Discover the benefits of nutrition in addiction recovery with personalized therapy. Improve your immune system and reduce withdrawal symptoms. Working with a registered nutritionist and/or dietitian will help you learn how to make food choices that set the stage for continued recovery.
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. Proper nutrition is an essential component of addiction recovery, as it plays a significant role in physical and mental health, helping individuals rebuild their bodies and minds after the toll of substance abuse. Some of the specific steps that might be recommended as part of your treatment include:
- Balanced Diet: A balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all food groups is crucial. This provides the body with essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals necessary for overall health and well-being.
- Regular Meals: Establishing a regular eating schedule with three balanced meals per day helps stabilize blood sugar levels and provides a consistent source of energy.
- Hydration: Staying hydrated is essential for physical and mental health. Adequate water intake helps flush toxins from the body and supports overall bodily functions.
- Avoiding Sugar and Processed Foods: It’s important to limit or avoid sugary and processed foods, as they can lead to energy spikes and crashes, mood swings, and cravings. A diet rich in whole foods is more stable and sustainable.
- Protein Intake: Including sources of lean protein (e.g., poultry, fish, beans, tofu) helps repair and rebuild damaged tissues and supports overall health.
- Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that aid in recovery and boost the immune system.
- Complex Carbohydrates: Incorporating complex carbohydrates (e.g., whole grains, legumes) provides sustained energy and can help stabilize mood.
- Nutritional Counseling: Some addiction recovery programs offer nutritional counseling or access to registered dietitians who can create personalized meal plans and offer guidance on proper nutrition.
*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.