keep your blood sugar levels stable
- Reducing caffeine intake to minimize the insomnia and anxiety that accompany early sobriety
- Increasing protein intake for optimal brain function
- Increasing intake of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables to promote a healthy digestive system
- Avoiding processed foods with artificial ingredients to make it easier for the body to heal the liver damage caused by past substance abuse
Dietary supplements may be recommended as part of nutritional therapy. However, it is generally preferable to get all of the nutrients your body needs through whole foods. Synthetically created vitamins and minerals are harder for the body to absorb and can interact with certain prescription medications that you may be taking as part of your recovery plan. Products that exceed the recommended daily allowance of certain vitamins and minerals can also place the body at risk of developing additional health problems.
Changing your eating habits isn’t easy, since food preferences are often shaped by our early childhood experiences. However, good nutrition is a form of self-care. Much like exercising regularly and engaging in hobbies that reduce stress, it’s a vital part of any holistic recovery plan.